My first view of my son was in the delivery room on the day he was born. I looked down at my wife Amy lying on the hospital bed, and I saw the top of his head and a shock of his hair in the “delivery zone.” Would he ever come out, I wondered? My wife pushed and pushed, and deep-breathed and deep-breathed, but nothing.
And then he came out—hurtling into the air like a crazy amniotic-fluid-covered football. I saw the look of surprise on the Dr.’s face and then her Super-Bowl-wide-receiver-quality hands juggling this squishy football for a moment until securing him firmly in her hands. Our doctor did not spike our baby or do a touchdown dance, thank God.
Within minutes, I was holding my little premature baby boy for what was the first of countless times. A 40-year-old man holding a baby he thought he’d never have. I held him for what seemed like forever, but it was probably only minutes.
When our son Liam came home from the neonatal intensive care unit, he was as small as a little loaf of supermarket bread. And I walked the house, loaf of baby bread in my arm, with my other arm free to empty dishwashers, type at the computer, and eat dinner.
I must admit, it made me so proud to head into family parties, events with friends, and other activities with my baby son either nestled in the crook of my arm or up against my shoulder.
One year after Liam was born, we traveled to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with our young guy, so eager to share one of our favorite places—and get some time on the trails. We spent $250 on a child hiking backpack and although we only used it 4-5 times, it was worth every dollar because we were as free as we were before Liam was born. We hiked miles through the woods to Lighthouse Point in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (add this beautiful place to your bucket list), up hilly trails so steep that Amy had to hover behind myself and Liam nestled snugly in his backpack in case we started to fall; along the beach, steps from the crashing waves of Lake Superior; and anywhere else our steps took us. (Amy carried him, too.) Liam loved riding in the backpack. He liked sticking his fingers in my ears, pulling and letting go of the backpack mirror on a retractable string, and kicking me as we walked. But I didn’t care. We were free, and we were showing Liam our world. I wanted him to fall in love with Lake Superior and all the inland lakes, the hardwood forests of maple, beech, and conifer; and the rock-strewn beaches of the Upper Peninsula as I had.
As Liam grew older, I could still carry him with one arm for quite a while, but then I had to start battling curious arms, kicking legs, and throbbing muscles, but it was all fun. I loved walking the neighborhood with my boy slung over my shoulder or in the crook of my arm. He was mine—at least for a while, and I was going to enjoy every minute of my time with him.
Eventually, I needed two arms to pick up and manage this fast-growing little beastie. And this former loaf of bread became an uber-talkative 35-pound turkey. Yet, I still carried him all over when he got tired. There is something quite wonderful about being able to take your son with you on your adventures. Since I did not have the privilege to birth him, this is actually the closest I will ever get to carrying him like Amy did—even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes at a time.
I would carry Liam up the stairs when he was tired, the last three or four blocks during a long walk home, or any other time he grew tired. Sometimes, he’d ask me to run and we’d barrel down the street with him holding tightly, my knees starting to ache, but my spirits high.
Liam is now seven years old, 58 pounds, and almost as tall as my shoulder (I’m only 5’7), yet I still pick him up and carry him on occasion, but as I get older and creakier and he gets bigger, I carry him only briefly for play or if he’s really, really tired. He asks me to pick him up and spin him, so I spin him around (and fight vertigo). I pick him up and carry him because I miss my loaf of bread and turkey.
This summer, I carried Liam up a steep trail in the rolling hills above the Mississippi River at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa. He did not want to hike one more step, but I did, so up we hiked together, my heart pounding, sweat dripping down my back. As I carried him, I felt like this might be the last time I ever did so for such a long and challenging distance (perhaps half a mile). He’s now so big that I can only carry him in a certain spot slung over my shoulder (75 percent of his body hanging over my right shoulder) without discomfort for both of us, but I did it (fear of heart attack on a humid summer day notwithstanding). We will probably never be this physically close again as my little boy grows so big that he can’t be carried, so big that dad and mom embarrass him, so big as he heads away from us to his first solo hikes, to his first date, to college, to his first job, to his wedding day, and so on.
And one day, this once little boy may carry his elderly dad from bed to chair and back again. But we’re not there yet, and I much prefer to be the one carrying than the one being carried. So, I’ll keep it up till I can’t.
Copyright Andrew Morkes (text); Amy McKenna/Andrew Morkes (photos)
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ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.
4 thoughts on “On the Joys of Carrying My Son”
Even though I had already read the narrative (thank you Andy for the preview), the placement of the photos really brought a second meaning to the words and the entire experience. Loved it.
Thanks, Kathy! Glad you liked it.