Baby Madness: A Conversation

Sometimes I think, when the baby comes, I’m going to go outside and move my butt in a sweeping motion and clear a concave indentation in the dirt like some kind of nesting sunfish. And then I’m going to stick my wife, my newborn son, and myself into this shallow hole and it will be there that we raise the child until he is… well, somewhere between 4 years and 42 years old.

Reliable information on baby-rearing — or, more specifically, baby-not-accidentally-killing — is as hard to come by as an honest politician or a unicorn wearing the flesh of his enemies.

It begins, of course, with crib bumpers.

Crib bumpers, to those who don’t know, are padded “bumpers” that line the inside base of the crib along the bars so… well, reportedly so the infant doesn’t whack his head or get his soft little multi-plated lizard skull stuck between the bars, but really it’s so Mom and Dad can ooh-and-ahh over the pretty little rocket ships or bears or fiery demon skulls that represent the nursery’s triumphant decor.

We bought a sheet set for the crib, and it came with crib bumpers which we, as completely unaware parents, thought: “Well, that’s fine.”

Except, it’s totally not fine. Apparently.

Here’s how the conversation begins.

“Oh, crib bumpers?” the experts say. “Those, yeah. Ooooh. Those will kill your baby.”

“These pillowy things? Soft? Downy? The pillows will kill the child, but the wooden bars of the crib will not? Are you sure? Is this opposite day?”

“Totally sure. They can fall on the baby and the baby will suffocate. Plus, the cords might get undone and the baby will strangle himself. Also, the crib bumpers may prevent oxygen from properly recycling, and the baby may intake too much carbon dioxide. And that may be one of the causes of SIDS.”

Blink, blink. “Wait, oxygen may not… recycle? Because of crib bumpers? Is oxygen heavier than I think? I mean, it’s not mercury. Are crib bumpers, like, the opposite of plants? Do they have some sinister mechanism by which oxygen is eaten and carbon dioxide is exhaled onto my baby’s head? Or maybe crib bumpers are full of cats. Cats who leap out and steal the baby’s breath.”

“Could be, expectant father. Could be.”

“Okay.” Throw crib bumpers into a burn barrel, then. “Fuck those dirty crib bumpers. Whew. Those menacing baby-killers are long gone. Hey, why are they still allowed to sell them, anyway? I mean, the baby industry is ten kinds of obsessed with safety, understandably so. Shit, a baby’s car seat has an expiration date. Like milk. Or love. My seat-belts don’t even have an expiration date. So, why are they allowed to sell crib bumpers to an unsuspecting populace?”

“Hell if I know.”

“Oh. Well. So, speaking of car seats, we’re going to go to this thing the hospital is having where they check the car seat to make sure it’s locked in, and I was wondering, will they also check the placement of the mirror on the headrest of the backseat –“

“Mirror? Oh, no. You can’t put a mirror there.”

“No, no, it’s okay, it’s some… baby product bullshit, a, a… kind of soft-flexible mirror thing so we can see the baby from the front seat since they have to be rear-facing until they’re a year old –“

“Now it’s two years old.”

“Two?”

“Two. And we’re considering making it 20.”

“20?!”

“Can never be too safe. But back to the mirror: you have to destroy that mirror. It, like the crib bumpers, may destroy your child. Think of it like a witch. Kill it with fire. See, if you’re in an accident, the car seat is designed so it flips upward, and your baby’s face will hit the headrest.”

“That seems dangerous.”

“The headrest is soft.”

“Mine’s kind of hard.”

“Well, soften it up. Also: the mirror could also become a dangerous projectile. In fact, anything in your car can become a bullet. Get rid of everything that isn’t nailed down.”

“Wow. Got it. Anything else I should know?”

“You’re wife’s not eating any lunchmeat, right?”

“Lunchmeat? What the hell is wrong with lunchmeat?”

“Listeria. Causes listeriosis. Will pass through to the baby. Plus, Mom is very susceptible at this point. Her immune system is that of a very sad panda. Just think of that.”

“That sounds awful. It must be kind of common, this listeriosis.”

“Nope. Not so much. About 2500 cases, 500 of which die. Annually.”

“And all those are pregnant ladies?”

“Oh, no. About 27% of ‘em. Round up to 700 affected.”

Blink, blink. “The population of America is 307 million people. That’s…” Does some quick math on fingers and toesies. “Less than 0.001%.”

“Well, sure. But you don’t want your wife and baby getting sick.”

“No. No! No. It’s just… doesn’t she have roughly the same chance of getting struck by lightning?”

“Oh yeah. And even then, only 10% chance of dying. But don’t you dare send her out in a storm. There’s a billion things you need to worry about. Key word: worry. She’s not eating sushi, right?”

“No. She’s not. But she’d kill a dude right now for a slice of hamachi, some brie cheese and a dirty martini.”

“Sushi is home to parasites. Well. Not really. It’s very rare. And we don’t even know if a parasitic infection will easily cross the placental wall. Oh! And fish has lots of powerful nutrients. And wine is loaded with antioxidants which a baby may need. But if your wife eats sushi or drinks wine, she will be shunned by the tribe for reckless child endangerment.”

“I think my Mom probably drank when I was in the womb.”

“And doesn’t that explain a lot?”

Pause. “Yeah.”

“Here, let’s see what else you’ve got in your baby registry. Mm. Hmm. Okay. I see you’ve got these baby bottles, they’re supposed to help with colic?”

“Yeah. Something about reflux.”

“Oooh, sorry. We still don’t really know what colic is. It may be genetic. It’s definitely a developmental phase. Not much you can do except weather the storm. These bottles? Pbbt. Won’t fix crap.”

“But they say –“

“I SAID WON’T FIX CRAP.”

“You don’t have to be so loud about it. Jeez. So, okay, why do they say it may help with colic if colic is just some weird thing that happens like a curse cast upon our child by a surly warlock? I mean, really, shouldn’t that be illegal? It’s like buying a box of Captain Crunch that promises you’ll get laid or something.”

“Life’s tough, dipshit. You can’t go around believing everything you read.”

“That’s not very nice calling me dipshit like that. And it’s really starting to feel like I can’t believe anything I read. I mean, damn. Breastfeeding? Natural labor? Pitocin? Autism? Circumcision?”

“Rocky road. Total minefield. You’re gonna breastfeed, right?”

“Well. Yeah. I mean, not me personally. My wife will do the actual boob… process. But if not, if it doesn’t work out, I know there’s formula you can buy…”

“Formula. Sure. Might as well just punch your baby in the face.”

“I don’t want to do that! But I hear some women can’t breastfeed.”

“Mommy over there is pre-built to feed your little monkeyface right from her mammy-glands. It’s free, for one. And by the time the kid’s four years old, you’ll have spent enough money on formula where you could’ve just bought a small boat or a komodo dragon. The boob makes powerful antibodies that kid needs. Trust me, unless she’s some kind of troglodytic cave mutant, she can breast-feed like a champ. Those teats are for milkin’. Besides, you don’t want your wife to feel like an incomplete mother, do you? If one drop of formula crosses that kid’s lips, she will be stoned to death in the town square.”

“But I was formula-fed.”

“And again, just look at you. You’re basically a chimp. With designer glasses.”

“Shut up.”

“Let’s talk labor. You’re going natural, right?”

“If we can. But we realize that no plan survives contact with the enemy, so…”

“So you must want your wife to again be an incomplete woman? If you let her have a medically-managed birth, goblins will come. And they will steal her fallopian tubes. And from them they shall craft their terrible goblin weapons. Go natural. Women have been having children naturally for, ohh, let’s just call it 10,000 years. Only relatively recently has the medical establishment decided to treat birth like a medical crisis rather than a natural event. You know what’s in an epidural? Kool-Aid and heroin. When they give the mother an epidural, they must also give her Pitocin to ameliorate the contractions, and they create more painful contractions, so. When they back off of the epidural in time for the birth, the contractions feel ten times worse than if mommy never had an epidural. Not only does the epidural possibly damage the infant’s nursing reflex upon birth but Pitocin might also have a connection with autism.”

“Autism? Oh, shit. Really?”

“Ehhh. Ennnh. We don’t really know. But it sounds good. And people like to raise the question, and any time there’s a question, it’s just easier to default to the answer being yes. For instance, Could there be sharks in your toilet? Ehhh. We don’t know. Could be. So why take the chance? Poop in a potted plant, like I do.”

“Potted plant. Got it. Okay, but — all this stuff is bad, but aren’t doctors supposed to, y’know, tend to the health of people? This sounds like it’s the opposite of that. Doctors can only do good.”

“Sure, sure. They’re like Superman and Santa Claus. Oh, you’re cute, little naive round-headed ape-man with your scary beard and your fantasies of being a cherished writer. Doctors are people. And people are basically scum. Listen, doctors really like two things: one, expensive pharmaceuticals and two, expensive medical treatments. You know who is a highly-paid person at your hospital? The anesthesiologist. Fuck the brain surgeons, that guy is the rock star. You don’t go to him for a fix, you’re maybe losing the hospital some sweet, sweet cash. Money makes the world go ’round.”

“That is awfully cynical. Doctors aren’t evil.”

“No! But they’re selfish and stupid just like everyone else. Remember Thalidomide?”

“What, the flipper baby thing? Well. That wasn’t actually prescribed, it was on clinical trial in this country. That’s not fair to blame on doctors.”

“I’m just saying. Doctors aren’t perfect. They got to get paid, son.”

“Who are you, Omar from the Wire?”

“You trust your doctors so much, why do they perform circumcisions?”

“What? Because it’s a medical procedure that… you know. Does stuff. Good… stuff. I mean, hey, I’m totally circumcised. Wait, you’re going to use that to insult me again, aren’t you?”

“The medical establishment will not recommend a circumcision. Go on. Call your pediatrician. He’ll tell you there’s no medically valid reason to go chopping up your kid’s winky like it’s an octopus salad.”

“So! Hah. That means doctors do have ethics.”

“Well, until you tell them you’ll still pay them to go Ginsu on your boy’s pee-pee-meat. Flash some cash, he’ll whip out the meat cleaver good and quick. Where’s your ethics now, pink boy?”

“Pink boy?”

“It sounded good at the time.”

“I hate you so much.”

“I’m just trying to help.”

“You’re not helping. You’re hurting. This is too confusing. Everything is just worry and agita and fear and uncertainty and komodo dragons. Dude, I just watched this sorta documentary, Babies? And in it, they showed a baby in Africa, and that kid was rolling around in the dirt and letting dogs French kiss him and he was splashing around in a little stream and he seemed healthy and happy. In fact, there’s 307 million people in this country alone. And they’re all alive. Happy, well, I dunno, but they’re all here, and they were born with epidurals and without epidurals, and some of them breast-fed and some of them didn’t, and Moms drank wine and Dads learned a thousand different breathing techniques and whether it’s a big dangerous industry or a giant baby-hating conspiracy, we’re all here and alive and it seems like as long as you try to do the right thing however you see it you’re probably going to be fine, because haters gonna hate and life is a bitch and dear gods, I need a nap or I’m going to poop in a potted plant somewhere.”

“Good luck, Dad.”

“I seriously hate you with the heat of an exploding sun.”

And, scene.

Goddamn crib bumpers.

53 comments

  • Do avoid soft stuff in the crib.

    Except, you know, if he needs that shit to sleep. Then go for it. Fuck it. Kid’s gotta sleep.

    And eat. Fuck breastfeeding if it ain’t working. Ask my wife about the articles found a few months back saying “yeah… formula is actually just fine. chill out.”

    It’s all bullshit, except for a few things.

    Don’t shake em. (And trust me, you will fucking WANT to shake em at some point.)
    Stick to a routine, as much as you can. Routines are good; doing whatever shuts him up at that moment will bite you on the ass later.
    Cherish every goddamn moment, because they’re already two feet long and double their birth weight in like… a month and a half.

    As far as the do-eat, don’t-eat, don’t drink bullshit? All things in moderation. Sometimes mama needs a beer, and she by-god deserves it.

  • Only smack them when you are just so goddamn mad you can’t stop yourself. At all other times, preachily tell everyone: “You learn what you live, smacking teaches children that violence is ok.”

  • Chuck,

    Don’t believe all the lies they tell you!! I watched Babies too and thought the same thing while I watched the one baby crap down his leg in the middle of the tent (where they eat).

    Three best things we did: Happiest Baby on the Block video, BabyWise book and common sense. We’re OLD and HIGH-RISK and only get one baby EVER and we wanted to enjoy her, not be so exhausted we couldn’t enjoy her.

    You want bumpers, have bumpers – our daughter would not sleep until we covered those bars of death up. The kid gets colic, try gas drops and a different formula or change the diet of the food source. Try not to freak and sleep when the kid sleeps.

    Other than that, you’re on your own like the rest of us poor schmucks…I mean parents.

  • I just love it when you use the parent/baby metaphor to drop-kick all the bullshit writing advice you hear from those overly zealous never-been-published so-called experts. I agree, it’s so vitally important for writers to trust their own judgment and do what works for them.

    What’s that? You’re really talking about babies? Actual BABIES?

    Oh. Well. That’s different. With BABIES, you should totally accept that you have NO FUCKING IDEA what you’re doing and trust the advice of anyone who has ever so much as SEEN a baby or even HEARD A BABY CRY to tell you what to do with one.

    Holy fucking guacamole. Just calm down.

    My grandma used to tell a story about a neighbor whose wife had a boy child born with six fingers on each hand. An extra “little” finger just sticking out at random. The father, being a Norwegian bachelor farmer type in spite of his marital status, didn’t say a word but just grunted once and straightaway bundled the newborn outside to the chopping block and got out his trusty axe and chopped off the extra fingers and then brought the boy back inside to be bandaged and cuddled and nursed and whatnot and no one ever mentioned it again. Well, apart from the storytellers. Hearing this, my sisters and I gasped in disbelief and cringed at the barbaric cruelty of it all. And my grandma calmly said, “That boy grew up to be a prosperous farmer with a wife and five kids and served two terms as mayor. Might not have turned out that way if he’d had twelve fingers.”

    We’ve come a long way since then but I’m not sure we’ve made any significant progress in advice about how to be a good parent.

    Wendig, trust your gut. Unless, of course, your backyard is pock-marked with the graves of little mutilated baby corpses you’ve stolen from their mothers and tortured to death without the comfort of so much as a binky. In that case, trust your wife’s gut instead. Also? Have her call me. We need to talk.

  • One of the reasons for having natural childbirth that I have always found rather intersting is that the baby will be more alert if the mother doesn’t have an epidural. Well, yeah, sure. I’d be more alert too if you just put my head and body through a wringer with enough force to reshape my head.

  • Goddamn crib bumpers indeed. Just your few baby related posts have taught me a whole lot that i didn’t even know I didn’t know about pregnancy and infants. Kind of scary to think about how much more crazy will be floating around in a few years when it’s my turn. Yikes!

  • “[...]there’s 307 million people in this country alone. And they’re all alive. Happy, well, I dunno, but they’re all here, and they were born with epidurals and without epidurals, and some of them breast-fed and some of them didn’t, and Moms drank wine and Dads learned a thousand different breathing techniques and whether it’s a big dangerous industry or a giant baby-hating conspiracy, we’re all here and alive and it seems like as long as you try to do the right thing however you see it you’re probably going to be fine”

    I just wanted to say that I’m in love with this part. Keep up the good work, Chuck, I’m sure you’ll be a great dad.

    • Thanks @M. And thanks all.

      It’s important to note that I definitely appreciate input and advice, no doubt about that. But that said, I don’t want anybody to feel like this post is me asking for advice — it’s mostly me just recognizing that advice in this arena comes from 80 billion different directions and you sort of have to gain a very strong sense of filter through all of it.

      And a lot of people — not you folks, of course — want to make you feel guilty if you don’t choose PATH X, Y, or Z. F’rex, doctors will tell you you need to induce because “it’s for the health of your baby” but really it might be because the hospital wants open beds or because OB/GYNs see zebras when they should be seeing horses. Natural birth advocates will tell you should never induce because Pitocin turns the baby into an ettin or an epidural contains some Manchurian Candidate-like chemical. Etc.etc.

      Mostly, it’s: find the path that suits you and walk that path as forthrightly as you care to.

      — c.

  • Erect the Unsolicited Advice Forceshields! (although I realise erecting things is what got you into this situation in the first place).

    Kaz Cooke’s Rough Guide To Pregnancy & Childbirth (and follow-up, Kid Wrangling) is a smart, sensible, bullshit-skewering guide that’s also painfully hilarious.

    She lays out all the arguments on all sides, with lots of science and real risk breakdowns cited, and lets you make up your own mind, without ever descending into the patronising paranoia-fest of What To Expect When You’re Expecting.

    • I am definitely a fan of SCIENCE and REASON when it comes to all this.

      (And no, science and reason were not involved in the erm, making of the coming heir to Der Wendighaus.)

      Excellent. Thanks, Lauren!

      — c.

  • Thanks for putting this down on virtual paper. If you want to go for painful accuracy, you need another 73 voices speaking against you, each telling you something different.

    The Establishment can suck my left nut. Unsolicited Advice can suck my right one. You can engineer a study that will say that most people think black is white. I bet there are government-funded surveys that say breathing is harmful to us. And if you think force-feeding someone advice ever helps, you need a shrink to work his magic on your bloated ego.

    I know I don’t need to tell you this, but in case anyone else gives a crap the best thing I learned in the last 5 years of parenthood is that I have a gut and it has good things to tell me. All I need to do is listen. The rest is bullshit and marketing.

    Sure, I’ve needed help from time to time to tip the scales in making a decision, but my gut hasn’t led me astray so far. So far my daughter ain’t dead and she’s whip-smart, so I must be doing something right.

  • Oh geeze Louise! This reminded me too much of my two pregnancies. My husband became food police both times, monitoring everything that went into my mouth. I about damn near tore his head off one day when he tried to tell me I couldn’t have a pimento cheese sandwich because it was a soft cheese! I’m not surprised my kids have survived me, but my husband? Let’s just say it’s a miracle I didn’t bury him in the front yard while I was eight months pregnant.

    I did all sorts of things the doctors don’t recommend with my two, including nursing them in bed. And I continue to be a bad mom. My four-year-old is hooked on FarScape and my eight-year-old has decided she wants to be a cat when she grows up. I’ve obviously screwed up my kids for life, so I’ve decided to continue to raise them however I damn well please. If I’m going to mess them up forever, I might as well enjoy the process, right?

  • Chuck, I can honestly say that you’re ready. I can also say a lot of other things. I have a large vocabulary. Would you like me to demonstrate with a stirring rendition of the “z” words?

    No?

    In all serious, it does seem like the safest thing you can do is drop-kick your child into a panic room (because the typical carry position can cause airflow problems) and just lock ‘em in there with a robot nanny and copies of Baby Einstein. Stop stressing the never-ending parade of “the Things Will Kill Your Baby” and listen to common sense.

    No, fuck that.

    Ask Michelle what her common sense thinks. I wouldn’t trust your common sense if it was shooting me a grapple line as I was falling off the edge of a building. You’d probably yell out “Ha ha, way to go for the sissy-rope, pussy!” then let go and strut about the building, high-fiving yourself as I fell to my doom.

    • @Rick:

      It’s good to see you back.

      Now, please demonstrate your knowledge of all the ‘z’ words, because I think you punked out and secretly don’t know any. Except Zima. You drink Zima. Ha ha ha ha. HA HA HA HA.

      Also, please hold this sissy-rope. I mean, this “grappling line.”

      — c.

  • Dear lord, labour drugs.

    I delivered Jason and Thomas both without the benefits of drugs. And it sucked. A lot. Then, when I was on Amber, I hopped on that train nearly the second they broke my water. “Drugs. NOW.”

    “There’s time to–”

    “There isn’t. NOW.”

    “But –”

    “Listen, lady. My first kid squeezed out in just under 4 hours. My FIRST. You know, the LONGEST? My second kid? A bit under two and a half hours. My birthing canal is a goddamn slip’n’slide. So when I say NOW, I really mean TEN MINUTES AGO. Now give me my fucking drugs, or I’ll ram that stethoscope DOWN YOUR THROAT.”

    (By the way, Chuck, you should totally prepare for absolute insanity and the kind of violent hostility crack addicts looking for their next fix exhibit. Plus the screaming and the crying. It’s never pretty.)

    So yes, natural labour totally sucked. The drugs, I thought, would help. You know what?

    They don’t.

    I did not have an epidural. There’s something about a needle of that bore coming to my goddamn spine that creeps me the fuck out. Instead, I had nitrous and a lovely little narcotic they shot in my hip called Nubain. And holy sweet mother of fuck, the little pain-free bits I had in between contractions and pushes? Just made the actual pain that much worse.

  • Uhm.. fuck, you called me. Uhm…

    Ze..br…ze…ma? Zima?

    Are there any others?

    As to the grapple line thing, it may be that playing Batman: Arkham Asylum again last night got stuck in my head. Just a little. Pussy.

  • Yes no drugs and yes breast feed. Neither is easy, both IMHO are worth it. By all that’s right and holy let the kid’s birth be one part of his life that is not treated like a syndrome or disease.

    With that said, take care of yourselves and each other. You’ll get plenty of batshit advice, and everyone has pseudoscientific bullshit that may or may not have actually shown up in print.

    You will fuck up, but kids are pretty durable, and every day is a do-over.

    Yes, there are people who do cataclysmicly stupid things, and there unbearably random tragedies that no one expects or deserves, but life will never be safe enough for the ones we love. That’s just the way it works.

  • I think what you demonstrate here, Chuck, is a complete disregard for the amount of anxiety you could be having. Making fun of these dangerous, DANGEROUS things!? That’s like calling them down upon you and your progeny. Go wash yourself in the blood of virgin rooster. Do it! Now! Why are you still reading!?

    I tell ya, you keep up with this SCIENCE and REASON talk and you are NOT going to get early grey hairs, an ulcer, and an increased problem with alcohol consumption. And then who is going to raise this kid (assuming he and the wife survive childbirth, no thanks to you)? Some soft hippy, that who. THAT is what you’ll be. Your son will grow up without the hard lessons that only a man plagued by anxiety can give him. He’ll come to think that he can think through problems and, heaven forfend, TALK to people!

    It’s a sad future.

  • I loved this so much.

    When I was near the end of my pregnancy with Jonas my doctor actually WHISPERED to me, even though we were alone, that due to my constant Braxton Hicks contractions and not being able to sleep at night I should drink a glass of wine before bed. I ate lunchmeat from sealed packages. My first anesthesiologist was a goddamn rock star to the point where I would have left Rich for him. The second one was a gibbering monkey with a needle. I had no problems getting Livvie to take the breast within hours after her birth regardless of epidural. Guess what? I couldn’t produce enough to nourish her and had to put her on formula at 4 weeks. Know what else? My mother couldn’t produce enough either and had to put me on formula. 100 years ago we’d have 2 dead babies here because of not being in a class of people who could afford wet nurses. Thank fucking Nestle for formula. I didn’t even bother trying to nurse Jonas because I couldn’t put myself through that freakout again. Neither of my kids is overweight in the slightest, Jonas never gets sick, and Livvie avoided getting sick much until after she was four. Even bottle feeding neither of them had ear infections as an infant.

    I totally let my son pick up his binky right off the floor and put it back in his mouth. Hell, if he wanted to lick the dog I might let him. Bad enough he already french kisses the window glass. But he’s healthy.

    We didn’t use bumpers because by the time Jonas was actually sleeping in his big crib instead of next to me in the pack and play he was big enough to use them to boost him out of the crib.

    And THIS is it- “Mostly, it’s: find the path that suits you and walk that path as forthrightly as you care to.”

  • Great piece. I remember being like that with Baby #1, but by Baby #2, I may have let her roll in the dirt. I sure didnt go crazy washing every toy in the house or her pacifier when she dropped it.

  • Crib bumbers? WTF are those? Oh, right, my kids are now all in their twenties, so there’s a whole new generation of baby bullshit to worry about. Of course once upon a time, our foremothers would shit a kid out in the fields, strap the newly squalling and dirt-covered youngin’ to their backs and go back to hunting and gathering. Which, of course, is why the human race went extinct back in the ’20s and we are now all living within a Cartesian delusion. And you can’t hurt a delusion. So go ahead and put that chainsaw in the crib. Everything will be fine.

  • Admittedly, I know very little about babies beyond “Don’t drop them” and “support the baby’s neck.”

    A bunch of my friends have recently had babies, and they went through similiar things as you described. Lots of advice. Lots of conflicting advice.

    • Heh.

      I’m Daddy Food Police, but in a different way — I just try to shove occasionally healthy super-food into my wife. “Here, eat this spinach, and eat it first.” “Drink coconut water for your cramps.” “THE BABY NEEDS PROTEIN.”

      But on the “verboten” stuff, I’m usually the guy trying to tell her to eat that stuff. Because fish is healthy. Because wine has been shown time and time again to be good for you. Because everybody’s so panicked about shit that can go wrong even though it so rarely goes wrong.

      Though, to anybody who will swing in here and start yelling at me, calm down, she’s still not eating anything off the AWOOGA AWOOGA CUIDADO list of no-no foods.

      — c.

  • OMG, Chuck! I’m so sorry for the panic you’re experiencing… Count your blessings – at least perfect strangers aren’t walking up to you and rubbing YOUR protruding stomach.

    Look, I’ve went through this with two boys without managing to kill them yet (they’re 16 and 18 now). Just go with your gut. You’re the parent! (Or will be). NOBODY and I mean nobody on earth will know this kid the way you and your wife will. Not the books, not the doctors, not the grandparents. All advice gets vetted through WHAT YOU THINK. I used crib bumpers, nobody died. I breast fed one and formula fed the other because – guess what? Sometimes, it’s NOT THAT EASY. He survived, I survived. I even (GASP) drove with one car seat in the front seat of my car because the seat belts in the back didn’t work.

    OK, that one I don’t recommend.

    But my point is – everyone with a kid thinks they’re an expert but the truth is, they’re only an expert on THAT KID. They don’t know yours.

    Example: I had big babies. One was 9 lbs, the other 10. Big babies are hungry beasts. The doctor said not to feed him more than 18 oz. of formula in a 24 hour period. We fed him these tiny 3-oz bottles and he’d SCREAM for an hour after. The doctor said, “Colic.” After about 5 days of this, we looked at each other and said, “This boy is hungry. And we fed him more. And the crying stopped. And it didn’t kill him. Nor did it make him obese.

    Chill and enjoy this. I WISH I could go back to crib bumpers being my biggest worry. Now I worry about driver’s ed and girlfriends getting pregnant and drugs and drunken binges. So far, my boys have shown remarkable maturity about these things. But the worry is always there.

  • “Is this opposite day?”

    Hahaha! I feel bad for being so entertained by your stress levels.

    But karma won out because “What, the flipper-baby thing?” made the little voice of the scientist from Brain Candy say “It was only a couple of flipper-babies!” in my mind and I laughed spicy tanmen soup out of my nose. Not pleasant.

    In all seriousness though, you will all be FINE. Better than :)

  • This is the funniest fucking thing I’ve read in quite some time. The first half is absolutely 100% true. And I’m the kind of paranoid guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing so follows all of that shit just in case. I literally could not sleep the first few nights we were home because I was so scared of SIDS. Then I did the math, or told myself I would but that the chance of SIDS when we did everything right (I adjusted the thermostat in our house so that his room would not be too warm multiple times a night) would be very very low.

    One thing I will say: breastfeeding does not always work. It just doesn’t. My wife couldn’t, and she tried. So after about a month of some breastmilk and mostly formula we gave up. He crawled by 6 months, walked by 9. He currently really likes shoes and will make dog or monkey noises whenever he sees a dog or a monkey, or a picture of one, or a picture of what sort of looks like one when you squint.

    What I’m saying is that he’s way cooler and smarter than all those breastfed babies.

  • Re: Books.

    Kate’s been reading Let’s Panic about Babies for the last week, off and on, and cackling madly. Those’r a coupla funny ladies, right there.

  • Oh Chuck. If you think it’s bad now wait until the kid is actually born! THEN people will start to question your parenting skills!

    It’s like when my nephew broke my copy of Force Unleashed. I was making him chocolate milk and in the twenty seconds it took to open the fridge, open the container of milk and fill his sippy cup he grabbed the box holding it off the counter, opened it, and snapped the disc in half.

    I was mad, but it was my fault and that passed. I tweeted about it because I needed to vent and within a few minutes of tweeting it I got responses kind of like this:

    “OMG is he OK??? Why would you leave things within reach of your child? Did he cut himself? Are you trying to kill him? Did he get silicon dust from the broken disc in his eye and now he’ll be blind forever? If you turn your back for twenty seconds next time will he construct a Flux Capacitor and unleash the hordes of the Neverborn upon our world? You retarded monster! We should take kids from you!”

    Keep in mind it was A. one game and B. He didn’t hurt himself. People were seriously trying to lecture me about how bad I was to leave him unattended for *twenty seconds* and how clearly I must not love Jack enough to keep an eye on him 24/7.

    As for the baby stuff, in the end you have to do what you think is best. There’s a lot of conflicting thoughts on the subject but I know you. You’ll do fine. :) I mean, I don’t want to tell you not to worry about things because honestly I never thought of that little mirror being a deadly weapon in a car crash, but I think a healthy dose of worrying with more than a bit of realism will help you raise the kid. :)

    • “OMG is he OK??? Why would you leave things within reach of your child? Did he cut himself? Are you trying to kill him? Did he get silicon dust from the broken disc in his eye and now he’ll be blind forever? If you turn your back for twenty seconds next time will he construct a Flux Capacitor and unleash the hordes of the Neverborn upon our world? You retarded monster! We should take kids from you!”

      @John —

      +2122 laugh points.

      Do not spend them all in one place. Or do. I’m not the boss of you. YET.

      — c.

  • Parenthood exposes you to levels of criticism that you can only otherwise receive from appearing on a show with Simon Cowell. I started writing an Interactive Guide to Bad Parenting based on the idea that any decision you make, at all, is going to be Wrong and possibly Fatal. (If you’re interested, it’s here: http://loveandzombies.co.uk/youre-doing-it-wrong/) The good news is that if you do it a second time, you totally don’t care by then what anybody says.

  • Hello! Mother of 4 year old twin boys and a two year old boy, all of which are still very much alive and healthy, but mostly because they are too cute to kill. :)

    Crib bumpers are not evil; they keep your kids from smacking their head on the bars in the middle of the night. That being said, until the baby is old enough to flip over by themselves don’t put anything else (stuffed animals or pillows) in the bed with the baby that way they won’t get tangled up or smushed by them. And always put your baby to bed on their back, eventually they’ll start flipping over themselves, but at that point you don’t need to worry about SIDS anymore.

    Breastfeeding is best, but if you can’t do it for any reason (like having preemie twins as I did) I suggest Walmart brand baby formula. It is the EXACT same formula as the name brands, compare the labels and see for yourself. It is also HALF the price! And baby formula is bloody expensive, trust me!

    Your wife should be careful what she eats, but more so if something does go wrong she won’t end up being hard on herself for ‘cheating’. That happened to me, I ate something I wasn’t supposed to, got sick, and ended up in the hospital overnight. I was fine, most people are, but it upset me more then it normally would have, because pregnant women are crazy. :) After that I was paranoid the rest of the pregnancy, and my husband has informed me on multiple occasions that paranoid pregnant women are the devil.

    Also use the stupid mirror. It’s not worth being worried that you can’t see your kid when you’re driving and be constantly looking back to make sure they’re okay. Besides, they aren’t real mirrors anyway, they’re plastic with padded backs. The baby will be fine.

    Colic does indeed suck. But if the baby gets it at least know that it doesn’t last forever and you will get through it. The best thing that worked for us as gas drops to quiet the baby’s stomach. Basically like Tums for babies. It doesn’t cure it, but it makes life bearable.

    Most importantly when dealing with other people as a new parent, listen to advice, but you don’t always have to follow it. Listen to your pediatrician and your parents, but more importantly listen to your baby. And good luck, you’ll need it! :)

    Oh and I almost forgot, natural childbirth is absolutely unnecessary. Use the drugs. If your wife doesn’t want them, I would suggest you take them. Just saying. ;)

  • Oh and I almost forgot. Right around the time I had my twins the %(*&$#^*(&^ doctors of the world decided to take all the dosing instruction off over-the-counter medication for kids UNDER 6! Supposedly it was because parents weren’t reading the instructions anyways and were overdosing their kids. I think it was mostly so you have to take your kids to the doctors more often because I guess they don’t have enough summer homes and need more income. Anyway, I found this site that has dosing instructions for a lot of name brand over-the-counter infant and children’s meds. I would suggest printing it out and keeping it in a safe place in case the site ever goes down. It is a life saver!

    http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/toddler/toddlermedicinecabinet.html

  • Yeah. This bullshit is why I stopped at ONE, and moved directly onto amassing pets. That way, when some nebbish Sally So-Perfect questions my dog’s behavior, I can point out that while my canine may pull on his leash a little, *her* Pookums probably eats cat shit. Of course, I probably did all the “wrong” things with my son, and despite his being premature and formula-fed, he’s almost nine and too smart for anyone’s damn good, especially mine. And your baby will be fine, just do what feels right. The fearmongering thing for parents (especially *new*, first timers) equals money spent on devices to exorcise the inner demons of “what-if” worst-case scenarios and scary unknowns. And you’ll use most of those things for a handful of months, if at all. Like baby clothes – half the time, they outgrown their adorable, costly little newborn outfits before they’ve even worn them once. Better to save some of that money for skyrocketing college tuition costs.

  • I should note that we repurposed the crib bumpers. They are now essentially “bed skirts,” except they live on the exterior of the crib. Nowhere within reach of baby.

    — c.

  • Hilarious!!!!!!!!!!! The post, not your worries. Please don’t worry. I know that’s hard because I, like you, was spoonfed all sorts of advice (some wanted and some unwanted) by people who won’t let their children play on the grass, God forbid it might have some residual pesticides on it from 10 years ago.

    My best advice came from, who else, our parents (what they can actually remember, anyway) and grandparents. I’m not saying the ‘new’ info is wrong or right. Just use your own judgement. Seriously you can get all the conflicting advice in the world and it will seriously drive you batshit crazy, it did for us, but you just have to figure out a happy medium. Just remember how long the human race has been around, and all these ‘rules’ have only been around for, what, 50+? Yes, much of it is beneficial, but our society thrives on fear…

  • Awesome Chuck…..

    With a whopping 8 weeks of experience now under my belt, all I can say is that it all sort of makes sense all of a sudden. The magazines, books, web videos, well-meaning friends are all what you’ve made them – fodder to think on and laugh about.

    But then the baby arrives, and you just start moving and you react. Just like painting or writing, once you get started you just keep moving and its all of a sudden there.

  • Breastfed two children, one is still nursing, because I like it, and I’m a cheapskate. Both were C-sections. Know what I took out of the whole experience? If you (in this case, your wife) can have a vaginal birth, great; if not, whatever. If she wants to breastfeed and can, great; if not, whatever. The natural birth/breastfeeding until 3 is not the be all and end all of parental experiences and anyone who says otherwise has too much invested in making other people feel bad to be a well adjusted human being. They don’t ask you if you were breastfed in a job interview. Who fucking cares? Amen to doing your own thing.

    I have a mirror hanging from the headrest of the backseat. I love that thing.

  • Being 40 weeks pregnant now (and more than a little bit over it at this point), I totally hear you. My mum rang me the other day specifically to ask if I was massaging my perineum and nipples. WTF? I kid you not! (I’m not, by the way, that’d be weird. Even if it apparently cures what ails you—weird).

    I’ve decided to just go with the flow and use common sense. And no crib bumpers.

  • I am the only parent I have ever met who didn’t buy/use a pram. I cannot emphasise the “ARE YOU INSANE???!!!!!!!!” looks/comments I have received from parents/family members/friends/strangers. I’m sure dogs were judging me at one point.

    I have also only had her weighed four times since she was born a year ago last week, despite the ‘you should have your child weighed every four weeks’ advice, on the basis that I spend a large amount of my time carrying her around. I KNOW she’s getting heavier thank you very much.

    One of my personal favourite moments of my year of parenting was the look I received from the Heath Visitor lady at bub’s 32wk check up when she asked me “Does she cry when you take her toys away?” to which I replied “Why the hell would I take her toys away?”

    Everyone’s an expert dude. The very best ones are the ones who only offer advice when you ask. Cherish them and bugger the rest of the rat-shagging lunatics.

  • Things to look forward to:
    1) Sunday afternoon naps. When you’re on the couch and the T.V. is low and he’s lying on your chest all pink, warm and clean baby smelling. Best. Sleep. Ever. Babies are better than Ambien for taking Sunday afternoon naps. Take them every Sunday you can.
    2) Kids say the darnedest things. They made a T.V. show about this for a reason. Sometimes, their prospective on things will take your breath away. I have learned that gnats dance, clouds can be crushed and asked why I don’t wash the mold off my face. (referring to my freckles)
    3) At some point, you’re going to be so proud and protective and in awe of this tiny speck of humanity, for no other reason than just because he’s yours, it’s going to make your chest hurt. Then it will dawn on you, your parents felt that exact same way about you and that will blow your mind.

  • You are both going to be terrific parents. And do you know why? Because you question your questions and look for answers and then look for other answers for those answers. I have to laugh at your baby posts, because I honestly don’t know one single parent-to-be (especially first timers) who haven’t thought exactly what you’re saying.

    Most of us get through it going with our gut, because this is your child, and nobody knows your child better than you do. Period. Watching Babies, I’m sure you’ve seen exactly what children really need (besides food and fresh diapers): love and hugs and laughter and enough patience to fill the Nile. If you can do that, you’ll all be fine. I’ll bet your little Ziggy is gonna be a happy little camper, and you two will be better parents than you might fear.

  • If you have a cat, then don’t worry about it suffocating the baby. It will take one instance of the cat being woken by the baby (and knowing that’s the cause), and the cat won’t even sleep in the same room.
    (Downside: the cat may come and hassle you when the baby starts crying, on the grounds that if he can’t have a peaceful lfie, why on earth should you?)

  • Ha! yes. this was my favorite part: “Formula. Sure. Might as well just punch your baby in the face.”

    I think I’ve met who you were talking to. she had a boob in her 5 year old’s mouth, right?

  • Don’t worry – everything you decide to do is guaranteed to go the other way. And then the baby will grow up and decide that his way is the only way to do things. For example (and from personal experience):

    Us: let’s breastfeed
    Baby: more boobies, more boobies, nom nom nom!
    Us: erm… let’s do bottle and breast to appease the Milk Monster

    Us: oooh, let’s protect his soft little head with crib bumpers
    Baby: I’m a wriggling jiggling machine, check out mah Moves
    Us: how did he end up at the end of the cot? more bumpers? take the bumpers off?

    And so on.

    Twelve years on, we have managed not to kill/maim/seriously injure our boys. Yet.

    Don’t panic. It. Will. All. Be. Just. Fine… apart from the extreme lack of sleep ;) And for goodness sake, don’t listen to the parenting/natural childbirth/breastfeeding Nazis, they were put on earth to torment us.

  • I’m 15, so I have absolutely nothing to contribute to the baby-advice column, but I wish you luck. But being one of those advice-giving harpies, I have to add that when your kid gets older and it’s Sunday and it’s nap time and your wife is busy and they come to you and say, “Daddy, I’m not tired. Can I watch TV with you?” I strongly advise you say yes, pull them up on your lap, and watch Nascar or some other show that they don’t get but is boring enough to be appropriate. One of my favorite and earliest memories of me and my dad, and seeing as I am alive, not taking drugs,not sexually active and have a GPA above 3, I would say that doing such a thing is pretty safe.

  • This post sums up everything I felt in both of my wife’s pregnancies. Except there wasn’t time with the second one to do much agonizing over the epidural question — that kid went from “yes, you’re in labor and mostly dilated” to crowning to “hello, world” in thirty minutes flat.

  • Whatever you do *don’t* read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting!” Or, as my partner and I called it, “The Frighten the Fetus Book.” Because while they have perfectly sound information and advice you’d think they also owned shares in Garrison Keilor’s “Fearmonger Shop.”

    No, you almost certainly won’t kill your baby. No, you almost certainly won’t be responsible in the unlikely event he or she turns out to have autism. Of course your partner won’t go hog-wild willy-nilly with the interventions during labor and delivery even though she may choose interventions. Of course your partner will make an effort to nurse the baby and chances are pretty good (but not 100%) that she’ll have enough milk. (Note: this was true in the old days too but back then infant mortality was high enough that there was almost always another lactating woman with no one to lactate for who could stand in. Today, thankfully, not so much.) And of course your partner will avoid more than a glass or two of wine a week and she probably wouldn’t eat lunch meat anyway.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t things to be careful about. There are. But as I’ve explained to my own children since they were old enough to understand complete sentences, “‘be careful’ doesn’t mean don’t do it, it means *be careful.*” Same goes for you and your family.

    Tip: I’ve read an awful lot of pregnancy and childbirth books spanning a century (my grandfather was a nationally-recognized Dr. Spock precursor in the 1920s and 1930s) and, when I can find translations, from around the world. And you know what? Dr. Spock’s advice is still the best: “you know more than you think you know.” Otherwise you pretty much can’t win — in the early 1960s drinking was ok and smoking was actually recommended because, hey, if you gained more than 18 pounds during pregnancy you were going to kill the baby. Now? Gain 118 pounds if you want but if you live anywhere downwind of a smoker you’ll kill the baby. Instead you can gain too little and you can gain too much, and you can handle a little smoke but you shouldn’t actively smoke while pregnant, and so on.

    Worst advice of the Frighten the Fetus school of thought (from the actual Frighten the Fetus book) is the section on coffee. There are two or three pages about coffee in the book. On the first page? Very strong hints that if you’ve had caffeine before you know you’re pregnant you’ve very likely already killed your baby. Hints strong enough that my partner absolutely panicked, started crying, and couldn’t finish the section. Which was a shame because by the end of page two the book said (from memory) “but up to three cups of coffee a day is probably not a problem.” !!!! In other words… what?!?!… don’t grind up NoDoz tablets and smoke them in a crack pipe? Why the !#%! would they put that shit in the book that way unless it was just to make pregnant women feel bad about the whole enterprise.

    Another clue? Don’t eat any broccoli before you know you’re pregnant. Too many tetrogens! You’ll have bullfrogs for babies. Just like… um… everybody else who eats broccoli… before… they know… wait a minute! How many broccoli eaters have mutant children? DON’T ASK! ASKING CAUSES BIRTH DEFECTS! And lowers book sales.

    Actually, do what almost everyone does: you and your partner can read a healthy variety of sources (including the informed but extreme-naturist Mothering Magazine and whatever’s fluffiest from Conde Nast) and then make flexible, well-informed decisions that feel right for both of you. Then don’t feel guilty about it even if your baby has six fingers on one hand, and definitely not if (as usually happens) your baby is perfectly fine.

    Final tip, with all sincerity, spend as much time with your partner and baby as you can in the “fourth trimester” after birth. It’ll help her, it’ll help the baby, and it’ll help you enormously. After birth the only thing you can’t do for the baby that she can is nurse, and contrary to some reports they don’t nurse 24, or even 12, or even 6, or often even 2 hours a day. It’s as hard as they tell you but they never tell you how unbelievably rewarding it is.

    And good luck. It’s pretty cool.

    figleaf

    p.s. final tip? Who am I kidding? I could talk about parenting as a father for hours or days. But I have to stop somewhere. If I had to limit it all to one thing it would be about being there for the “4th trimester.”

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