E Is For Elephant. And Only Elephant.

Edith has about twenty baby books that feature a page for each letter of the alphabet with an illustration of some noun that begins with that letter. These books are not exactly page-turners for me, but one way I keep my interest up is by noting the different choices that the various authors make when it comes to a letter’s representative noun. They are always different — a “B” in one book will be a bee, in another book, it is a bear (animals are always heavily featured)! And so on.

All except for one letter. The letter “e.” “A” is usually apple, but it might very well be ant or airplane. “Z” is typically zebra, but it could be zoo or zipper. Even “x” has a 50/50 chance of being xylophone or x-ray (or, in one of my old children’s books, King Xerxes).

But “e” is always elephant to the end of the page.

Why? I mean, elephants are rad, I’m the first to admit. It’s hard to get sick of elephants. Still, variety is the spice of life, and “e” is not an especially challenging letter to represent! It’s certainly no “x”! There are tons of “e” nouns. Off the top of my head there’s:

  • eggplant
  • emu
  • ear
  • elevator
  • evidence
  • Enid Blyton
  • echidna
  • Edith
  • Elizabeth
  • error
  • espalier

And I’m sure many others!

But, no. Wherever you see an “e” an elephant is sure to follow. I suspect the all powerful elephant lobby is to blame. Follow the money.

Roughhousing

Because Edith doesn’t have a dad, I try to think about what sort of traditionally father-initiated type activities and experiences she might be missing out on and ensure I am providing them, and one thing that the books mention is that dads tend to roughhouse with babies more than moms do, and so it tends to be dads who first notice when a baby is ready to push their physical limits further.

It’s true that it never occurs to me to, say, put Edith on my head and run screaming around the house with her. I never think to toss her into the air and catch her, or spin her around in circles while holding onto only one part of her body. And while I do sometimes lie on the floor and fly her overhead and then lower her down to me, I am so careful and slow about it (and she is, in turn, so baffled by what I’m trying to accomplish) that it looks more like a deliberate and very serious tandem yoga exercise we’re executing than any sort of playful frolicking.

Honestly, I still constantly envision tripping and squashing her beneath me while I’m carrying her around even at a careful walk, so I definitely wouldn’t tempt fate by galloping about the house with her, although I do feel she’s sturdier every day (she can for sure land a punch these days), so I imagine I’ll gradually stop treating her like she’s made of glass?

So far (knock on wood) I have only taken one spill with her. When she was a newborn, and I was getting out of bed at night to change her, I had one foot curled beneath me, and when I got out of bed with the other foot, the foot I left behind got tangled in the bedsheets and I fell over. I twisted around and landed on my back with her on my stomach and she was completely unbothered by it, but I was horrified.

Anyway, I don’t know how important roughhousing is for a baby under one year, but if it’s crucial, maybe I can take her to one of those foam pits and do some more adventurous physical play in a fully padded environment. That is, if I can rent out the entire space (because COVID), and they agree to sanitize and replace all the foam cubes first.

Adoration

One of Edith’s favorite things to do is to stare worshipfully at me for hours, to follow me around the room with moony eyes. When I approach, she breaks into a radiant grin, and when I come within grabbing distance, she gives a happy gasp and clutches at my face with her spitty little hands. It is all very flattering, although intellectually, I am aware that she would be this much in love with any woman who was her mother. It’s not as if she had five mothers to pick from, and she decided that I was the superior one. Plus, evolutionarily speaking, she has to endear herself to me, so that I do not abandon her in the middle of a prairie.

Still, it doesn’t feel like she would love just any mother, because I can’t imagine loving just any baby as much as I love Edith. I love Edith in part because she is my baby, but also because she is perfect. Just literally perfect in every possible way. Every single thing she does is the most perfect thing a baby has ever done, every aspect of her appearance is the most perfect way for a baby to look. There is simply no better way to be a baby than the way Edith is going about it. My love for her is both subjective and objective. Anyone would love Edith unreservedly, even if they were not her mother at all, and the fact that everyone doesn’t is only because so far, most people are too unobservant and stupid to recognize what a completely ideal specimen of a baby she is in every respect.

And that is just as well, because if they did realize it, we’d never have a moment’s peace, and I want Edith to be able to live a private life.

Baby Bath

When I had Edith, the NICU nurses told me that I really wouldn’t need to bathe her all that often, as babies don’t get dirty, that once or twice a week is fine. The doula said the same thing, as did my pediatrician and all the baby books. And now Twitter has been discussing Ashton Kucher and Mila Kunis saying in an interview that they do not bathe their kids unless they are visibly dirty.

And look, I get that we’re a rather hygiene obsessed people and we don’t really need to be bathing daily for the most part (maybe? I mean, unless you work out. Or live in a hot climate. Or have an active job. Or, or, or…), but y’all, there is nothing more filthy than an infant! They don’t have control over their bodily functions yet!! They shit themselves voluminously at least once a day, for starters. They pee themselves basically constantly. Edith drools so much that I don’t bother to dress her because her entire front side becomes soaked in seconds, so she just has this slippery glaze of slobber from her chin to her waist at all times. If I park her somewhere, it cascades down her neck and pools up behind her head and I pick her up out of a puddle of it. She regularly spits up a decent amount of milk and she also just lets it pour out of her mouth when she’s done drinking. She often has boogers, as well. She wipes her hands in her hair.

This week kind of got away from me, and so Edith’s bath was a few days late, and by today, I didn’t actually need to hold her anymore because I could just stick her to the front of my body and carry her around like that.

So, I don’t know what people are talking about. When it comes to bathing frequency, I’d say the order is:

  1. coal miners;
  2. babies;
  3. anyone who for any reason must wear a giant foam-rubber character suit outdoors as part of their employment (or I guess their personal life, I don’t know what people are into now);
  4. teenage boys; and
  5. everyone else.

Walker

My mother has gotten Edith a walker. We had some disagreement about this, because I had a general notion that it’s developmentally harmful to artificially enable infants to be mobile in ways they aren’t yet ready for physically based on something or other that I read. (While I was pregnant, I read about 500 baby books, and so I have vague, floating concerns about just about every aspect of child-rearing without ever having committed fully to any one particular philosophy.) Mom’s position, on the other hand, was that Edith would like it.

When I went looking for research to back up my concern, I found that there really isn’t any to support that this is a real problem, so after our pediatrician came down on Mom’s side (well, she said the only issue with walkers is safety, not developmental concerns), I caved. Mom had already ordered it anyhow.

This walker is massive, garish, and incredibly ugly. I’m not one of those Instagram moms who expects my baby’s accessories to complement my decor; I was resigned to having my house fill up with brightly colored plastic clutter. But this walker is the first piece of baby furniture that genuinely depresses me. Hopefully if we get a bigger house, it will not be so overwhelming.

Edith, obviously, loves it. She has wanted to be upright and walking since she was born. I feel like people won’t really believe this, but she was bracing her feet and standing up in my lap with assistance at two weeks old. She has no interest whatsoever in tummy time or crawling, but she wants to be standing all the time. Since she hasn’t really figured out walking, she does this thing where she leans over very far in the direction she wants to go and points with the top of her head, and then I move her that way. Then, she wants to go back the other way. I must admit, I don’t hate cutting myself out of this process.

She’s really too little for the walker and can only reach the floor with the tippy-toes of either one foot or the other (she has to lean toward one to get fully down there), but she’s able to nudge herself along the floor even so. When she isn’t in the walker, she is staring lovingly at it and chattering at it, and whining at me to put her in it. Still, I only let her play in it for a bit every day. After awhile she gets mad that the toys on it are bolted onto the front and starts to scream at them. At the moment, the main thing she does is cruise smack into the little wall between the living room and the kitchen and get stuck there, which is pretty manageable for me if not entirely satisfying for her, but I have a feeling I’m going to have to baby-proof the house before too much longer.

Afternoon

Most afternoons, my mom takes Edith for a couple of hours and I can do what I want. Today, what I most wanted to do was to make myself a cheese plate and a glass of wine and go sit in my bed surrounded by baby toys and picture books and with the smell of an overfull diaper pail in the air and put my earbuds in so I couldn’t hear Edith hollering in the living room, and watch the Season 2 premiere of Ted Lasso on my 11″ MacBook Air at 2 pm.

It’s funny to think that six months ago, I could spend every single evening relaxing in this way, for hours if I chose. It felt so much less special, though!

C-Section

I’m tired today and don’t have much to say, so I’m just going to brag about how easy my c-section recovery was. So, I had to have an emergency c-section with Edith; maybe at some point, I’ll write about my “birth story” but long story short: it was fucking traumatic, and I’ll never get over it. But the c-section itself was easy peasy! I was up and walking in about six hours, and I would have been even sooner (because Edith was in the NICU and I wanted to get to her), but they wouldn’t let me. I was considering just making a break for it when my nurse finally permitted me to go down there in the wheelchair, and then I stood over Edith for some time and people kept telling me to sit down, but I really didn’t need to! I was fine! I never needed the pain killers at all, I just took ibuprofen. And I didn’t need the wheelchair again after that first trip. I was fully mobile in another couple of hours.

For awhile it hurt and pulled when I sat up, so I had to roll onto my side and sort of pull myself up. And I was slow and curled a bit over like a shrimp as I walked around for awhile. But that went away pretty quickly, a week maybe, and though I didn’t start jogging again until almost two months postpartum, I definitely could have before then.

I had wanted a vaginal birth, and if I had it to do over again, I would still try for one. The c-section was shocking for Edith (although we didn’t have a choice) and the whole experience sucked. It was not my preference at all! BUT we are all told that a c-section will put you out of commission for months and be very painful and difficult to recover from, and all things considered, mine was actually a lot easier on my body than a vaginal birth would have been (plus, well, all my business is intact). I do have a scar now, but what with the impressive network of stretch marks I achieved during pregnancy and my truly outstanding pregnancy weight gain (I really embraced pregnancy and did the absolute most), that little scar is the least of my aesthetic concerns.

Of course, I am not saying this is the case for everyone — in fact, from what I hear, it’s pretty unusual — but if you do have to have a c-section, it might not be the end of the world, so maybe try not to freak out about it.

My Baby!

There is arguably no work of fiction that more accurately captures the inner monologue of mothers of a particular demographic than Choire Sicha’s classic Awl piece, My Baby? My Baby Seems So Smart But I’m Also Scared About My Baby.

He has certainly got me dead to rights. Every time I say or think “my baby” which currently is about 500,000 times per day, I mentally follow it up with “My baby!” and the rest of it.

But. What if something IS wrong with my baby? My baby!

Evening Routine

Very recently, it occurred to me that after Edith falls asleep at night, I could actually leave the room and continue to be up for awhile.

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this. It just did not occur to me to separate myself from her by an entire room. When I first did it, I felt hesitant and tentative, cautious. I left my bedroom door wide open and I returned often to peer through the dark at her from the doorway, sometimes using my phone light to slowly slide over her until I could see that she was breathing, as if I were the narrator of The Tell-Tale Heart. I only stayed away for 30 minutes at most. But gradually, I got used to my new untethered freedom, and now I think nothing of fully leaving the bedroom for two hours at a stretch! It’s wild.

Unfortunately, this has enabled me to gradually get, as the kids say, back on my bullshit — my own particular brand of bullshit being drinking wine and watching TV until much later than I ought to be up. I don’t watch TV when Edith is awake, because they say you should not have screens or even background TV noise around babies until they are two years old, so watching it very quietly at night while she’s sleeping feels illicit, like the opposite of quietly watching something you shouldn’t be as a child while your parents are sleeping. Between it being the end of the day with all of my caretaking responsibilities done and no one actively sucking on me or grabbing at my hair, and the fact that my mom and I are currently house-hunting which is stressful, I really collapse into this newly reclaimed window of evening relaxation.

But I am increasingly shorting myself on much needed sleep when I only just got back the ability to sleep for long stretches at night. Every day I wake up and say, tonight I will get into bed when Edith goes to sleep, read for an hour, and then fall asleep myself. And every evening, I think “haha nope!” and repeat the previous evening’s mistakes.

So far, I have enjoyed Ted Lasso, Mythic Quest, the final season of Shrill, Hacks, and Mare of Easttown, and I am now watching The Righteous Gemstones, with the result that I sing “Misbehavin” to Edith all day.

That all stops tonight, though. I’m going to sleep.

Cute Aggression

I have a particularly bad case of cute aggression. I always have. It surprises people, because it doesn’t fit with the rest of my personality at all, but not only do I suffer from cute aggression in the presence of any small animal, large animal, or baby, but I suffer from it unduly. Like, once everyone else has exclaimed over the cute creature and moved on to adult conversation and cocktails, I am still staring, googly-eyed, at the cute creature, and finding excuses to meander over to it and smush it against my face some more. I don’t really understand how everyone else isn’t like this. I don’t understand how people can be simply indifferent to the presence of something small and adorable and cuddly. I cannot leave it alone. I had a wee fuzzy rabbit for like ten years, and I never left her alone for a minute the whole damn time. And she actively resisted cuddling, and in fact, was pretty bitey! But I still managed to put the tips of her ears into my mouth several times a day.

Of course, I also do not understand how some people can be indifferent to the presence of, say, a dessert buffet, so it’s possible that I simply have immature tastes and poor self-control.

Either way, Edith gets smooshed and squeezed and kissed and cuddled from one end of the day to the other. I clench my teeth so hard at her adorableness that I’m afraid I’m going to chip one. Unlike Thomasina (my rabbit), however, Edith prefers these lavish attentions. Ideally, she would prefer that I never put her down, and that our faces were permanently welded together. But one day, she will not want this, and I will have to begin to respect her personal autonomy and then I don’t know what I’ll do.

Probably eat a lot of cake.