I HAVE A BABY AND NOW I KNOW EVERYTHING.
Boy, it’s hard to do a blog when you have a baby in the house. Babies really require a lot of assistance, and are not shy about requesting it, in this case via a crude but 100% effective shriek system that I’m considering adopting myself: “WAAAAAAAH!!! AUUUUUUUUUGGGGH!! BLAAAAAAAAARN!” “Fine, you can have a raise! Just take it down a notch!”
So for those who may not know, baby Frederick is alive and well. He’s recently turned seven weeks old. Likes include eating, Mama, small stuffed frogs, and Bob Dylan remixes. Dislikes include having his clothing removed, extreme temperatures, Dada vigorously manipulating his limbs in an attempt to make it look like he’s doing a silly if spirited dance, and cycling. He is very little and cute, although it feels like he weighs 800 pounds all of a sudden and he has been screaming a lot lately, sometimes for no apparent reason, although usually he either wants food or has converted previously consumed food into waste which he has deposited into his pants and would like removed. He also sometimes wants someone to pick him up and say asinine things to him, an activity we are all too willing to oblige him. He passes wind with a report and odor worthy of a grown man. He is not big on having his bath or water in general although once he’s been in it a while he does seem to find the liquid at least passingly interesting and of some apparent comfort, if only for a short period of time.
My workplace was kind and legally obligated enough to grant me some paternity leave, so I took the entire month of June off to spend with Freddy and Annie, and despite a fatigue and general unrest that seems unlikely to abate with any particular haste, the break has been a success and I’m glad I took it, and not only because I don’t like working. I would happily post a picture of the baby, but frankly I don’t trust those of my readership who happen to be pederasts to be able to control themselves. I know you’re out there. I see your search engine terms, and you should all be locked up, or at the very least ashamed of yourselves. And our baby is super cute, there’s no getting around it. He has the rakish sex appeal of a baby George Clooney combined with the goofy self-effacing vulnerability of a baby Hugh Grant. Why, if I had to compare his particular blend of good looks and good humor to just one celebrity, I’d go with a young Val Kilmer, back in his “Real Genius” and “Top Secret” days, and I don’t think I need to tell you that you can’t get much cuter or more charming than young Val Kilmer. So to sum up, pederasts, I can’t in good conscience let you have access to his image. Go buy a copy of “Babytalk” or something. Or, you know, maybe go get some psychiatric help? I mean, honestly!
Anyway, the baby’s fine, and cute, and all that jazz. I’ve learned to become fairly comfortable with feeding and changing him, although as he (rapidly) increases in size, he finds it more difficult to get comfortable on me, and I find it nearly impossible to accommodate his wriggling bulk, Boppy or no Boppy. Patience, or rather the fact that neither of us possess that particular trait, more than likely is a factor in this development. Other than that, though, I think I’m coming along pretty well as far as baby maintenance goes, and as a companion piece to the lists I did before that went over what little baby knowledge I held prior to my being blessed with a living, breathing child, I figured I’d share the precious nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the past month, most of which will be obvious to people who’ve already had kids, and maybe even to people who haven’t, but it’s all I’ve got for material right now. It’s either this or never blog again, and we all know how tragic that would be right? Right?
PACK LIGHT FOR THE HOSPITAL: You’ve probably read books that present you with big long lists of “essential” items to bring to the hospital to have on hand during the delivery process and subsequent inpatient stay, but you’ll thank yourself later if you keep it limited to a small, unobtrusive bag of undies, a couple of shirts, a few onesies for baby, and a camera. Any hospital worth its NPI number will be able to provide you with an entire Rite Aid’s worth of toothbrushes, razors, combs, and whatever else you may need toiletry-wise, as well as a cafeteria full of snacks and drinks and a gift shop with magazines to flip through, so leave all that crap at home. And for Pete’s sake don’t bring any diapers or bottles or anything of that nature. The hospital is going to load you up with all that stuff. In fact, you should loot the joint for all it’s worth. Grab anything that isn’t nailed down. Here’s where packing light becomes doubly helpful – more room in the duffel bag to stash that fancy electric breast pump. If you’ve got a book that you’re really into, you might wanna take it along, but the fact of the matter is that you’re not going to need to fill as much idle time as you might think. This is going to be spent keeping your wife sane and comforted, entertaining visitors, and staring slack-jawed at your new baby. If you even find yourself in the presence of mind to take a shower or change your clothes at any point during your stay, consider yourself fortunate.
YOUR BABY IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE A TOM SAVINI CREATION WHEN HE COMES OUT OF YOUR SPOUSE. This is something you’ve been told already, no doubt, or maybe actually read in one of those books you keep telling your poor wife you’ll get around to looking at eventually (the only one of which you really need, incidentally, is this one right here), but nothing can prepare you for just how gross Junior or Princess is going to look as they’re being yanked out of your grunting life partner’s massacred genitalia. Suffice it to say that bodily fluids come in a rainbow of unexpected colors, and your newborn will be splattered liberally with each and every one of them. Their heads will also be oblong and frankly testicular in shape. “Ridden hard and put away wet” doesn’t even begin to describe it. More like “brutally murdered and dumped in a sewer then fished out after several years and drenched with a variety of condiments for one reason or another”. But suppress your vomit, fellas, because the nurses will clean him up real fast and real good, and the doctor will stitch up wifey’s eviscerated snooch faster than you can say Betsy Ross. It is not recommended that you observe this process. Go meet your baby, ya weirdo.
DON’T BRAG ABOUT HOW YOUR BABY NEVER CRIES IF HE/SHE’S ONLY BEEN ALIVE FOR A COUPLE DAYS: They’re just getting warmed up. Trust me on this.
PEOPLE ARE GOING TO LIKE YOU A LOT BETTER NOW THAT YOU HAVE A BABY: …or at any rate they will smile more when they talk to you and will look less put out about having to endure your end of the conversation. Obviously your female relatives and friends will be thrilled to hold your baby and to hear any new information you have to share regarding said baby (and the men will come around eventually), but you’ll find that complete strangers (again, mostly the ladies) will approach you with questions and good wishes, and these encounters will leave you feeling pleased and satisfied as opposed to put-off and victimized like past encounters with strangers invariably have. My obligatory conversations with cashiers at grocery stores have become way less uncomfortable. Slap a pack of diapers or a can of formula on the conveyor belt, and suddenly you’ve made a friend. These interactions are always very genuine and often result in helpful if unrequested tricks of the trade (child rearing, that is, not ringing up groceries). By and large, babies bring out the best in people, or at least the people who aren’t required to listen to them scream all night. Your family and friends are all going to show up at the hospital, and they will follow you to your apartment from there, so you might want to tidy up a little and hide or snort all the coke before going to the hospital. Introducing the baby to each family member and friend is an indescribably wonderful experience. In some ways (ways that I can’t adequately relate in words) it’s almost like you’re meeting all of these people again for the first time. It’s a whole new thing.
DON’T GO BUYING HIM/HER A BUNCH OF TOYS: Part of the child-having experience that I’ve always looked forward to, even back in my teens and twenties when the idea of making a baby sounded about as appealing as gargling with staples or obtaining employment, is purchasing toys for and playing with the kid. It turns out this is not a viable notion until a few months into the child’s existence. In the course of your baby shower(s), you will unquestionably receive a number of vibrantly colored geegaws intended for your child’s amusement, and no doubt these will be appreciated in the relatively near future, but rest assured that for now your infant will give neither a fig, farthing, nor fiddler’s fart about any of them. You’ll be lucky if he/she even looks at any of them in passing. All that baby wants is some form of milk every couple of hours, a fresh diaper when necessary, and a nice comfy place to sack out (preferably your lap, if available). Postpone that trip to Toys R Us and enjoy what time you have left of a house uncluttered by plastic objects that emit piercing approximations of children’s songs and trip you up/puncture the soles of your feet at every turn.
ALSO DON’T SPEND A LOT ON NEWBORN ONESIES: Chances are you won’t have to anyway, because people love to pick out cute baby outfits, and these will likely comprise the brunt of your baby shower intake. Be thankful, as such things are not always cheap, and Junior/Princess will think nothing of sullying 3-4 onesies in a given day. However, you will be alarmed at how quickly the “0-3 months” onesies become obsolete when it comes to your rapidly developing offspring. Freddy hasn’t been alive two months, and most of the 0-3 month onesies look like Spandex on him. The exception is Circo onesies, which you can get for pretty cheap at Target. They’re cute and forgiving sizewise. Otherwise, you can get a 3-pack of Gerber onesies for a pittance and not feel too bad when the baby immediately outgrows them, wasting no time in wasting your money.
THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD MOST CERTAINLY BUY, IN BULK IF AT ALL POSSIBLE:
- Diapers, durrrrrrrrr. Cloth vs. disposable depends on how much time you have and how much looking like a better person means to you.
- Little washcloths to wipe drooly faces. You really can’t have too many of these.
- Bottles, bottles, bottles, if Junior ain’t going for the boob or you’d just as soon not be a human beverage dispenser (breastfeeding being another hot topic issue that people may endeavor to make you feel like a hybrid of Hitler and Satan if you elect not to or physically cannot do it…) Too many bottles is never too many bottles.
- Pacifiers, because you’ll routinely misplace them. Opinions vary on pacifiers, but the Internet seems to think that pediatricians are fine with them, and often when a well-fed, recently changed baby is still crying about some damn thing, he probably wants to suck mindlessly and feverishly on a pacifier. Any break you can get from incessant, deafening squalling is something you’ll want to pounce on whenever possible.
YOUR BABY IS GOING TO WANT YOU TO HOLD HIM/HER. A LOT: I don’t know how single parents do it. Hell, I don’t know how married parents do it. There will be occasional respites if the baby deigns to be placed in a bassinet or crib, or is resting in the capable hands of Grammy or Grampy, but otherwise, they need a whole lot of human contact. Freddy is on my wife all the time, and sometimes me when I’m not busy composing uncannily observant blogs about his behavior and upkeep. He’s really warm, and heavy. It makes us sleepy. You can’t get a lot done with a baby lying on you, which is why it’s amazing that single parenthood is even possible, let alone a married couple with twins or triplets. How do they keep from drowning in a landfill of dirty dishes, clothing, diapers? My hat is off to these superheroes. Dan Quayle should have a budworm-riddled spruce trunk broken off in his ass for saying those terrible things about Murphy Brown.
TAKE ALL ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT: I’ve always had a tough time dealing with people offering advice, and that’s not a helpful quality for someone who’s just had a baby, because you’ll find that everyone’s Dr. Spock or Supernanny all of a sudden. The trick is to not interpret all offered advice as a personal attack, like I usually do, but to be polite and make an attempt to suss out useful tidbits from well-meaning souls and windbags alike. While I’m reasonably certain that the main reason that people give advice is to let people know they know things for the purposes of stroking their own ego (which is also similar reasoning behind the act of insulting people, so you can perhaps understand my wariness; why, as proof of all this, I myself am only offering advice within this blog in the hopes that prospective readers will marvel at how funny and insightful I am – frankly, you can set your own baby on fire and cram him up your ass for all I care!), these people presumably have had children and it’s very possible you might benefit from their experience. In the end, though, the only way to truly learn something is to jump right in and repeatedly fuck up until somehow you magically stop fucking up. Just try to make sure “fucking up” doesn’t entail “feeding the baby mashed cigarettes” or “styling the baby’s hair with an antique meat cleaver”. The other day I was watching “Pokemon”, because that’s the kind of cool customer I am, and I garnered some truly unforgettable words of wisdom from the main character, Ash, who had just finished fighting Pikachu against some other kid with huge eyes and an abrasive voice. The other kid mentions that Ash must be a genius at Pokemon fighting, considering his impressive performance, and Ash simply laughs it off and says, “Nah, I’ve just made all the right mistakes”. That, my friend, is how you become a master Pokemon trainer, and those same principles can be well applied to parenting. In essence, ignore your loved ones and start watching “Pokemon”. You’ll be glad you did.
STOP TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY: You don’t have the time nor mental wherewithal to get your feelings hurt right now. Your family and friends are going to be routinely pissing you off with even the most innocent-seeming of comments, whether they realize it or not. The fatigue-addled mind can read an insult into the most innocuous of statements or even simple vocal tones or facial expressions, and that’s probably all that’s happening. That being said, anybody thoughtless or even malevolent enough to purposefully give you additional, 100% needless stress during this difficult time could either use some ignoring or productive conversation to straighten them out. Otherwise, they’re either flagrant assholes or have no self-awareness, and either way overall you probably don’t need their bullshit in your life. Just like moving to a new house is a good chance to get rid of junk you don’t need, having a baby handily reprioritizes your relationships. It’s a convenient time of life in which to grow a pair. You won’t have much time to hang out with people who aren’t your baby, so why not populate it with people you enjoy who enjoy you right back? Time spent stressing out about your hateful Aunt Clara is time that could be better spent making goo-goo noises at your little one. But beyond dealing with others, it’s important not to take your baby’s actions to heart, which, believe me, is entirely possible to do, especially when you’re being roused from a deep, hard-won slumber by a membrane-rupturing shriek, which isn’t going to end until you get out of bed and take action, and as you carry your caterwauling spawn to the changing table, you’d swear that’s something between deception and mockery behind those ordinarily adorable little eyes, and it’s all you can do to avoid drowning out the cries with profanity of the cruelest sort, or by “accidentally” nailing his precious little noggin on the door frame. All you have to remember is you’re tired, and he’s hungry, and both of these conditions are temporary (the latter moreso than the former, but still). He won’t be legitmately undermining or despising you for a few more years yet.
TIME IS NOW MEANINGLESS: Remember when an hour seemed like a reasonably lengthy period of time? Remember when a day did? A week? Among the many annoying things people who have kids tell people who don’t have kids is how time flies when you have a kid. You wake up one day, and they’ve left for college. Well, so far it seems like those annoying people are absolutely right, I’m sorry to report. I no longer believe in hours or minutes, or in fact remember what they’re like. Sometimes it’s dark out, sometimes it’s light out. Sometimes he’s awake, sometimes he’s asleep. Then all of a sudden he’s built like a linebacker and asking for my car keys. And this is all just within a month and a half that I’ve noticed this. He and I will both be old men before we know it. Maybe tomorrow! It’s all become one long (though rapidly progressing), busy (though often listless) day, but a damn good one after all is said and done.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for the moment. I’m sure the information here ranges from “immediately obvious, even to the infants it purports to describe” to “poorly informed, at best; potentially harmful, at worst”, but what can one do, it’s a funny life and we’re all just a bunch of doofuses. Go have a baby; it makes things different.