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The Story About the Baby, Volume 5.

Now that my daughter Cordelia is a month old, it has become that much easier to delude myself into thinking that she is showing signs of alertness and humanity. Sometimes she looks up and makes eye contact with me with such a piercing gaze that I can't help but believe that there are the beginnings of consciousness in there. Then I watch her spend a furious minute trying to suck sustenance out of her upper lip, and I come to the cold realization that my daughter has spent the previous month growing up from a 7 pound dope to an 8 pound dope.

The Poo Bomb

One of the fascinating things about new parenthood is the way I had in my mind certain basic assumptions about how the process would work, which were, in fact, to any actual parent, so totally and obviously wrong that there was no perceived need to point out that they are wrong. The things you don't know are so obvious that nobody bothers to tell you otherwise.

For example, I recently found out that I had one such assumption: that a diaper is capable of containing all the waste produced in any one "incident."

The other night, however, I experienced an incident I have christened The Poo Bomb.

I watched TV, peacefully, with Cordelia lying on the couch next to me. She made some mildly fussy noises, so I picked her up, took her into the nursery, and checked her diaper. I then found that she had shat out, conservatively, 70% of her body weight. The waste product flowed around the diaper like the wind passes by a stick. I had to cross myself. It was majestic.

It was like, well, imagine an anaconda swallowing a warthog. But in reverse. And the warthog is made of poo.

I am almost positive that she can unhinge her hip bones.

I am starting to develop calm, firm parenting instincts. So it was obvious what I had to do next. I got the camera and took some pictures. Someday, Cordelia will bring home a boyfriend I don't like.

Then I cleaned up everything. And I mean everything.

And the next morning, in direct violation of the Laws of Physics, she detonated another Poo Bomb. I swear to god she feels lighter.

Now She Can Fail!

Now that Cordelia is a month old, I can finally start measuring her up against developmental milestones.

I've been using the popular tome What To Expect the First Year, since it breaks down possible abilities into categories of decreasing likelihood (should be able to, may be able to, etc.). For example,

"By the end of this month, your baby

.... should be able to:

* Breathe.
* Scream.

.... will probably be able to:

* Stay awake from 10:30 PM to 10 AM.
* Urinate the moment its diaper is off.

.... may even be able to:

* Be cute and adorable whenever non-parents are around.
* Shit out 70% of its body weight in one go.

.... may possibly be able to:

* Repair an automotive transmission."

I would add something to the lists: will probably be able to be a disappointment to mommy and daddy. Measuring Cordelia against the perfectly reasonable expectations placed upon her, she is unable to do everything on the lists, even though they are very simple things you or I could do without a hitch (assuming that you, as I, have arms).

If our daughter is gifted, she is clearly not THAT gifted. I foresee 1400 combined on the SAT, tops. She's a Yale child, at best. Clearly not Princeton material.

May Even Be Able To Train Mommy and Daddy

On the other hand, Cordelia did recently develop the ability to manipulate mommy and daddy. She can now cry to communicate nothing else than her desire for the parent holding her to get up off the nice comfortable couch and be walked around for a while. I suppose I am proud of this.

OK. If I Don't Hear A Clear Breath, I'm Only Going To Stand Here Ten More Minutes.

I am still obsessed over my daughter's ability to breathe. Which is, I suppose, reasonable. She still sleeps every night bracketed by those ridiculous foam "don't let the baby roll over" bars, and I still do breath checks every little bit (but VERY quietly).

When looking after Cordelia, I'll always remember the little rhyme my grandmother taught me when I was little:

"If she's pink, stop and think.
If she's blue, nothing to do."

Hmm. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure that's right. Oh well. If something is wrong, I'm sure it'll come to me.

Yet Another Reason To Hate Parenting Books

Those who have adequate free time to read these columns have probably picked up, at this point, my general lack of respect for parenting books. Well, maybe not lack of respect. I respect parenting books as much as I respect any class of medical text which freely interchanges science and guesswork.

My suspicions in this regard began while I was reading The Birth Partner, Second Edition, by Penny Simkin. The section on getting babies in the breech position to turn, in particular. The first technique described was the Breech Tilt position, in which the mother lies on a slanted board, with her ass above her head, in the hope that the child will turn around in the uterus. The section ended with this particularly choice quote:

"The position seems to encourage some babies to turn, but it may not work. Research studies have not found the breech tilt to be clearly more effective than doing nothing."

WHAT!?!?!?

WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?

OK. A baby is in a breech position. The mother is upset. She's frantic. She feels a desperate need to do something. In this case, people should be MORE careful about what they're saying, not LESS. And you CERTAINLY shouldn't just throw out random shit! I mean, why stop there? Why not say jumping jacks, wearing chains of daisies, and playing music down by the woman's cha-cha might get the baby to decide to turn around.

Oh. Wait. That last one actually was suggested. My personal hero, Penny Simkin, next recommends (I am not making this up) playing music at waist level in the hope of drawing the child's head down to hear better. If this doesn't work, she recommends having the father speak into the vagina like a microphone. This is all sufficiently ludicrous that she doesn't bother to mention the lack of scientific validity for this entertainment.

Actually, if playing music by mom's private parts can get the baby to turn its head down, we'd all better be careful that no music plays by the mother's head, or the baby might turn itself breech to hear better! Oops!

If a mother manages to wade through all of this, then, finally, Breech Version is described. In this procedure, the mother goes into the hospital, where actual doctors will attempt to physically turn the baby around in-utero. This is painful, difficult, and has the minor, negligible advantage of actually working sometimes. Because it sometimes works, and because it involves actual doctors, I'm frankly surprised it made it into the book.

(By the way, in all fairness to Penny Simkin, these exercises are recommended in many, many other places, and most don't have the intellectual fortitude to mention there is no evidence they work. In fact, on lamaze.com, they even suggest specific sorts of music which seem to help the baby to turn. Bach and Vivaldi, in case you were curious. Also, What To Expect When You're Expecting, to its credit, simply says that there is no evidence that these exercises work, but they don't do harm either. Of course, the same thing can be said for just sitting and playing Nintendo.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of empowering the parents. I love the idea of getting the mother involved. This warm, fuzzy sentiment stops at exactly the point that giving emotionally strained parents random directions to keep them busy begins.


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