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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.

Kitty SolidarityThey 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.

Baby Theron sleeps on Wayward the Cat

Babies smell like fresh bread.
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 requires.

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 surprise?

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 crawl.

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...

...I hope.

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 demonstrating.

* 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?