Eight Ways of Looking at a Baby
And now, rested, relaxed and rejuvenated from maternity leave, I’m ready to be articulate and entertaining once again. Like this:
Yeh, yeh, yeh. Oooh! Heh heh.
That is to say, I couldn’t be happier with our new little girl. But so far, she hasn’t made me any smarter.
But she has found several others ways to improve the world, despite being only two weeks old. For instance, she has accomplished:
Instantaneous Rejuvenation of Hope for Modern Yoot: I’m walking down the aisle in Walmart, and here comes a wave of teenage girls, with hard mouths and stick thin legs, ironed hair, nasty, razor-slashed clothing, eyes blackened with enough eyeliner to make a raccoon gasp in shame. They strut forward in a loud and arrogant swarm. Once they’re close enough to glimpse the top of my newborn baby’s feathery little head, and they all . . . collapse. They absolutely collapse and turn to helpless, gibbering, cooing froth, utterly powerless before a bundle of pink the size of a small loaf of bread. Phew! Western civilization isn’t over yet: girls still like babies.
Maternal Vanity Smackdown: I was delighted to fit back into my non-maternity pants a mere week after giving birth. Then I remembered that, the last time I bought pants, the stores were only selling that loathsome cut known as “low rise.” So, yeah, I could still button the button—but the final effect was less Mae West and more Hank Hill.
Maternal Vocational Vanity Smackdown: Everybody keeps saying, “Oh, it’s your ninth baby; you know how to do this.” So I’m sitting there, getting the baby dressed. I know how to do this. I take her gown off, take her pajamas off, take her onesie off, put the onesie back on, take the onesie off, put it back on . . . wait, what am doing? Not sure. So tired. All I know is, I’m like a shark: if I stop moving, I die.
Maternal Intellectual Vanity Smackdown: I had to admit that the guy who was screaming and gesticulating as he passed me on the left had a point: I should have figured out that, when the light turned green, I should have gone. Or, subsequent to it turning red, when the light turned green again, then I should certainly have gone. Or even, perhaps, when turned green yet again. I don’t know what to tell you—the sunlight was streaming in the car window, and I was so comfortable . . .
Shot in the Arm for Spiritual Honesty: Whether you’re stupid-tired from dealing with a newborn, or on the verge of hysteria in the throes of the last days of pregnancy, your mental state will make it very, very hard to pray insincerely. I had gotten four hours of sleep in 48 hours, and my husband had dropped me off at the lady part of the hospital for what turned out to be Not Labor so he could bring the toddler to the emergency room, because she was screaming in pain from what turned out to be Not Meningitis, but Toddler Crazy Neck.
It was then that I heard myself making what I intended as a humble and trusting act of faith: “Lord, I firmly believe that You have some kind of STUPID PLAN HERE . . .”
Automatic Penance Reduction: Show me a priest who hears, “Bless me father, for I have sinned—WAH WAHHH! WAHHHHHHHHH!” and I will show you a priest who wants to get to absolution ASAP, before he hears the other telltale newborn sound, one which proceeds from the other end of the newborn, and whose attendant olfactory effects linger when heavy velvet curtains are involved.
Exposer of Weak Points in Catechetical Formation of Other Children: My two-year-old freaked out, thinking she heard us planning the baby’s “bath-tism.” “It’s okay!” we explained. “It’s not really a bath! A baptism is a happy time!” “BUT,” she argued, “THE BABY IS NOT EVEN SANDY!” In toddler theology, a Bathtism is the sacrament that takes away Original Sand.
Source of Pure Warmth: Are you cold? Is winter getting you down? Do you feel like the whole world is dry, frozen, forgotten, likely to stay silent and cramped under a low, weary sun forever and ever and ever? Here’s a tip: pick up a baby who’s spent the night in one of those legless fleece baby sacks. Give her a little kiss on her petal soft cheek, admire the adorable little whickering noise she makes, and then unzip those pajamas. Whoosh! It’s like taking the foil off a baked potato. Eight hours’ worth of concentrated Baby Warm could heat the entire Eastern Seaboard for a week.
If, however, you are still cold, just spend some time admiring the little pink seashell of an ear, the tender whorls of downy hair, and those dear, foolish chicken legs. Or the milky, rumpled neck, or the rapt gaze from dark eyes just beginning to realize that the world is a very, very interesting place.
You will feel warm.