I thought my baby was an alien.
Oh, you mean that your baby felt alien to you right?
No, I mean I thought my baby was an alien.
I remember telling this to my sister in one of our Skype chats. We have a psychological need to make each other laugh, so my sharing of this information was more of a ‘Hey, you know what’s funny?’ kind of thing. And yes we laughed, but it was nervous laughter.
It was just that sometimes Liam would stare at me with his big brown eyes and instead of staring back with wonder and amazement of this tiny person, I would get terrified. He had this intense little stare that now I know was just his way of saying, ‘Hi mom, look at me, love me!’, but at the time it actually frightened me. And naturally (?) my instinct was to think: alien. I had to look away. Let me point out that I’m not into sci-fi and that type of general geekery. I don’t like alien movies, I don’t do a lot of reading on alien matters. It’s just not a topic I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. So this alien-baby paranoia was completely abnormal and irrational for me, not one of those check-behind-the-shower-curtain-before-you-go-to-the-bathroom kind of fears that recur every now and then. (You know you do it.)
About two years ago I went to my doctor complaining that I was tired. More tired than normal. I was exhausted all the time and my body ached. I knew something was wrong. I just felt off. We did a couple of blood tests and my white blood cell count was high, though we couldn’t figure out what exactly was wrong. More tests were ordered. Then one day I woke up and the right side of my face was swollen. My jaw ached. I couldn’t talk or eat or drink. I went to an emergency dental clinic and found out that I had an abscessed wisdom tooth. Apparently I had an infection for some time but didn’t realize it. But my body knew there was an infection, thus the higher white blood cells, thus the feeling of exhaustion and achiness. My body had been working very hard at fighting this infection.
All of that is to say I know my body. I knew something wasn’t right even if I didn’t know exactly what. And so this is the difficulty with post-partum, and any mental health issue I guess: You can’t rely on your body for those signals and indications of disruption. I had a jumbled mess of illogical and unreasonable thoughts. But they felt true. It wasn’t enough that my hormones were causing me to reject my own baby, but then my brain gets in on the fun and says, ‘You know, I think this kid might be alien.’ The Great Betrayal indeed.
My good friend Rachel often tells me, and told me then too, ‘He stares at you like he’s in love.’ I need to hear this often to be reminded that in my fog of confusion and unhappiness my Liam, with his intense eyes, did not give up on me. He knew that mine was the voice, the heartbeat, the warmth and closeness he’d felt those 9 months. Waiting to be recognized in return as the little bundle of joy that he was and is. “Hi mom, I’m here. Look at me. Love me!” Even when my brain and my body caused me to doubt who this little guy was, he did not doubt who I was. He knew his mommy. My touch, my voice, my presence in a room. He knew me. Without doubt or hesitation.
There is a Creator who designed this little baby to be mine.
And though I didn’t know it or see it at the time, Liam did. He knew. He was created with a desire to be loved by me. That is no accident or coincidence of nature. That is the intention and design of a loving God. We have all been made to love and be loved.
This will always be true: I love my little cyborg baby.