Spring is beginning to blossom, pollen is thick in the air, and the bright stillness of the morning is broken by the happy chirps of my daughter Cordelia.
Now over two months old and well over ten pounds, she has attained a major milestone in the eyes of her daddy. She has reached the size of a small but usable turkey. While I do not intend to stuff and roast her, I do take some satisfaction in getting her to the point where she would be useful for that purpose.
The First Doctor’s Appointment
Her increasing age also led us (well, led her mom, as daddy was asleep) to take Cordelia for her two month doctor’s appointment. It was an eventful trip. First, daddy learned that his back pain was not merely an illusion, as his delightful little girl had ballooned to ten pounds and ten ounces. This is a gain of well over an ounce a day. A simple process of extrapolation reveals that, on her sixteenth birthday, she will be almost four hundred pounds, and we can get rich selling her to the circus.
Second, some tube thing in her right eye is all gummed up. This means her tears can’t drain out. Instead, they stay in her eye, getting it permanently gross and gooky. Compared to the normal and expected baby behaviors (up to and including spraying feces across the room and onto the lampshade), this is cute and endearing. We are assured that this will clear up on its own, unless it doesn’t.
Finally, the big news. Our baby seems to have a heart murmur. According to the parenting books and web sites mommy and daddy have been frantically scouring, this is a horrible and alarming condition that many babies seem to have, though it might well be just the way the heart sounds and not really anything, or if it is anything, it’ll most likely clear up on its own, or…
Well, what the books say is “Don’t worry.” Great. What “heart murmur” means is that babies fall into two groups: babies who seem to have a heart murmur and are just fine, and babies who seem to have a heart murmur and will meet a horrible fate. Shit. Why not let the other shoe drop and have the pediatrician run into the room shouting “Hello, your baby is going to die, die, DIE!!!”
The books say that the reason doctors freak parents out about this diagnosis, even if it is almost undoubtedly nothing, is that they can make a note of it so they can look at it later. Sure. As if later they were going to just forget to check the heart. Look, if it’s not worth doing anything about until a certain point, couldn’t you just freak me out about it AT THAT POINT?
Because now I have to tell my parents that their grandchild has a heart murmur, and they’re going to freak out, and then I’ll tell them it’s nothing, and they won’t believe me, and then everyone is running around in circles screaming except the baby. As if I didn’t have enough reasons to pack a bag, head south, smuggle heroin in my rectum, and never be seen again.
On the bright side, we were told that Cordelia was basically healthy and perfect. Though she was about to become drastically less healthy and perfect. Because they were about to impale her with needles.
Now Baby Must Be Stuck With Needles
The nurses at the doctor’s office had it TOGETHER, man. Cordelia needed to be impaled with four needles. So 2 nurses came in gave the shots in 2 pairs of two, one on each thigh, at the same time. The engineer in my soul applauds such efficiency. I also applaud my daughter, for learning how loud she can scream. I love my little bullhorn girl.
We did decide to vaccinate our child. For some people, this decision is controversial. A web search for “vaccines” will bring up a host of web sites, some of them even proofread, which explain why this is a bad idea. Some of them give sensible alternatives, like (ahem) homeopathy.
It is my firm belief that there is no belief so asinine, no course of action so bizarre, that it can not have a half dozen web sites strongly devoted to its practice. If their maintainers ever learned to check their spelling, we might be in real trouble.
Anti-vaccination people are spooky. I’m not saying that vaccines should be mandatory, but everyone who doesn’t have their infants take advantage of the miracles of modern medicine should be required to either provide a solid health reason why the vaccine will be harmful (“The last one made her burst into flames.”) or write a 500 word essay entitled “Why Polio Isn’t So Bad.”
(Don’t laugh. I had no trouble finding such essays online. At thinktwice.com, for example. Turns out, polio is not much to worry about. Phew! thinktwice.com willing to sell you selections from this fine collection of books on holistic medicine, so I can’t recommend it highly enough, in a sixteenth century kind of way.)
The Joyous Blossoming of Pre-Colic
We are getting close to colic age. Or, as I usually call it, “The ‘C’ Word,” for fear that speaking that cursed word aloud will summon it. Every night, I watch carefully for periods of long, irrational screaming, afraid that I, too, have been touched by the colic fairy and all happiness will be stripped off me like blubber off a whale.
And Cordelia does not disappoint. When the evening comes, she frequently treats me to long, uninterrupted periods of screeeeeaming. Up to an hour. I do not call this colic. That would be like scratching my toe and shouting, “Ahh! I severed my foot!”
But I know enough to be afraid. This may just be the early warning. These early screams may just be her tuning up her motor, in preparation for a rich banquet of squeals to come. And I will pay for my complacency. Oh, yes. I will pay.
Fortunately, I am prepared. I have learned that, while web surfing with a baby screaming directly into my ear is not ideal, it is certainly workable.
Now It Can Be Told. The Advantages of Parenthood.
I didn’t have one major, overarching reason for wanting a child. I had a lot of little tiny reasons.
For example, I wanted to free my parents from the horrible, soul-grinding future they made abundantly clear a life without grandchildren offered them. I figured, “Hey. Be a mensch. They put me through college. It’s the least I can do.”
But I think the main reason, or at least, the slightly more important reason, is that I never, ever, ever wanted to have this conversation again:
Me: “What do you want to do tonight?”
Wife: “I dunno. What do you want to do?”
Me: “I dunno.”
There is nothing like having a baby to temporarily dispel all angst from your life. Now, instead, we have this infinitely preferable conversation:
Me: “What do you want to do tonight?”
Wife: “Keep the baby from turning blue.”
Me: “Great! Let’s do it!”
My Baby Can DO Something!
My baby has just achieved a huge milestone, apart from her new, previously mentioned roastability.
She has figured out that she has a “hand”. She can now amuse herself for up to an hour at a time by lifting her right hand to her mouth, sucking on it for a little bit, forgetting that that was what she put her hand there for, twitching it away, and then instantly repeating the process. Throw in the occasional, accidental, self-inflicted punch in the nose, and I could watch this process, charmed, forever.
It’s a big thing for me because it’s the first time I can see her actually DO something. She wants to do something, she controls her body, and she makes it happen. It’s a huge relief after two months of basically taking care of a big, gooey, pink larva.
We put this weird, educational mobile above her crib. It hypnotizes her to a degree which I find, frankly, disturbing. Last night, she spent a half hour staring up at the mobile while sucking on her hands. Tonight, an hour. I could take her to a slaughterhouse and have someone put a metal bolt into her head, and it wouldn’t quiet her down half as well as that mobile.
It’s the baby girl equivalent of me spending a peaceful afternoon sitting on the couch watching TV and scratching my balls. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing your daughter take after her daddy.
“Honey, This Is Britney Spears. Daddy Thinks She Is Sexy.”
I also set up a little stereo in her nursery and tried playing for her a Classical Music For Babies CD we got at the shower. As I watched her listen to it for a while while staring raptly at her little geometrical figure mobile, I found myself struck with a sudden, irresistible desire to beat her up and take her lunch money.
I met this desire halfway. I took away her pacifier and drank all the pumped milk mommy left for her. Then I put in some Led Zeppelin. I’m not sure how this is helping her develop. But I’m having a great time, and that’s what counts.