Once you see an entire human being come out of your wife’s private parts, things are never quite the same again. Certainly not between the two of you. The meanings of time, sleep and food are instantly remade. Even your house gets turned around. While our friendly post-partum doula and midwife pass through upended rooms, circumnavigating the shipments of diapers and gifts, consulting on this and that, my wife walks around with her shirt off, the shutters stay closed for modesty’s sake, and in the darkened rearmost chamber, the sound of a heavy rainstorm loops on an iPod Shuffle, along with the recorded sound of a vacuum cleaner, in order to soothe the baby. I am apparently living in some kind of post-natal submarine. The cat is especially confused.
Now we sleepwalk in this ‘fourth trimester’ baby containment vessel, and to keep my sense of humor I try to enjoy the loss of boundaries. I open the freezer, once reserved for food, to see a stack of Maxi Pads soaking in Witch Hazel. My bathroom has become an op center of bottles, feeding gadgets, breast pump components. My wife’s placenta has been fashioned into pills that reside on the nightstand. The purpose of this, as I understand it, is to reintroduce beneficial hormones and also to freak out husbands. It’s working. I am freaked out. What else, I wonder, will they be making into pills for us to consume?
I have two older children now grown, and when I did the baby thing those first two times we had owner’s manuals, well-thumbed and dog-eared copies of Spock and Brazelton that we consulted at the slightest peep from our progeny. Pediatricians, also, were much more Moses-like in those days, prone to pronouncements that young parents obeyed without question.
Different, now. We are inundated with opinions, some actually based remotely on facts, about how to diaper, when to feed, when to vaccinate if at all, how to medicate, how not to medicate, and what constitutes an emergency that merits calling in a professional. (‘Poop in the screaming yellow color of a traffic detour sign? – oh, that’s normal’). There is Tiger Mothering, advice from fans of Chinese and Hindu cultures, and the terrible spectre of potentially practicing ‘Attachment Parenting,’ whereby the parents and their child are together at all hours day and night, their bodies touching skin to skin, sharing fluids and consciousness, for as long as six years.Then the parents are led off to an insane asylum. The children must be raised by wolves. Not sure I got that right. Get back to you on it. For now, at three in the morning I will occupy myself with the things that really matter, like how many millilitres are in an ounce. (I checked: It’s 3,256.)
If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like their peas touching their carrots on their plate, you will have an interesting time as a parent. Conceptually, everything has contact with everything else. It’s the end of a world and the beginning of the next. Note to self: Must remember not to eat the placenta burritos in the refrigerator.
I have learned, by the way, that my newborn son has been writing a blog that has become very popular. I should be used to this, as my older children have taken a few laps around me already, becoming cooler, more articulate, better traveled and capable of creating things I can only think about. It stings a little when your offspring surpass you, and the sting is worse for me, as the surpassing has been accomplished in the first days of life, and with the excellent use of words. I have tumbled along for thirty years of writing and image-making, and then some kid shows up who’s got badda-bing timing and iconic photographs — and he takes the prize in the first couple of weeks of his life! Well, I am comforted to know it was ever so and shall ever be.