Ok, I’ll write this quick. Because free time is in mighty short supply right now, baby daughter a few feet away getting a little shut-eye before her next rousing for some milk. (Just hope what I wind up with doesn’t read too much like the pages of Women’s Own or Self… those touchy-feely magazines that vie for attention in the doctor’s waiting room next to Sports Illustrated and Golf Weekly, for the boys, US Weekly and Star, for everyone who hates to linger long over any given page, and Newsweek and Time, for those other folks seeking a quick hit of news.)
Sixteen days into parenthood, here’s five nice surprises I’ve discovered along the way.
My Baby Looks Like a Miniature Person
Before we first got to see what Colette looked like, the list of things I hoped for ahead of a good looking kid wasn’t very long. In fact, it was probably only behind her being healthy, mom getting through it all ok, and me not accidentally dropping her.
I think it has something to do with wanting to relate. You wait more-or-less an age to meet her, and in the course of all that waiting you wonder every day how you’ll feel when you do. Will there be an instant connection? Will you be transfixed or confused? Or both. Or, indeed, will you feel something you’ve never felt before – a mysterious, special something that finally explains why every other parent says, your life will never be the same again.
And for my part, yes, I worried just a little (every now and then), if the baby would look too dissimilar to me and her mom to easily relate to. Too – for want of a better word – alien. With big, bulging, bug-like eyes, an oversized head oddly ‘coned’ at the top, and pallid, blotchy skin.
She didn’t. She really, really didn’t. Instead Colette announced her presence in the world wrapped in a healthy, pinkish glow – with all the regular digits and features right where you’d expect them, only tiny-sized and unimpeachably cute. Yep, I knew right away, I won’t have the least bit of troubling loving this baby girl.
She Hasn’t Cried Up a Storm (Yet)
Hmmm. Or has she? We have to remind ourselves every now and then that, you know, all babies cry. Especially in the long middle bit of the night right after Colette has been changed, burped, cuddled, and seemingly well-fed. And, of course, I inevitably write this in the knowledge that colic (the sort of crying parents stumble away from as if from the trenches of the Somme, according to what I’ve read) typically only kicks in after two weeks or so, if it starts at all.
Only, the thing I was really worried about – ahead of time – was baby crying up a storm and me having no clue why. Forget tempting fate, and never mind some bleary-eyed impressions to the contrary: it hasn’t happened yet. I’ll put my hand up and admit that sometimes the crying is annoying (consider marriage, after all – let’s agree that we can love and irritate with equal facility), but it definitely hasn’t led so far to existential bafflement or dread.
She’s the Best Teacher You’ll Ever Get
Oh, you better believe I’ve an awful lot still to learn… and yet there’s one little girl who’s catching me up in a hurry. Just like the nurse said back at hospital (seems an age ago already, but it surely wasn’t): watch baby and baby will tell you what to do.
Yep, aptly put. She’s telling me and mom, alright: our job is just to close the gap between her ways of communicating and our ways of understanding – bearing in mind that what she wants the overwhelming majority of the time is, well, mommy’s milky boobs. (A side-note: babies like a bit of irony. More than anything else, I reckon, they reward attentiveness and patience: two things in ever-shorter supply the more tired you get… thanks to baby.)
You Adapt Because You Have To
No surprise this: you really do have to get a bit of a shift on with a baby to look after. There’s not a whole lot of hanging about wondering what to do next. But there absolutely is a high volume of laundry, cleaning up, wiping down, grabbing a quick bite, and catching forty winks.
So here’s the good news. You find a way of getting it all done, even if, oftentimes, you’re not sure exactly how. This might just be hopeless romanticism on my part, but I swear Colette has made my whole body change to better meet her needs. It seems I can get by on a little less sleep, for one thing. And it seems my arms are that much stronger and my fingers more dexterous, for another. Who knows if it’s really so? Except no way could I have lulled a crying baby to sleep while still chit-chatting with the in-laws three short weeks ago.
Props again to baby: while the workplace more typically rewards naked self-interest, obsequiousness, and talking a lot in meetings, she appreciates more useful things like perseverance, flexibility, and putting socks on one-handed.
She Doesn’t Make Me Squeamish
I’m really not a fan of ‘messy.’ Instead, I always like things to be neat and tidy in a fussy, slightly anal-retentive kind of way. So anytime I see one of those photos of a baby eating – food smeared haphazardly round the face – I basically find it gross. Same deal with adults too, mind you: I don’t even nearly get the concept of finger-lickin’ good, and I’d definitely rather go without than tackle BBQ-smothered wings or ribs without a tall stack of napkins to ease me through it all.
Funny thing is, though – so far Colette hasn’t made me the least bit squeamish. Poops, pees, spit-ups, you-name-it: I say, bring it on girl, keep it coming. Sure, any notion that dad’s ‘shouldn’t’ change diapers really is a whole lot of machismo nonsense… but nevertheless it sure is good to discover that doing so’s no bother at all. Even (a couple days ago) mid-change, when free-flowing pee has nothing below to catch it. (You’re my daughter and, damn it, you can piss when you want.)