CWs for Sad Baby Stuff

You don’t realize how much of media revolves around terrible things happening to babies until you have a baby and cannot handle it, and then you realize it is fucking everywhere. When Edith was a tiny newborn and I was spending my nights sitting up in bed endlessly rocking her back to sleep, I read a million ebooks with all the time (through bleary eyes) and one of them was Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This.

It’s a tremendous book, one of my favorites from last year, but I had assumed (based on her previous book and the blurbs) that it was a comic novel about Twitter. IT IS NOT. I don’t think this is a spoiler, but it is about the six life-changing months her family spent with her niece who was born with Proteus Syndrome. I read it through streaming eyes, sleep-deprived and wrung out, with my precious daughter recently released from the NICU in my lap, as I worried actively about my ongoing inability to breastfeed her and whether or not she might suddenly stop breathing in the night.

How did I do this? It seems insane to me now. How did I finish this book? How was I reading at all? I can’t remember. The first months with a newborn are cloaked in mystery in recollection; the biological imperative ensures that you don’t recall them in detail. I remember what happened, broadly, but I can’t remember what it felt like, kind of the way that you know what nausea is but it’s hard to recall how horrible it feels when you are no longer actively nauseous.

Anyway, I’m a different person now, months later, with a sturdy assertive baby who is quickly becoming a toddler, and who regularly sleeps through the night. I am still sleep-deprived, but nothing like the extreme gauntlet I was running last summer. And yet, I still cannot handle reading about bad things happening to babies.

I enjoy High Maintenance and I was catching up with season 3, and enjoying myself a lot. And then came an episode where a couple had one of those silicone babies to console themselves after an early loss. Hard, but I got through it. Then, in the very next episode the protagonist entered an oncology ward to visit an old friend. One shot of the woman sitting there with her darling little sleeping baby on her lap hooked up to an IV and I burst into gasping, shuddering, ugly crying, the kind where your nose explodes all over your face and you have to sort of walk yourself around to ramp back down out of it. I rarely cry like that.

I shut off the show right there and soothed myself with Real Housewives. I suspect this might be a little discussed reason for why moms tend to consume ever more simplistic media: we assume it’s become moms have less time and energy, but I think it’s possible that it’s also because everything highbrow is about dead kids and your heart can’t handle it anymore!

I need these things to stop smacking me in the face unawares when I’m just trying to goddamn relax. I mean, I guess there’s probably a category on Does the Dog Die for this that I could check, but I more wonder…when will this plot point stop absolutely destroying me? Does this…go away at some point? It’s a little much.


Edith’s swimming lessons have continued every Sunday afternoon. She now kicks and splashes in the water, she is no longer afraid of the wall (although she does still complain vocally at it) and sometimes she will even condescend to touch it. One time she knocked down two turtles on her own. I have begun to submerge her at the submerging parts, and she doesn’t mind it at all, strangely. She’s become very at home in the water.

For the last four weeks, my mom’s come with us, which is just massively easier. She keeps Edith company in the backseat during the drive, feeding her if she cries and keeping the sun off her, she schleps the bag and the towel, and she hands me her stuff while I change her after class and then she holds her while I change.

Also, she takes videos, so I can see how much Edith is grinning and enjoying herself. I mostly hold her face out during class, so I hadn’t previously seen her face at all, and because she’s shivering and sometimes complaining, I had just assumed she was stone-faced (which is her usual mien in public situations where she’s a little overwhelmed), but she’s having a big time.

She gets excited now when we get there, and complains when we leave. It’s really fun to see her get enthusiastic about an activity so early in her life. I want to give her lots of fun things to do (even if they bore the shit out of me).


Everything written about baby skill development kills me, because it’s all about basic skills that every, single person develops at some point no matter what you do, but yet, the intent is to make moms feel anxious that they might not be mothering hard enough for their babies to develop them. Like, this is from an email I got from some overpriced bougie baby toys I get delivered:

A research study proved that babies who played with both tubes and containers had a more advanced understanding of when something will stay inside of something else. In the study, 14-month-old babies were given a chance to explore the difference between blocks being dropped into a tube (the blocks fall out) and blocks dropped into a closed can (the blocks stay in). The 14-month-olds who were given tubes had the same understanding of containment as 21-month-olds who were just given containers.

Oh my god, Edith could have a 21-month-old understanding of containment at only 14 months?????? Ok, I will bore the shit out of us both with hours of tube play to bring this about! Damned if this kid will live for seven months with a rudimentary understanding of containment on my watch!

The really sad thing is that every time I read something about baby skill development my immediate, panicked reaction is that I have neglected to do some fundamental work with Edith that she needs. I remember obsessing about Edith not doing enough tummy time (because she hated it and just WOULD NOT do it) as if it were at all possible that she might reach her 30s while still being unable to sit up independently…and then she started crawling two months early anyhow.

Goodnight Moon

I’m sick to death of the vast majority of Edith’s already extensive library. We’ve read every one of them a million times, and by “we’ve read” I mean I have doggedly insisted on pushing through them while Edith claws at my face and repeatedly attempts to slam the book shut and throw it across the room.

But I never seem to tire of Goodnight Moon. I didn’t have a strong opinion of it prior to having my own child, but I now think it is the perfect baby book, the best one ever written. There’s something about the incantatory cadence and the rich and calming illustrations that makes repeated reading feel ritualistic and profound rather than tedious. I don’t know what it is exactly. And it visibly soothes Edith, who never stops squirming and is especially active at bedtime — she settles while we read it, and she thoughtfully taps the gradually dimming table lamp on each page.

At some point over the past few months, I got into a habit of reading it to Edith every single night at bedtime as her final bedtime book. I didn’t even realize this had become a nightly staple until the other night, I started to carry her to her bed after only one book (I was over it) and she looked up at me with a shocked expression and an outraged squawk. I carried her right back and remedied my mistake, and now we never skip it.

Day 26

What is your favorite part about yourself?

Ok, I’m sorry, I’m out — I was going to stick it out through the end of the month, but I can’t with these self-help prompts.

Instead, I would like to talk about Edith in the morning. I wish everyone could see what an adorably happy, fresh little daisy she is first thing in the morning. I put her in my bed while I lie there and marshal my resources for the early shift, and she prances around in her little sleep gown, giggling and cooing, now dropping into a sudden cuddle against my side, then launching back into a summersault with a peal of delighted glee. Her eyes sparkle, her skin is cream, she smells like sun-warmed grass. She is the very picture of youthful freshness and promise.

Meanwhile, I lie there like roadkill, more depleted every day. My sedentary and expanding body aches in ever more mysterious ways, I look like I was just dragged out of a grave, my skin itches, I can’t stop coughing, I stink.

People often talk about how having children really taps you in to the grand circle of life — they mean, like, the sadness of parents dying, the joy of children being born, it all continues, etc. But I have found it brings home a smaller, more immediately tangible circle of life: that your children actively suck the life out of you and feed off of it to grow stronger. She is flourishing and coming into her power as I watch myself decay. It’s ok, it is right and proper. I shall diminish and go into the west.

Day 22

What is your favorite quote and why?

Today Edith and I were at the park on our usual bullshit — Edith trying valiantly to eat woodchips and me blocking her every attempt — when a couple little girls and their Mom arrived. The older of the two girls was clearly very interested in Edith. I could see her showing off for her and looking her way from the playset. Sure enough, eventually she came over to us and we had the following conversation:

“Hi! Can I try to hold that baby?”

“Hmm, no, I don’t think so. She’s still pretty little.”

“I am very careful with babies.”

“I’m sure you are. I really like your outfit.”

“Thanks! It’s new. Can I try to hold that baby?”

“No. Her name is Edith.”

At this point the little girl’s mom and sister arrived.

“Mom, the baby’s name is Vida. Can I hold her?”

“No, honey, you can’t hold a baby,” her mother said. “Hi, Vida! You really love those woodchips!”

Later as they were leaving, Edith’s hat fell off and the girl said in a stage whisper to her mother, “She doesn’t have any hair??” She sounded horrified.

“Well, she’s a baby,” her mom replied.

“She’s working on it!” I said, feeling strangely defensive. (Edith does have hair — beautiful, shiny, bright red hair. But it’s light in color, and it’s not very thick yet.)

My favorite thing about this interaction is that this little girl genuinely thought that her mother — Boss of World — had the authority to compel me to hand my baby over to her. I hope Edith is as convinced of my supremacy when she’s old enough to have hair.

Day 20

What is your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?

Well, all my favorite photos have me in them, so they are by definition photos others have taken.

Just kidding, all my favorite photos are of my baby. Having a baby really does make you incredibly dull, every answer to everything is just your baby.

What’s your favorite photo? This one of my baby.

What’s your favorite thing to do? Hang out with my baby.

Who is your favorite person? My baby.

What do you care most about in the world? My baby.

So, setting aside my stunning, remarkable, perfect daughter who reveals a new facet of herself in every photo or video I take of her, and who is so fascinating that my mother and I spend an hour every night after she goes to bed looking at photos of her from earlier in the day and talking about them, I like a lot of the photos I took on my travels when I was younger, which were taken pre-smartphones, so I had to lug around an actual (little digital) camera. I don’t think I really have a favorite, though.

I like this one a lot:

I like the framing and that everything is slightly tipped to one side, which captures the chaotic feel of what visiting Angkor was like (THRONGS of people of all stripes, all behaving insanely). I like that one of the monks is whispering something to the other one (a ton of the monks in Cambodia are young boys who join monasteries because it enables them to have free room and board in one of the cities, and you often see them just messing around like any young boys would). I like the school group beyond in their dorky matching clothes, and that you can tell just from his position and general posture that their chaperone is completely over this. And then the famous, ancient temple beyond and the pretty sky.

Day 15

What is a life lesson you feel everyone can benefit from learning?

The other day, I was playing with Edith after work, and I paused to give her a big hug and say, “Edith, I missed you so much all day today!”

At which point, Edith hitched herself up so that her butt was directly in my face, issued a long, low fart, and crawled off.

Anyway, I think most people need to get more comfortable with being mildly disliked by others.

Day 11

What does it mean to live boldly?

I don’t know, but it sounds like something you probably can’t do with small children. In this house, we live very cautiously. Threats abound, hazards on all sides. I spend most of my time these days worrying about what the baby might have swallowed when I wasn’t looking.

My big fear is button batteries. When Edith was a newborn, I read a horrifying article (I won’t link, it’s devastating) about a woman who had lost her daughter to a button battery, and basically, if your kid eats a button battery (and they look SO edible), your kid is dead, because even after the battery is removed, the acid continues to burn them internally and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

I have thrown out everything in the house that I could find that had a button battery, but I still worry that I missed one, or one might come into the house somehow without my knowing about it.

And that’s just one hazard. I also have to take her on the interstate sometimes, among other things.

So overall, living boldly isn’t really relevant to my interests lately; I am pretty fully focused on keeping a baby alive who meanwhile seems compelled to actively seek her own destruction at all times.


Although Edith is very good at sleeping through the night in her own bed now (well, most of the time), I still nap with her. During the weeks, her nanny puts her in her baby swing for naps and sits in the playroom with her, and on the weekend, I go get in my bed with her and hold her while she sleeps.

There’s no reason why she can’t nap independently at this point. I just haven’t really been pressed to make her — I value the closeness on my days off. It’s fun to cuddle her. And I either sleep or read while she sleeps, which is what I’d choose to do with the time anyway if she were in her own bed.

But now it’s starting to butt up against some other things. I had friends visit and we didn’t have that much time to hang out, and there was a good two hours or more where I was napping with Edith when I could have been spending time with the adults. And today I joined a friend’s virtual baby shower, but it happened at the same time as Edith’s main nap, so I had to tap out five minutes in and go lie down with her.

I guess at some point, I’m going to have to let her take her own naps. Honestly, I don’t think she’ll even mind at this point — it’s me. I’m not ready to let her go.