The second week of our daughter’s life was a time of great learning and transition. In that time, my wife and I went from being tired and confused but loving guardians of a young life to The Worst Parents Ever.
So, Cordelia, my daughter, when you someday read this, bear in mind that your issues are not your fault. Mommy and daddy fucked you up.
We gave you a pacifier.
The Joy Of Pacification
Here is a general rule of thumb about parenting books: their main purpose is to make the experience as painful as possible. And unpleasant and inconvenient.
After we fed our daughter, she wanted to suck on things. Constantly. Her blanket. Her lower lip. She would latch onto the side of my hand while I was changing her. Experimentation revealed that she would attempt to gain sustenance from the back of a spoon or the tip of the TV remote. (I washed the end of the remote in soap and water first. I’m not a monster.) I tried to see if I could get her to suck on the wall, but the angle wasn’t right.
And if I didn’t give her something to suck on, she would scream. A lot. Given the chance, she would suck my wife’s nipples until there was nothing left there but a bare patch, like a Barbie. And sure, that would be totally sexy. But then our next kid would have nothing to eat.
But despite all this, we didn’t give her anything just to suck on. Well, occasionally I would put the tip of my little finger in her mouth for a minute, just to quiet her for a little. But the books said that giving the child things to suck on should be avoided, if at all possible, so I didn’t.
Then we took her into the doctor’s office for a check-up and the nurse said, inside of 5 minutes of observation, “Maybe you should get her a pacifier.”
So we did. And we received, as a reward, 24 hours of joyous silence and peace. Then our daughter, using some bizarre, random thinking process in her tiny, empty brain, decided that she didn’t like the pacifier anymore. Now she just sucks on the tip of my little finger. For hours.
But at least the screaming stopped.
Why Some People Who Work In Minimum Wage Jobs Should Probably Continue To Work In Minimum Wage Jobs
Me: “Where can I find a pacifier?”
Target Employee: “For a baby?”
Maybe I’m the jerk. Maybe they do sell pacifiers for adults, and I just don’t know about it. And, if this is the case, I want one NOW.
Why I Got Rid Of All of My Large Pots
Having a baby around makes it much harder to manage the voices in my head. I mean, before, they just told me to do horrible things to myself and my wife. But my wife knows Tae Kwon Do and could kick my ass, and I can’t do anything painful to myself because I’m a big pussy. So that was all right.
But now I spend all of my time having internal conversations like:
Me: “Oh, hell. Did I remember to put out the diapers so the service can pick them up?”
Inner voice: “Boil the baby.”
Me: “Phew. She’s finally asleep. I can get some work done.”
Inner voice: “Boil the baby.”
Me: “I’m hungry. I sure could use a ham sandwich.”
Inner voice: “Boil the …. wait. Did you say ham?”
Me: “Mmmmm. Sandwich.”
Inner voice: “Mmmmm. Sandwich.”
Me: “Better clean this plate.”
Inner voice: “Put the baby in the dishwasher.”
But the voice in my head didn’t get its way. I wasn’t able to fit the baby in the dishwasher rack.
Fortunately, my wife is understanding. She put Post-It notes on all of our large cooking vessels. Each says, in large, clear letters, “Don’t boil the baby.” It confused my parents when they came over, so, when they asked about it, I said “What? Are you saying it’s a good idea to boil the baby?” Then they changed the subject really quickly, so I think everything is going to work out OK.
The Law of Conservation of Personalities
That is my name for the way children seem to become the opposite of their parents. I tormented my huntin’, fishin’, fresh-meat-guttin’ father with my bookworm, computer programming ways.
Now, being a professional computer game designer, my daughter will have access to all of the technological goodies, computer games, and fun books she could possibly absorb.
Thus, based on The Law of Conservation of Personalities, I believe that she will turn out to be an Amish Jock.
What Baby Learned This Week
1. She learned that she can derive happiness by sucking her hand. She seems to try to maneuver her hand to her mouth. Because of her near total lack of motor control, this results in her either punching herself in the chin or poking herself in the eye. Sometimes, she accidentally flips daddy off. I generally watch this process until the laughter makes me start to hyperventilate.
2. She learned to piss whenever we’re changing her. As soon as the diaper’s off, she cuts loose. Once, she did it 4 times in 24 hours.
This is inconvenient. But, since boys get the ability to pee standing up and she doesn’t, I do not begrudge her these few precious months of urinary freeness.
A Helpful Quote, To Provide Background Information For the Upcoming Breastfeeding Rant
From “The Baby Book,” by William and Martha Sears, regarding babies who take a very long time breastfeeding:
“If you have the time and baby has the desire, cherish every lingering meal, as breastfeeding is a phase of life with your baby that passes all too quickly.”
Learn from my experience. Do not read this quote to an exhausted woman at the suckee end of a 3 AM marathon feeding session, unless you want her to do something to you with her free hand you will neither “cherish” nor want to “linger” over.
William and Martha Sears, I got somethin’ you can cherish, right here.
Suckin’ That Sweet, Sweet Teat
So giving our child a pacifier (or my finger, nature’s pacifier substitute) was only the first step in our becoming the Worst Parents Ever. Then our pediatrician, noting that my wife’s breast supply was sufficient to keep our child healthy but not happy, suggested supplementing breast milk with the occasional bottle of formula.
Want to feel like a heartless jerk who would sell out your kid for an hour’s free time and a handful of Skittles? Then crack a few parenting books and read what they have to say in their sections on formula. You’d think I was feeding my kid room temperature Mountain Dew with a pig urine chaser.
Sure, my wife could have decided to supplement her milk by going to a “lactation specialist“, but she wanted to go with the formula. And I can’t blame her. Because breastfeeding is a pain in the ass.
Oh, I know. Breast milk is nature’s own baby food, and it helps the mother develop a special bond with the child, and blah blah blah. All I know is that my wife is looking forward to weaning the way I look forward to porn.
It’s ironic. I’ve spent my whole life fantasizing about being married to someone who’s been reduced to livestock, lying on the couch and getting milked 8 hours a day, occasionally getting up to ease my tensions manually before returning to a prone position to have her nutrients drained again. Every guy dreams about this. Imagine my surprise to find that the reality is not quite as glorious as the fantasy.
Breastfeeding is a good thing. Good for the kid. Fine. But don’t pretend it’s necessarily this Glorious and Fulfilling La Leche League Mommy-Experience ™. It’s like when safe sex educators start getting a little funny in the head and start insisting that condoms are not only necessary and safe (sure), but that they don’t make sex less enjoyable. Look, idiot. Don’t piss on our legs and tell us it’s raining. We’ll do the right thing, but don’t browbeat us into thinking we have to like it.
Oh, and about that “special bond” breastfeeding helps you develop. Come on. If you clenched a spiral-cut ham to your chest for eight hours a day, you’d develop a “special bond” with it too.
I’ll Happily Lose the War If I Could Just Get One Victory
One bottle of formula a day didn’t seem like much. But our house has a lot less screaming in it now. And my wife’s nipples look a lot less like a prop in a David Cronenberg movie.
And Cordelia, if you’re reading this and you turned out to be a twisted wreck with ruined health and an inability to love, I’m sure you can trace most of that back to days 8-14. Sorry.