The Smile Of The Newborn Could Be Farts

Our friend Emily came by the other day to meet Animal for the first time and in the course of talking about how nice it is that random people are interested in babies, she mentioned that there's a sort of sad moment when you finally see a baby that's smaller and younger than yours.

For now though it still seems like no baby is smaller than Monkey. I like this feeling — people stop us on the street and marvel at how angelic Squeak is. Sometimes they say something along the lines of, "Great job!" We must look like idiot kids or something with our shit-eating grins and generally disheveled appearance.

So anyway, it's been almost eight weeks now. I didn't quite see how we'd get to increments of "months" after those first sleepless nights, but now time seems to go by really quickly.

[There should probably be a transition of some sort here, but my brain isn't working correctly.]

Remember that the Fourth Trimester exists because a baby's brain has to be underdeveloped enough to exit through the human pelvis. So for three months, babies are no smarter than a puppy (Jen and I had a long debate today about whether a puppy was smarter than a newborn) — it seems like they only eat and sleep, with some crying, peeing and pooping mixed in there. Jen calls this the houseplant stage. I've also heard people compare babies to sacks of sugar. Really, they seem a lot like those infant simulators, which I suppose is a testament to infant simulators, in that you only need to figure out whether a baby is hungry, gassy or wet.

But the payoff is bigger. In exchange for three or more months of a brain no more complicated than a computerized doll or a canine, babies become fully formed human beings. And that's the ultimate fuck you to dog owners: Where your "baby" will never get past crapping on the sidewalk and eating slop out of a bowl, mine might become the leader of the free world. Not to mention that babies smell a lot sweeter. Suckers.

There's something fun about this interim Fourth Trimester between fetus and human, and that's that as a parent you get real amped up and excited about welcoming this new being into consciousness. It's why you see parents freak out about seeing a baby smile for the first time, much much less a child's first words. There's a delayed gratification at work that probably mirrors the sense of delayed gratification that society tries to instill (or drill) into children. I imagine it probably also gives fathers time to get really psyched to care for a child (mothers seem to have this instinctual care thing as soon as a child is born).

Or maybe I'm just projecting all my feelings about fatherhood onto an imperfectly sketched out concept of anthropology.

I liked the nine-month gestation period because it helped me "get used" to the idea that our lives were about to change. By the time Animal was born, I had mentally prepared for this new part of life. I see something similar going on with this Fourth Trimester time. This is the time to Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! in terms of cursing and off-color talk. This is the time to be amazed by how a human brain develops. This is the time to figure out how to be patient and loving and understanding. This is the time to build a routine in terms of child care.

And the beauty of this time is that as far as we can tell, Monkey has no fucking clue what's going on. Which means we can make mistakes, figure stuff out, screw up — all within reason, of course. The one thing you don't want to do is welcome your child's first pangs of consciousness with a phrase like "Motherfucking cocksucker, show me your tits!" With any luck, by the time the Fourth Trimester winds down, you'll be goo-gee-gaw-hawing like you're supposed to when your child's brain suddenly betrays a flash of understanding.

I didn't really believe Jen when she kept saying that Squeak was smiling — I thought we heard somewhere along the way that smiling is an involuntary reaction with very young newborns — but now I see what I'm sure are smiles and evidence that he's starting to mimic our facial expressions. Either it's that or it's an example of confirmation bias — since we're probably smiling most of the time anyway.

And then there's Squeak's intense interest in light fixtures. A lot of things are "Aww!" inspiring about newborns, but the one that really gets me is how much he seems to love looking at lights. When his face isn't pressed up against Jen's chest or asleep against mine in the carrier, he's probably looking intently at these lights. It's so simple that it makes me gooey every time I see him do it. Why gooey? I don't totally know but I think it probably has something to do with the fact that someday, probably very soon, he won't have nearly enough stuff to occupy himself with and he'll be easily bored, cranky or fickle in his interests — just like everyone is as soon as we figure out how ridiculous and small those who clamor for our attention really are.

And then you have a newborn and you can make funny faces at him for literally hours because you have faith that every little gesture matters, or will soon matter. Somehow you're now hardwired to focus hold your attention. It's weird how that happens.

Posted: February 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , ,

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