So, finally cracked open a book pompously titled The Baby Book (ISBN: 978-0316778008). Guess when you call your book The Baby Book, that pretty much makes you the undisputed and unmistakable authority on the subject. And, if this isn’t, then it’s a total waste of 50 acres of forest because this thing comes in at 750+ pages at about 14-point font. And these 750 pages only get you to age two. Geez, it’d take me seven freaking years to finish it. So after letting it sit around with its “bare asses around the world” cover for about six or seven months, we finally dove in.
My lovely wife, the mothership and the primary reader of the household (also the pretty one of us two), was the first to take the dive. She remarked that the book first encourages that you smother the baby, responding to her every need, want and desire. That the principles of the book encourage parents to become hardcore attached to the baby and, from the sound of it, sacrifice every shred of your own happiness to make this happen. From the looks of it, this beastly doorstop leaves no turd unturned. It’s not a very sexy book. Kinda appears like one of those fundamentalist, no-short-cut reads explaining it only with, “I’m sorry, daddy, no one said this was gonna be easy.” I just don’t think all of this is necessary. If I spent my first two years sitting around thumbing through the index looking for “diarrhea” or “vomiting white stuff,” who’s gonna take care of Baby Ellison? Gimme something smaller, something slicker. Something that covers parenthood in ten core principles.
Of the fathers, the book is especially stern and suggests the following rules be followed as you, as the father (whether new or second go at-it), adjust to the role. It outlines the following guidelines for new fathers because, as the book states: “Fathers may have even more difficulty than mothers adjusting to life with a new baby. As protector of the nest, they h ave two hobs at home: sharing in the care of the newborn and caring for th emoter. Many fathers are uncomfortable about getting their hands on tiny babies and equally uncomfortable caring for a postpartum mother whose normal hormonal changes may not make her the most fun person to live with for a while.” It continues, “An understanding of what is occurring in the mother-infant relationship during the early weeks puts a higher value on the dad’s role. During the first few weeks a mother’s feelings of attachment oscillate between oneness and separateness (bringing either confidence and euphoria or uncertainty and depression). Sometimes she feels in tune with her baby, sometimes distant. As mother and baby practice their cue-response scene dozens of timeseach day, they crow into an attachment of multual sensitivity, mother knowing baby and baby knowing mother.” It then offers the following practical “nest-keeping” tips.
KEEP THE NEST TIDY: “An upset net yields an upset mother and baby. In the postpartum period, seeing one dirty dish unglues Martha (his wife), whereas normally she is unruffled by a whole sinkful.” This is no issue for me since I overcorrected from the get-go and treated my lovely wife for the last six months like she was incapable of doing anything that required lifting an object weighing more than a paperback book. I’m in a mode right now. In fact, as I sit her, the front waterbeds are soaking, dishwasher’s running, sheets are in the dryer finishing up and the dogs are fed and well-hydrated. Trash will be emptied in approximately one half hour.
IMPROVE YOUR SERVE: “Pass out refreshments frequently during the day. Serve breakfast in bed. Your wife’s sleep has no doubt been disturbed, but you probably managed to stay asleep. Take a walk with your baby while you insist your wife indulge in a tub soak. Feel like a servant and waiter? You are.” Okay, firstly, this one kinda reads like they’re trying to tell me how to run my marriage which really pisses me off, honestly. I’ll make the decisions of when, where and what. Don’t tell me to “insist” my wife indulge in a tub soak. I’ll handle that as I see fit. And, second, my lovely wife’s a capable woman and prides herself on being so. I’ll be there to help, sure. I’ll be there to keep the house clean, get her a water, cook dinner. I’ve been doing that already, but make no mistake, my lovely wife will take the wheel from me occasionally and I’ll let her because on top of being an awesome mother, she’s a woman who’ll rip the head off of a kodiak and mount it on the wall. She’s mad capable. And Baby Ellison will grow up to be the same.
BE SENSITIVE: Citing that new mothers are usually reluctant to ask for help, it insists (once again) that you be sensitive to her needs. Check. And, to boot, I also cry when giving toasts. I’ve redefined “sensitive.”
GUARD AGAINST INTRUDERS: It states, “While it is neither necessary nor healthy to become a postpartum recluse, socialize only when you want to. There will be times when you and your wife want to share the joys of a new baby with friends and be on the receiving end of new-parent strokes. Other times you will find crowds of well-wishers annoying. When you need to be alone, take the phone off the hook and put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.” Oh, I thought this one was about whooping the ass of someone who breaks a door down and comes waltzing into my home. I’ve had this dream and I’ve become particularly leery of the backdoor. I think if someones gonna come into my home, they’ll come in through the backdoor. I’m ready for battle. I’m ready to crack someone’s head open using my bare hands. It’s not something I want to do, but you never do unless your some alcohol-crazed dropout who has watched too much Nascar and doesn’t have a healthy avenue for exertion. I’m a runner. I pace myself, but in defense of my home, it won’t be an endurance event. It’ll be over in three seconds and that’s taking two seconds to actually get to the backdoor. Oh, but that’s not what they’re talking about here.
TAKE CHARGE OF THE SIBLINGS: Ellison won’t have any. Giving this one a “done.”
BE THE GATEKEEPER AGAINST UNHELPFUL ADVICE: “Guard your mate against well-meaning but intrusive visitors who may upset the harmony of the nest…Confusing advice plants doubts in the mind of even the most confident mother.” Even if it’s coming from your own mother, it reads. Cross this road when we get there. Pretty well-tuned to the boiling point of my lovely wife well before we get there and I already know where the those pressure points reside currently. I know their address, I know where they work, I know where they sleep, I know how long it takes for them to make it from their toilet bowl to my front porch and I know their next move. I’m ready for this one.
RESPECT THE NESTING INSTINCT: “Avoid making major changes around the time of childbirth.” Got it. We’re here for a bit. Unless I win the HGTV Dream Home in Stowe, Vermont and then we’re uprooting in a heartbeat. My lovely wife knows this. I gave her the tour of the construction site yesterday.
BECOME A SHAREHOLDER: Carry the baby from time-to-time. The book cites that this is an important period for the father-infant relationship to develop. I always think this cat I knew who when it would come time to hold his baby, he’d be sitting there staring at it wide-eyed and terrified like it was a gremlin (not Gizmo, but Stripe). And when he’d hold it, he’d position his hands so clumsily around the head and butt of the baby, that you swore he was going to crush the little child. It’s like riding a bike, the more you tense up, the more likely you are to fall and tear your knee up. Relax. Breathe. Hold that kid. You should want to. If you don’t, there’s probably another book recommended for you.
PROVE YOURSELF: This one’s a little aggravating for me. Again, I’m sensitive. Here, the author (obviously a man) gives you a sonning in fatherhood. “Dads, let me share with you some family secrets I’ve learned about new mothers…[does this count as a time where I should “be the gatekeeper against unhelpful advice?]…”As a mother is developing an attachment to her baby, she experiences a reluctance to share the baby care with anyone else. As soon as baby cries, you stride over only t be outrun by your wife, sprinting toward her helpless infant. If on rare occasion you win the race, be prepared for you wife to hover around waiting to rescue the baby. Because baby seems to quiet more quickly in your wife’s arms, you back off from becoming a baby comforter–and your wife let’s you off the hook…Dad’s, you first have to prove yourself as a baby comforter before you wife is comfortable releasing baby into your charge.” Hey, Billy, I’m the father and to hell with proving myself. I’m gonna be there from the get-go. I’m not going to fight for the time, but I got no problem proving myself. My lovely wife might actually contend that I have a long time ago. I’m like below sketch from the book of Will Ferrell. Totally serious this is in the book.
Tell me that’s not Will Ferrell.
And lastly, DAD’S, DON’T MISS OUT ON BABY: “Mother’s get plenty of bonding time with baby while breastfeeding and sleep sharing [sleep sharing?! aw, hell naw!]. Not so for fathers. New dads, want to form a close attachment with your baby like your wife has? Start breastfeeding [sorry, that was a joke, it doesn’t really say that]. Hold your baby as much as you can. Wear baby in a sling, especially during naps.” Not sure about the whole “sleeping with a baby” thing. I think that kinda oversteps a boundary. Not in a perverted sense, but think that it might create a kid who cries on the first day of school or gets frightened during a game of four-square because she doesn’t know how to adjust without her mother or father there with her. I’m jussayin’. I’ve heard a lot of advice about not sleeping with your child because you could inadvertently smother the child. How about everything but the “sleeping” part.
Altogether, I’m done reading. I’m ready to starting doing. This book is what put me there. This is where instruction becomes exhaustion. I’ll see where and in what direction instinct alone gets me and then I’ll read to fill in the blanks.
It’s Tuesday. Charles Mingus is starting the day off. My lovely wife goes in for a checkup today and then we’re working into weekly checkups with Dr. Miles Davis.