Can a baby get some credit?

Every time the baby goes to the doctor, they ask about milestones. These are things he should be doing at certain ages. It went from making eye contact to sitting up to rolling over to crawling. Recently, we have met and passed the pulling himself up to stand milestone.

Tracking these standard milestones is fine, but it’s disappointing that the doctor doesn’t seem to care about the entertaining stuff our baby is doing. Our baby has passed a lot of other milestones too.

The High five milestone

Our baby is quite advanced in his high five skills. Maybe a lot of 10-month-olds can give a high five when prompted, but our child initiates the high five. He holds up an open hand and gives you that look that says, “Daddy Dog, can a baby get some skin?”

He is satisfied with all the high fives he gets in response. But if you make a “chit” noise with your mouth, to exaggerate the sound of two palms striking each other, he will reward you with a lovely smile and probably make you one of his regular high five buddies.

For a while, he even experimented with the fist bump, to which the proper sound effect was a tongue click. In the end, he found this activity overly pretentious and less sincere than the high five.

The Don’t go to any trouble; I can serve myself milestone

This is a milestone that all breastfed babies probably achieve. It’s odd that the doctor never asks about it because it is a good measure of ingenuity and coordination. Our baby met this milestone some time ago, but it seems like he keeps getting more nimble and insistent.

Babies learn to know where their bread is buttered. Though they may be eating other foods, there is still nothing like a fresh brewed pot of milk. Our baby has perfected the art of grabbing hold of one of nature’s milk jugs with both hands, while turning himself sideways across his mother and diving directly at the spigot. The turning maneuver he can accomplish without using his arms. This lets him keep his eyes, and his hands, on the prize.

The I understand that something nasty just went down inside my diaper milestone

This is another universal milestone that doctors should ask about, but don’t. It shows the development of awareness and an appreciation for social awkwardness. Younger babies can do all sorts of mischief inside their diapers without batting an eye. That bubbling cauldron of goo is no concern of theirs.

You know your baby is developing some self-awareness when a bottom-side blowout makes him freeze in place and stare at you with wide eyes, even before his big brother yells out, “Daddy, the baby just ripped a hole in his diaper!” The baby knows he’s absolutely tearing it up. What he doesn’t yet know is whether he should be proud or ashamed of it. Hence, the wide, questioning eyes.

Don’t worry, baby. In a year or two, your brother will have taught you that the sound your butt just made is the most hilarious noise in the world. There is nothing to do but laugh, and try to blame it on him.

wide eyed baby

“Oh my! Did somebody order a diaper shredder?”

Milk it while it’s still cute, kid

In considering the traits the baby is displaying at three months old, I wonder which of them he will carry with him as he grows into a young man. I’m fairly certain that he won’t continue to view every naked moment as an opportunity to pee on whatever or whomever is within range. That could get very socially awkward, and if it doesn’t, I don’t think I want him hanging out with that crowd.

Of all the cute things a baby does, how many of them would still be cute if he did them later in life? The boundaries of cute shift over time, and there are some things that won’t be so cute down the line. That being said, he can cut out the indiscriminate peeing any time now, as that was never cute, in spite of his misguided notions.

This would not be cute in an adult

Our baby loves chewing on hands. I understand babies wanting to suckle on fingers, but he’s moved past digits. He loves to sink his gums into some juicy thumb butt. A little shank of thumb is his favorite, but he’s not above savoring a bit of knuckle or wrist when the mood strikes him. I don’t have meaty hands, but what meat I do have is, apparently, quite delicious.

These are even better dipped in melted butter.

Maybe he would chew on my ankles if I held him with my feet. Perhaps he’d chew on whatever was available, excepting, of course, my gristly, spiny shoulders. But I think he prefers hand meat, because when my hands are not available, he munches his own. His thumb is just not enough. I’m going to start wearing gloves when the teeth come.

This won’t do much for his social life

When he’s happy and engaged, the baby coos adorably. It is one of the most endearing things about him. Yet, the cooing is not going to be so cute when he’s 17. I hope he doesn’t approach the girl he wants to take to Prom and just start giving her the “ooooo, ooooo, ooooo,” treatment. Sure, it’s cute now – it’s so cute that it’s all he needs to say. But that 17-year-old girl is going to want to know when he’s picking her up, and she’s probably not going to have her hair done by ooooo o’clock.

“I’m here to take your daughter to indiscriminately dive-bomb people in the park . . . uh . . . I mean . . . Prom.” (Photo: Gary Kramer/U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service)

By the time he is 17, he’s going to need to be more articulate than a pigeon. Of course, I’m sure he will be, under normal circumstances. I just hope he doesn’t panic and resort to babbling random bird noises every time he comes near a pretty girl. My fear is not unfounded; there is some precedent for this kind of behavior in his nuclear family.

Babies change so quickly that I could be writing about different traits in a week. I just hope all of those future traits are contented ones . . . and none of them lead to cannibalism.

Where are your boob holes when you need them?

If you are like me, you probably think that all hospital gowns are pretty much the same. That just goes to show how wrong it is to be like me. You should try very hard not to do it anymore.

In the maternity ward, they have a special gown, just for mom, with holes cut out over the breasts. I don’t remember seeing these on our first visit to the maternity ward, in 2008, but I suspect I just didn’t notice. After all, I was passed out much of the time, and overwhelmed by the prospect of a lifetime of parenthood when conscious.

The ostensible purpose of these special gowns is to allow mothers to breastfeed their babies without having to navigate all the way around to the open edge of the gown. While this is a noble cause, and a team of engineers probably dedicated the better part of their careers to calculating the optimal number of holes, I think it must be the most underutilized piece of medical technology in existence.

I almost missed knowing about these medical advancements on this last visit too, and with good reason. Though my wife breastfed from the get-go, she most often did so by throwing the bulk of her gown up over her shoulder with the same abandon with which a cavalier would manage his cape.

Only once, entangled in the gown, bed sheets, and other sundry cloaks of fresh motherhood, did my wife attempt to use these helpful slits in her apparel. She wriggled around, searching the folds of her peculiar garment. “Where are your boob holes when you need them?” she muttered in frustration.

This was my first indication that such a thing existed. “What are boob holes?” I asked, a little embarrassed that, in my position as a repeat father, I might have been ignorant of an entire undiscovered acre of female anatomy.

She pointed to a spare gown hanging on the bathroom door. Unlike the gown she wore, this one clearly showed a hole, by virtue of its being hung from it. Before I could note the difference between this hole and the short sleeves at either side, I said, “I thought that was an arm hole.”

This gown must be defective. Who has arms this close together?

“How many arms do you think I have?” she asked. Clearly, her frustration with her own gown was making her sarcastic.

Intrigued, I took down the extra gown and examined it. True enough, there were two spare arm holes cut right smack into the front of it. “Science!” I whistled to myself. I was just at the point of thinking that we might be able to use one of these at home, when a couple of quick impulses cooled my ardor.

First, my wife had given up and slung the bulk of her gown off to the side. She had finally located one of the holes, but it was awkwardly situated and she had no success using it to lasso anything useful to a baby. I’m no expert on hospital gowns, but it seems to me that they are difficult to keep on straight.

Some sicko with a camera playing dress-up in hospital dainties. They really ought to be more careful about who they let into the maternity ward.

By the time a woman gets into bed and maneuvers breast and baby onto a collision course, the boob holes (pardon my continued use of technical terms) might as well be arm holes. A baby stands a better chance of finding milk by shoving his head up a sleeve.

Second, the material of the hospital gown seems flimsy and unattractive to me. I think I’ll wait until they start making these chic little outfits in leather.

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Bonding with the baby bump

At eight months pregnant, my wife is not so fond of people impulsively rubbing her belly. I understand her position perfectly. If there were something about my belly that made people want to reach out and paw at it whenever the whim struck them, I can imagine that I would be sensitive about it too. Fortunately, my belly is completely uninspiring; people would rather soak their hands in a bowl full of leeches than cop a feel of my spare tire.

Though my wife is rather reserved when it comes to sharing her baby bump with the fawning masses, she can’t seem to have my hand affixed to that bump enough. I believe she would glue my palm to her navel if she thought it practical.

This baby kicks, punches, and generally bounces himself off the walls of the womb with remarkable energy. I don’t remember this much activity with the first pregnancy. My wife seems intent on sharing every one of these movements with me. I’m all for feeling the baby kick, when it is convenient for me to sit next to his mother and gently place my hand upon her belly. I am all about the miracle of life, and I agree that it is thrilling to feel tangible evidence of our forthcoming bundle of joy.

However, I don’t think that I should have to come running from a different floor of the house to dive at my wife with my arm outstretched in order to feel the movement, before it’s too late, every time the baby hiccups. Yet, this is what is expected of me. At any time of the day, I might hear the alarm, “Quick! Quick! The baby’s awake. Come feel him.” True to my duty, I drop everything and comply, only to get kicked in the hand for my trouble.

I originally thought I was obeying the mother when I came running to get my feel, but it was explained to me by the mother that I am actually being summoned by the baby himself. “He needs skin-on-skin with his daddy,” she said, ignoring the fact that my hand was resting upon her epidermis.

It was further explained to me that, beyond needing to feel his daddy’s touch, this baby needs to hear his daddy’s voice every day. “Have you talked to your baby today?” I get asked by his spokeswoman as she thrusts out her belly button like it’s a walkie-talkie. Even in the privacy of my own home, I feel a little shy about speaking into a belly button. And what kind of conversation do you strike up through the uterine wall? “Read any good books lately?” On top of that, the kid can’t seem to figure out the intercom system, so I can’t even hear his replies.

Still, I do the best I can at meeting this baby’s many needs. I must confess though, there are times when his movements are so visually shocking that I must pull back my hand in horror. My wife is a petite woman, so any big movements make her belly fluctuate profoundly. Many times I have anticipated seeing an alien hand pop out of her to grab hold of my puny, human wrist. At other times the movement merely resembles the massage balls revolving beneath the cover of a shiatsu chair. This image is less frightening and I can usually be convinced to put my hand back.

Our sweet little dictator in his command and control pod.

Even though I value these last couple months of being able to sleep at night and not having to change diapers, there’s a growing desire within me to have this baby come out and face me eye to eye. Then he can tell me directly what his needs are. You never know if you’re getting the straight poop when you’re working through an interpreter.