First Impressions of Fatherhood
The arrival of the baby in
our home produced a flood of interesting first
impressions. One of those, unfortunately, was, "Oh,
G-d, I'm going to be too busy to write this
stuff down the way I should." This has, in
the event, turned out to be completely correct.
So here I am, a little less than a month later
(it's now July third, and the Sprog was born on
June seventh) finally putting down as much of my
impressions as I've managed to retain.
Baby learns to
forage, part one.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about bringing
the baby home was how prepared we weren't. I
should say here that I'm speaking for myself;
I'm not sure my wife would agree with me on this
one. You'd think, given nine months or so to
prepare, that we'd have everything ready:
necessities purchased well in advance, the
baby's room (formerly my office) prepared, and
baby equipment carefully and sensibly arranged
so that we'd have it to hand when we needed it.
You would, of course, be wrong.
I have to give the
Beautiful Woman* credit here. She was largely
responsible for getting the baby's room
organized, and she gets all the credit for the
fact that we have a crib, a changing table, a
car seat, diapers, blankets, bassinet**, etc. A
lot of these items came in from friends and
relatives, but my wife was the one who made sure
we had the things we needed. If I'd been left to
raise the baby by myself, he'd be sleeping in
one of those little cat-beds on the floor and
wearing strips of old beach towels for diapers.
Sort of like Mowgli, except that being raised by
domesticated suburban cats doesn't have quite
the same cachet as being raised by wolves in the
wilderness of India.
We're still a little
behind in the process of baby-proofing the
house. Based on our record so far, I'd predict
that we'll struggle along until the Sprog starts
to move on his own, at which point we'll have a
massive frenzy of moving things out of reach,
strapping things down, and blocking things off.
Right now... well, right now I still haven't
moved the last of the swords out of the nursery.
The cats discover
their new sibling.
Among the various things that new parents
can panic over is the question of how their pets
will react to a new addition to the family. We
have three cats, and we had some legitimate
reason to worry. When we first married, each of
us had two cats. We figured it would be fine -
like a Brady Bunch episode, but fuzzier.
Instead, one of my cats and one of my wife's
cats entered a dominance contest that just.
wouldn't. end. Neither of them would
concede, they wouldn't stay in separate areas,
and nothing we tried seemed to help. We finally
sent my cat off to live with my parents, with
two results. First, the remaining three cats get
along pretty well. Second, Wayward the cat now
lives a life of leisure and pleasantry, of the
sort that most people can only dream of.
So, this time around we
were expecting trouble. The cats, to our
surprise, reacted with stunning indifference.
They have wandered into the baby's room, looked
around, and examined the baby. The sequence of
feline thoughts seems to go something like this:
What's this? Well, it definitely isn't a cat.
Maybe it's a person? Maybe it'll feed us? No?
Well, maybe it'll pet us. No? Actually, it
doesn't seem to know we're here. All right,
then. ...And then they wandered off.
are a little disappointed about the fact that
we're busy with the baby. More to the point,
they're disappointed that they're getting less
attention. They've coped with this by claiming
dominion of our bed, where they huddle together
in a show of feline solidarity. Aside from
the amount of fur on the bedspread, that hasn't
been a problem.
Wayward (the cat who
went to live with my parents) was, if anything,
even less impressed.
Babies smell like
One of the first things I noticed about the
baby is way he smelled. It isn't quite like
fresh bread, and it isn't quite like yeast, but
it's somewhere in that general direction. I
think it's a survival mechanism, like being
cute. It helps take the sting out of the amount
of feeding and diaper-changing the Tadpole
Some of this is
apparently a by-product of breastfeeding. If so,
that makes the best argument for breastfeeding
that I've heard so far. Forget improving his IQ,
or strengthening his immune system, or reducing
the likelihood of allergies. If breastfeeding
makes the baby's poop smell better, I am all
in favor of the practice.
Things I shouldn't
be surprised by...
There are quite a lot of things that
shouldn't really surprise me, but do anyway. The
baby's skin is very soft; that's one. I expected
it, but it still surprises me every time I touch
him. He requires constant attention, even when
he's sleeping - although it's probably also fair
to say that we feel compelled to give him more
attention than he actually needs. I've gotten
very good at looking to see that he's still
breathing (rather than, say, poking him to see
if he's still alive, which generally causes him
to wake up and be unhappy).
The second big surprise
is this: he's growing. Visibly.
Enthusiastically. Okay, so they're not supposed
to stay the same size forever, but I expected to
go a bit longer before I noticed the difference.
Perhaps the most
surprising surprise (if you'll pardon the
redundancy) is the sheer number of times that
I've looked at him and thought: Hey, we have a baby.
I mean, we had nine months of lead-time. We've
been decorating and rearranging and buying
diapers. It's not like he just showed up,
unannounced, in a basket of reeds on the
riverbank one morning. How can it still be a
Baby learns to forage, part two.
At this point, near the end of Theron's first
month of life, he's demonstrating a surprising
degree of muscular control. I don't know (and I
can't imagine how anyone would be able to tell)
how much of his behavior is instinctive, but
from the end of the first week he's been able to
raise his head and look around, establish a lock
so he can eat, and throw his arms out if he
thinks he might be falling. Also, when he's
hungry, he moves his legs in and out. That
doesn't sound like much, but when I'm leaning
back with him on my chest, I can brace his foot
with one hand. He pushes off with a movement
which is much closer to crawling than I'm
comfortable with at this stage in his
development. I'd really like to finish
hiding the swords before he figures out how to
Now, the swords are
pretty high on the wall, and in any case they
aren't what he'll go looking for when he does
start moving on his own. There's pretty much
only two things in the world that really matter
to him, and both of them are anatomically
attached to my wife. I'm pretty sure that any
movement he attempts will be for the sole
purpose of bringing his mouth closer to the
Source Of All Food. So as far as hiding the
swords and other child safety preparations are
concerned, I've got a little time...
Baby has hobbies.
At present Theron's world consists of four
activities: eating, sleeping, pooping, and
squirming. Sometimes, for variety, he'll try
combining those activities: pooping and
squirming at the same time, for example. The one
which causes the most trouble is when he tries
to combine eating and sleeping. This basically
involves latching on and nodding off.
He doesn't really
cry much, and he hasn't quite reached the point
where he'll imitate our expressions (though some
of his own are adorable). I guess we'll close
this entry with some more pictures, by way of
* My wife, for anyone
who missed that earlier..
** 'Bassinet' is an
interesting word, not least of all because it
reminds me of 'basset hound'. (I like the image
of tucking the baby into the back of a mid-sized
dog, who can then trundle around the house
carrying him. I'm guessing this would be some
sort of genetically engineered mutant dog, but
there are advantages to that. For one thing, if
something was wrong with the baby, the dog could
bark to let you know.) Turns out the word
actually comes from French, and has the same
basic stem as 'basin'. A bassinet is basically a
basin-ette, or a little basin that you keep a
baby in. Pretty keen, neh?