I would like to congratulate my old high school friend Ed Elkins on the birth of his new baby and thank him for writing this great piece for me. I hope you all enjoy. This was was written the day after his first night home with his little boy.
The cry through the baby monitor could only mean one thing at in the morning- "Feed Me Seymour!" Or maybe it was the lack of sleep that was making me hallucinate that Connor was crying. Nope...he was definitely crying.
It is amazing how calm everything is when your baby is cared for by trained nurses and covered in electrodes, heated by a baby broiler and fed on the hour every 3 hours by nurses with decades of experience with preemies like Connor. Then he is released out of the cocoon called the NICU and paranoia sets in. Not the kind of paranoia you get when you notice you're driving 10 miles over the speed limit and see a highway trooper parked on the side of the freeway...no that is paranoia of the conscience showcasing your sanity alongside all of the other break-lights that light up US 60 on a regular basis. This is a different beast entirely.
It is the paranoia of the *Walking Dad*. You hear a noise, any type of noise really, and your sleepless body enters a state of suspended animation and you awaken to realize you are staring down at this little 4lb baby boy checking to make sure he is breathing. Are you looking close enough? You saw a movement but maybe it was a breeze from the window that you know deep down isn't even open. You start pondering where your wife keeps her makeup compact because you could always hold the mirror portion of it under his nose to confirm and look for condensation.
You pick him up out of his crib ever so gently and suddenly remember that "project" in middle school where they made you take the egg home to simulate caring for a baby and how you dropped yours when getting off the bus after school that day. So you want to hold him as tightly as possible but then you remember the passage in "Of Mice and Men" where Lennie learns of his own strength while petting a puppy so you decide to carry him like you are an accomplished cat burglar stealing the crown jewels or at least how you imagine a cat burglar would carry something so precious.
The next thing you know he has a clean diaper and you are telling him stories about your childhood and answering his imaginary questions like only a sleep deprived parent can do. Still, he makes for a good conversation so you ramble on because, let's face it, he's not going to tell you to stop. If anything he'll yawn from boredom and you'll yawn back because you're running on two hours of sleep. Then you get to feed him and worry that every noise he makes while drinking from the bottle is some type of sign that he's choking or having problems. In reality he is just being adorable but the only sane thing awake right now is the dog and she'll only tell you if she has to poop or wants to play so you're pretty much left to your own demons at this point.
His diaper is changed, he's been fed (and probably already dirtying the new diaper) when you realize it is time that you try to fall back to sleep..at least until you hear a grunt or a coo through the baby monitor and freak out again. When you wake up two hours later to feed him and change him again you look in the mirror at the monster staring back at you. Eyes red and barely opening surrounded by dark sunken circles. You are leaking fluids from your nose thanks to allergies and you walk ever so slowly out of the bedroom dragging your feet every step of the way groaning thanks to the sinus headache and realization that you really have to pee but don't have the energy to walk back to the bathroom. You've become a zombie..a paranoid zombie..a member of the *Walking Dad*.
Hollywood has it all wrong. You don't have to be bitten by a zombie to become one- I was attacked by adorable, killed by cuteness and am brought back to life every time those big eyes stare up at me.
I am the Walking Dad.
Former lawyer turned sane citizen, voice actor and fledgling dad Ed Elkins has been quickly humbled by the birth of his first child, Connor. Born at only 33 weeks and just less than 4 pounds, Connor spent only two weeks in the NICU before being released. For more information about Ed you can visit his website at edelkins.com.