On Giant Babies

One of the amazing things about daddy-hood is the speculation. Will she use those li’l kickers to play soccer? Karate? Perhaps she’ll wear a pantsuit and become president.

I wonder and wonder and wonder, but really, we’re not even sure what color her eyes will be ( blue now, like most babies, but chances of green and brown in the afternoon.) And yes, I want to know if she’ll be a novelist or a drug addict, a drill sergeant or a past-the-expiration-date flower child, but really I’d be content to know what she will look like.

I try to imagine her at 2, 5, 11, 16- but all I can see is a giant baby. A giant baby running across the playground in diaper dribbles a basketball, drives a car, does her algebra homework,  all with chubby cheeks, the balding monk haircut, and a vocabulary that consists of “Mwauoo?” and “Agwaa!” only. When she cries I’ll be left to guessing whether she got snubbed by the boy she sits behind in English Lit, or whether she wet herself. Or perhaps she just wants a glass of milk? Help with her biology homework?

Such a mystery, this baby speculation.

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 9:23 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Significance of Sneezing

Every time I sneeze, the baby startles and the cat starts meowing. It’s weird to know I’ll never be alone again.

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 8:18 AM  Comments (2)  

On Gender Roles and strength

Men can’t breastfeed. Women never get a break. Men bring home bacon. Women cook it.

We are not going to do this. She will Earn the Money. I will try and nurse the child. Notice where the caps are- the easier the task, the more Manly the Pronouncement,  the Louder The Letters. I can barely hold on to Baby G for a run to the grocery store without getting panicked. Who the fuck decided ‘women’s work’ was easy?

I’m a little worried.

I got canned from my job over paternity leave- I wanted it, they didn’t. I It’s probably more complicated than that, but it was a teaching job, and therefore- by way of having a job anywhere else in the white collar world- the Missus was making more money than I anyway, with better insurance and shorter hours. We decided I was going to be Mr. Mom, at least for a while. She goes back to work in two months- when she does, I’ll be on my lonesome with Baby G, at least a few days out of the week.

I’m preparing for the months ahead by being totally paranoid. That would be great if it inspired a flurry of work, getting ready for any contingency, but really, by ‘preparing’  I mean ‘avoiding thinking about.

Mom is preparing, too. By ‘preparing’, I mean “noticing that Dad is apparently doing exactly fucking nothing to prepare for the sudden onset of Infant, oh God, does he even understand the whirlwind of oh my fucking GOD, it’s a KID, you are RESPONSIBLE for her, look at him, clueless, SHE MIGHT FUCKING DIE IN YOUR HANDS, Are you EVEN READY FOR THIS!!??!!.

Sure, she has a point. When she does hand Baby G off to me to go sort out bank loans or grocery shop, I think it’s a comfort to her that I am out of my mind with PANIC, thank GOD you are HOME, this is IMPOSSIBLE, DO YOU KNOW SHE CRIES ALL THE TIME!!??!!, wherein she decides to clean the kitchen, just to make sure the lesson marinates fully. If in the off chance Baby G and I are comfortably snoozing when she returns,  I don’t ever tell her that we just dropped off after crying ourselves to sleep after 17 hours ( read: 45 minutes. But it seems that long). I like to appear marginally competent.

I don’t know at all how I’m going to deal with being Mom. The Missus will castigate herself daily, even hourly, over her imagined shortcomings. She has this totally unfounded belief that she is A Terrible Mother- programming from society as a whole and often other mothers, which is how women stab each other in the back, even after writing “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

I haven’t been able to express to her yet how in awe I am of her- this is a woman who, after giving birth after 32 hours of labor, after an epidural- which technically paralyzes you from the waist down- stood fucking up, bleeding so much out of her vagina that the hospital room looked like a CSI set, and commanded the doctors and orderlies to

“Clean this place up! I’ve got to go to the bathroom! I could slip on this (placenta)!”

She took to motherhood instantly- something in her body or her soul or her make-up just flipped on and started doing it- there was no wait time whatsoever, and I was proud for her. It wasn’t ‘bio-chemistry’, as much as I would like to reduce it to that, for simplicities sake. We wouldn’t be as far as we are without a massive pre-existing core of strength she had so coyly kept hidden for so long.

We’ve taken to Baby G to restaurants, to the park, three hours up the coast, to the farmer’s market, up and down Clement st., to Dim Sum both formal and informal, for crepes, rice balls, to the library, the botanical gardens, strawberry hill and stow lake, Scrap, Daly City, Buffalo burger, Alameda and the nursing weirdness, Christmas in Marin, Christmas other places, Bill’s, Tutu’s, Joy’s, Dim Sum with Sue in downtown SF, walking along the muddy coast with Grandma up in Sea Ranch – all before she was two months old, in no short part because Mom is a fucking trooper. Since I am a Man, I haven’t found the right words yet to express this to her, even when she really needed me to say it, to just confirm that she was a passable mom. I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job, but I fumble, become verclempt, step into the doorway of the bedroom while she is nursing and give a toothy grin every twenty minutes, wanting to say “sweetie, you are a FUCKING CHAMPION” This is how men stab themselves in the back- we reach right around and do it to ourselves, through silence and inaction.

How can I even begin to think I could fill her shoes?

Published in: on February 5, 2010 at 10:58 PM  Comments (7)  

A matter of perspective

“Hand me a pair of her socks, will you?”, said the Missus.

“Where do we keep them?”, I asked, “Which drawer?” By ‘we’ I meant ‘her’.

“They’re not in a drawer; they’re in the wicker basket, up top”, she replied.

Baby G has her own wardrobe- and I mean that in both the fashion and the Narnian sense of the word- and I am constantly forgetting how it is organized. Every time I’m asked to change her, there will be an inevitable session of eye-rolling and sighs ten minutes later, as the Missus will come in to find that a small tornado has ripped through the room, such was my panic in trying to figure out the correct outfit to stave off hypothermia. Doesn’t Mom know that shit? I just can’t sort out the difference between sleeping sacks and onsies, fleece outer-wear and short sleeve inner-wear. As far as I’m concerned, a ‘onsie’ means ‘one’. That’s as far as I get.

Grabbing those socks, though, gave me pause. I change diapers, clothes, burp the kid, all that stuff, though not even close to the volume that the Missus does. Still, ostensibly I know how big the kid is- I even tried to file her nails once before I caught paranoia that I would saw off her first two phalanges. Picking up her socks, though, was something else. You can’t grab a pair, like a tennis ball. I pinched one pair- of which she has 18,000, all different- between my thumb and forefinger, like a wintergreen Life Saver. It looked like a colorful ball of belly-button lint. They were impossibly small in my clumsy meat-hooks.

Is she really that tiny?

Published in: on February 4, 2010 at 7:26 PM  Comments (4)  

On Baby Songs

“Yum yum yum yum Yum yum yum yum Yum yum yum Yum YUM Yum yum yum……Oh, God, I think I’m singing you a cat food commercial.”

-The Missus

You’ll sing anything when you’re desperate, and as Baby G popped out the chute about three weeks before we expected her, we certainly had not honed our repertoire of lullabies. In, fact, we had zero, hence the hit “Yum, yum, Cat Food.”

Sure, there are the old standards- Twinkle, twinkle, and what have you. I’m guessing many new parents have mangled “Rock-a-Baby” in the throes of sleeplessness, and then possibly considered the lyrics for the first time. Who puts their baby up in a tree in a storm? And why does it need to end so badly? This is meant to be comforting?

Still, whatever it takes. I’ve found myself grasping for straws at all hours, which is how I wrote the surefire hit “ Straws and straws and straws and straws..” It occurs to me I should record some of these, which I plan to do when I grow an extra arm to work the recorder. When I do, we’re putting together an album called “Emergency Baby Songs.” Witness our play list already:

“It’s Crying Timeã with Daddy!”

“Farty Farty FartFartFartFart”

“These are your feet feet (all the time!)

“Scoot the Booty”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!(gasp)…Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

“You are wearing PANTS!”

“FartFart Re-mix: Please, God, won’t you Fart.”

“TumTumTumTum, TumTumTumTum, Foot! Foot! (This one has associated dance moves)

“There’s a Thing and some Stuff”

“Look at Those Bananas!”

…and in calmer moments

“Let’s Check Daddy’s Email!” (daytime only, recommended for 8 weeks and up)

Published in: on February 2, 2010 at 12:52 PM  Comments (3)  

On Communication

I didn’t grow up with cell phones- they came into vogue during my college years, and then I only considered them long-range walkie-talkies for the pretentious students, which is what they are, just more widespread now.

I caved and got one, like the rest of the universe. It was fine and good- then came Bluetooth. It was perplexing to me, having someone talk to the open air, apparently to no one. I couldn’t grasp it at first. For a long time I was answering questions not intended for me from complete strangers at bus stops.

“So, how is the love life these days?” the woman next to me would ask.

“Um….well, a little slow now that you ask. Why, were you interested?”

I learned much of the outer neighborhoods of Chicago in this way, as when it became clear to both of us that she wasn’t talking to me, I’d get on the next bus- no matter where it was going- out of complete mortification.

I bring this up now only because I still can’t tell when people are talking to me, but I have at least turned it to my advantage. One facet of the upheaval of fatherhood, I’m finding, is that I will never be the center of attention ever again. The best I can get is to be holding the new Superstar, to bathe in her limelight by mere proximity. The most I responsibility I can claim for her charm is the donation of a single spermatozoa. Some men actually pay real money to expel millions at a time. It is a dubious distinction.

I can pretend, though.

The Missus, in these early weeks, must rely on me to be her hands and feet much of the time, and this requires much verbal instruction, as I am a little thick, to be honest, and unaccustomed to taking directions well. She also talks to Baby G quite a bit, and I often get the wires crossed.

“Are you hungry? You look hungry,” she’ll say.

“Well…I suppose I am a bit peckish,” I’ll reply.

I’ve decided now to just pretend that these questions are intended for me. Having had to give up any notion of being a famous rock star, novelist, or any such madly successful celebrity, it is somehow soothing to think I am being waited on so attentively. Try it yourself. Imagine you have a personal assistant, or even better, an entourage, that follows you around at all hours, asking and telling you the following:

“Oh you peed? That’s so great! No one pees like you!”

“What would you like to wear today? Something to make you look more gorgeous than you are, I’m sure!”

“Way to burp! Good Job!”

“You look tired. Do you want it to be naptime?”

And a personal favorite,

“Do you want the Boob? Do you?” We can get out the Boob.”

Still, take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes Mom says silly things to amuse the tyke- remember this. If you take everything literally, you may find yourself in mild cardiac arrest when you hear from the other room:

“Oh No! Where’s the Baby?! I’ve lost the Baby! Do you know where the Baby is?!?”

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 6:39 PM  Leave a Comment  
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On Moving Babies

Getting the kid out of the house takes more preparation than a NASA launch.

“Baby changed and dry?”

“Check.”

“Onsie in place?”

“Check.”

“Outer Fleece Weather Shielding?”

“Check.”

“Auxiliary extremity shielding for the Lieutenant?”

“Check.”

“Stroller unit de-collapsed and functional?”

“Check.”

“Bassinet staging has been switched with Launching Stroller Unit for take-off?”

“Check.”

“Auxiliary portable diaper-support system fully stocked and situated in the stroller staging?”

“Check.”

“Stroller weather shielding adjusted and ready?”

“Check.”

“Baby toys?”

“Check.”

“Parental Technician Units shielded and ready?”

“Check.”

“Boobs?”

“Double- check.”

“All equipment on launching platform ready to go?”

“Check.”

“Ready to commence countdown?”

“…….”

“Repeat, Ready to commence countdown?”

“…….”

“……negative…..”

“……….”

“Negative. The Lieutenant is crying and wants lunch. Cancel the Mission, repeat, cancel the mission.”

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 3:20 AM  Comments (2)  

The Cat is now named D.H.

The cat is now named D.H.

It’s complicated, the way this came about, but I’ll try and explain it.

Let us start with the cat’s Government name. It is George. The Missus saved him from the SPCA- basically the SF humane society- some four years ago. He was a shy cat before Baby G came along- he’s actually named after a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the one where the big Abominable Fuzzy Thing picks up the little Martian, wanting to “hold him and pet him and call him George.”

He responded just like the Martian- he would squirm if you held him, and generally try to get as far away from you as possible. As he was found abandoned behind a Taqueria as kitten, hiding under a newspaper, he would act according to his wont and hide under the covers of the bed.

Enter me. I couldn’t call him George, don’t know why, exactly. So I called him ‘cat’. I have trouble with creative titles.

Enter Baby G. If Jesus was influential enough to affect even our calendar, so doth the Entrance of Baby G. There was B.B.G. and Anno Genevieve, in the year of our Babs. Complete upheaval. Along with a baby comes a measure of abject paranoia, and you soon learn to trade off. The Missus got paranoia early, whereas I was lackadaisical until we actually got to the hospital, so she’s logged more hours than me. Some months into pregnancy, B.B.G of course, we were at the grocery store, contemplating buying a very complicated tome of baby knowledge. It was pricey, I thought, and we already had books. And so, as I wont to do, I opened my mouth and spoke my mind, which is really the source of all my troubles and gaffs. Witness this

Thing to Never Say(#3):

“Really? How many books do we need? I mean, people have been doing this for thousands of years without manuals.”

I learned soon enough that

A.) you should never say this to a pregnant person and

B.) the non-pregnant person will almost certainly say this at some point. It is a measure of how obtuse I can be that we now refer to this specific book as “The Bible”, so religiously do  we adhere to its mandates.

It is written by actual pediatricians- married to each other- with eight children, two of which also became pediatricians. You can’t get more qualified than that, and it is generally written in a soothing, positive tone, and it almost 800 pages long. Despite it’s tone, though, there are just so many things that can go wrong. Witness this list, taken from the ailments section of The Bible, of all the possible things the baby can catch:

Pneumonia, larygotracheitis, rotoviral diarrhea, starvation stools, pyloric stenosis, gastroespophogeal reflux, intussusception, eczema, appendicitis, boils, bronchiolitis, bronchitis, cellulitus, epiglottitus, cradle cap, Diphtheria, Fifth Disease, Hand foot and mouth virus, Impetigo, Herpes simplex, Herpes complex, Pinworms, Reye’s Syndrome, Roseola, Scarlet Fever, Croup, and RSV, and those are just the interesting ones.

I mean, come on. Fifth Disease? What the hell are the first four? And what’s Hand, Foot and Mouth virus? Like Hoof and Mouth but for babies instead of cows?  And how can you even have Starvation Stool?

For this reason we have to trade off over who gets to have a “the baby is going to die!” day. Our friends with a 9 month-old would trade-off weeks, but hey; it’s different for everybody, right? Isn’t that what they say?

It was the Missus’s turn to have baby paranoia, and the day’s topic was the cat. He loves the baby, and has always slept in the bed. Right now, Baby G won’t sleep anywhere else, and so I sleep on the floor after feeling her little arm move underneath me one morning and spending a breathless, endless 5 minutes trying to see if I had dislocated her shoulder. The Missus is aware of her when she sleeps- which still ain’t much- and so that is fine and good, but the cat wants to do his share. When he about sat on her feet, we decided to consult The Bible. Suffocation can be a real threat- I guess cats are just cats, after all, and will try and snuggle up to the baby, or even jump into the bassinet. It’s hard because we are so fond of our weird little man, and it is simply impossible to think of this goofy little guy as being harmful or vindictive, especially as he completely changed his personality when the baby came. He cries when she cries, and looks at us imploringly- “Good God, Do Something!” he seems to be saying. Still, we have to think of Baby G, and so he strolled into the bedroom just as we had decided to banish him during nights.

“Well, “ sighed the Missus, “Here comes the Death Hazard.”


Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 3:08 AM  Comments (3)  

On sleeping

I watch the cat now, sleeping on the couch, in the sun, whenever it pleases him to do so, and I am jealous. So very jealous.

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 3:02 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Birth of Mammals

The cat, previous to Baby G, seemed to have an idea that something was up. He would sleep by the Missus and the fetus, snuggling up to her belly. We took this as a good sign.

The cat is a weirdo. He is alternately playful and terribly shy. His idea of a good time is to make desperate overtures for attention- his actions clearly stating ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ – until you actually look at him. He will then think “Oh Shit! You’re looking at me!”, run a way and hide under the bed for an hour.

Still, he usually can be coaxed out. Not during the birth, however.

No, we didn’t have the kid at home. We were at the hospital, a 5-minute drive from our flat. We filled up his food bowl, several bowls of water, and left him to his devices. It sounds weird, but he really won’t eat all his food at once- he can be left for a couple of days with no more damage than wounded pride over the fact that we weren’t there to look at him for a while.

When I came back periodically from the hospital for various reasons, though, he was in a state. He would genuinely hide and cry, and no amount of coaxing would ease him out of his hiding spot. It worried me. Of course, my mind was on the kid, but the cat is part of the family as well, and I was hoping he’d take to Baby G, that we wouldn’t have to get rid of him if he freaked out. His freaking out was a problem.

I shouldn’t have wasted the effort. He gave one extremely perplexed look at all of us when we returned, and settled right into his roll as Family Supervisor, fulfilling all of his monitoring duties, and logging in overtime with extra hours of Petting Availability. His turn around, outside of his brief episode of confusion, was total.

I couldn’t help wondering what he was thinking throughout the whole ordeal, and the best I can come with is this: The cat is a mammal. I figure somewhere in his walnut brain, he must have recognized the smell of the amniotic fluid when the Missus’ water broke. Birth is a dangerous prospect for any species, and I quickly whisked her away, only to return now and then without her. I’m guessing this was upsetting to him, and why he hid- perhaps I had eaten the babies and disposed of the Missus. It could explain his confusion upon our return, too, but I suspect something else was going on, especially as he so quickly accepted Baby G. I figure he was thinking

“What? Only one? That’s it? I can deal with one.”

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 2:55 AM  Leave a Comment