Rice Babies

Because I am so old and so single, my extended family did not expect me to have a baby. Most of my generation in the wider family had finished having babies, so it was a bit surprising to have another one come along at all at this point, and it was especially surprising to have it come from me. Everyone loves babies, so a lot of my family would like to see Edith, but they can’t, because so many selfish morons won’t get vaccinated COVID is persisting for, you know, reasons. Anyhow, Japan has come up with an out-of-the-box solution, which (like any number of things that come out of Japan) is deeply unsettling and of questionable necessity.

I can’t imagine the reactions if I mailed everyone in my family a bag of rice with Edith’s face on it. I’m already dangerously in Little Edie territory, eccentricity-wise, and this would just tip the scales entirely.

(She would be the cutest rice bag ever, though.)

Decoy Bottle

Edith has become interested in playing with her bottle instead of drinking it, which would be fine, except that it gets milk everywhere. So today, I got her a second bottle exactly like the first one, except I put some water in it instead of milk, and I swapped it with the other one when she was distracted.

Zero interest in the decoy. HOW COULD SHE POSSIBLY TELL????

Toy Vocalist

Edith has a little toy piano that plays a bunch of supremely irritating songs sung by a woman with a light, clear childish voice, a little bit breathy, very non-threatening. I listen to her for more of the day than I would prefer, and so I have begun to wonder about her. Here are some things I wonder:

  • What is her actual profession? I assume she is a vocalist of some kind? Maybe a voiceover artist? A singing voiceover artist — is that a segment of talent?
  • How did she hear of this gig? How are gigs like this advertised? Does she have an agent who brought it to her?
  • What does she look like?
  • How did she explain this gig to her friends and family? Was it a big deal, or the sort of thing she didn’t even bother to tell them about? When the toy came out, did she take one home and invite her friends and family around, open champagne, and hit one of the keys? Did they all applaud?
  • How much does this sort of thing pay? Did she make bank on it? What is the payment structure — is it just a one-time fee, or does she get some sort of residuals? What if the company uses these same songs for other toys, or other versions of this toy?
  • What did she want to do with her life, and how does this particular job stack into her career accomplishments? Was it her peak? Should it have been?
  • This toy is ubiquitous — every kid has it, and it’s on all kinds of best-of lists. When it hits another best of list in, like, The Strategist or Parent magazine, does her mother text her a link with “I’m so proud!” emojis?
  • Has she had the uncanny experience of dating someone with kids, and at some point, hearing her own voice trilling forth from their playroom? Does she explain to her partner that it’s her? Does it kill their attraction to her, but then they have to make up some other reason why they are breaking up? Does she suspect the real reason anyhow? Does she learn from this, and never tell anyone ever again?
  • Do her own kids have this toy? Does she have to listen to herself sing these obnoxious songs eight million times a day in her own home? Has it driven her out of her mind? Do her kids know it’s her? Do they ask her to sing the songs live for them? Does she do it? Has she attempted to secretly throw out the toy piano, only for them to ask about its whereabouts, and for her partner to replace it anyway, because surely they have a garage full of them?
  • Is she ok? Like, really ok? How did she get through the pandemic? What is she doing now?

If you happen to know the answers to any of these questions, don’t tell me. I don’t actually want to know; speculating about her gives me something absorbing to do with my days.

Napping

I took what I intended to be a brief nap this afternoon and woke up four hours later, which means that Edith spent half the day with her Grammy. Whenever that happens, I am typically informed of some change in Edith’s routine that horrifies me, my parents’ generation having a much more laissez-faire approach to parenting than our current helicopter ways.

(A frequent conversation snippet in our house:

Mom: “Well, you turned out great!”

Me: “No! No, I really did not!”)

Today, it was that Edith just really didn’t feel like napping and so had slept a grand total of ten minutes, which means that my four-month-old went from seven this morning to 6:30 this evening with only an hour and ten minutes of napping total. This seems impossible! And yet!

“She didn’t nap at all?” I said, hyperventilating, as I received this news.

Mom, lightly, “Sleepless wonder, that one!”

Meanwhile, I slept much more than I intended to sleep, because ever since Edith coopted my bed, I have been sleeping very poorly, as she likes to dance throughout the night and she wants to do it on me. In my sleep, I sort of compress her into a ball and hold her arms and legs, and that works for awhile, but eventually she breaks free and starts celebrating again, or I will sleepily lift and place her all the way across the bed, but she manages to migrate her way back under my armpit and thrash against my ribcage once more, as well as pat me on the face and stick her fingers up my nose.

This morning when I eventually gave in to what had for sometime been a background noise of constant joyful squawks unto the lord, and opened my eyes, she was on her tummy and propped up on her little arms, with her face hovering just above mine, staring at me in excited anticipation, eyes wide, and as I came reluctantly to life, she broke into a tremendous grin. “It’s six am, you absolute nightmare!” I moaned.

Delighted laughter.

I don’t know, she’s so fucking cute and I love cuddling her and I can’t resist her darling little face, and ALSO she is absolutely killing me, I’m losing my mind from exhaustion.

I realize that 9/10 of my parenting related blog posts are about my sleeping arrangements, and it increasingly seems to me that this is primarily what parenting is: they simply don’t sleep, and you have to, and this is the main locus of all parenting difficulty until they become teenagers, at which point, they sleep every minute that they aren’t doing drugs or having unprotected sex with idiots.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Crawling

I’ve mentioned before that Edith hates tummy time and has little interest in crawling. The former is still true, but in the past 24 hours she has become suddenly determined to crawl. Babies are supposed to learn to roll over from their stomachs to their backs first, and then later, the other way around.

Edith, always contrary, has done the exact opposite. She rolled from her back to her tummy about a month ago, and had a phase where she was doing it a lot, so I had to stop swadding her at night, but then she stopped and she hasn’t really been interested in rolling since.

But today, she suddenly began constantly flipping herself onto her stomach and trying her damnedest to crawl across the floor. She didn’t manage it. She tries to pull with her little hands, but she can’t get traction, nor does she have the upper body strength to tug her bowling ball of a body along the floor. She tries to push with her hammy little legs, but she can’t figure out how to push both up and forward at the same time. To be fair, it’s complicated! I didn’t realize how complicated until I watched an infant try and fail to master it for several hours. Also, even if she could figure out both of these things, she’s not strong enough to lift her gut off the floor yet. So her efforts are futile, regardless, but I haven’t told her that.

Anyway, she gets frustrated very fast, and then begins to cry loudly because she is on her tummy, and has not yet really figured out how to flip onto her back (which, again, she was supposed to learn first). So, I flip her over, she scowls at me like I’m fucking with her, and then she immediately flips back onto her stomach again.

And you know, I just really cannot help someone who will not help themselves.

Sleep Training

Edith is four months old now, and I was debating sleep training her. On the one hand, she was sleeping pretty well at night most of the time — she only tended to wake up once for milk and she usually went back to sleep within 30 minutes. I did have to aggressively rock her to sleep every time she went down, but at night, this wasn’t too difficult. During the day, her naps were a completely different story, but when I go back to work, that’s going to be the nanny’s problem anyhow. So on the one hand, I thought, why risk messing up a good thing?

But on the other hand, sometimes she would be very difficult to get to sleep, and every so often, she’d have a night where she’d wake up multiple times and not be able to put herself back to sleep, or she’d get up about 90 minutes before any decent human would be awake and after I got her back to sleep and then managed to fall asleep myself, it was time to get up for real. So I considered it.

In the end, I decided to just continue letting her do her thing, mostly because sleep training seems so damn complicated (there are very specific timetables and mathematical formulae, and do’s and don’ts, and much caution about how once you start you absolutely cannot stop or your child will be awake until they are 30), and I can’t get my head around it when I’m already so tired. Plus, once we bought a house, there was too much going on.

While I was making my mind up about all this, Edith started doing a new thing where she’d wake up about an hour after her one night feeding and cry until I soothed her back to sleep.

This was annoying.

Then, she started doing it several times in a row. Even worse.

At some point in all this, I fell asleep with her in my bed, holding her against my side, and she immediately went into a sound sleep and slept until morning. This was fine, except that my arm went to sleep and my shoulder cramped all night. I thought I slept well, but I was very tired the next day.

Still, the following night, when Edith woke up randomly an hour after eating, I didn’t even try to put her back into her own bed; I just cuddled up with her and she went to sleep right away.

Edith has never liked to work herself up to crying at night; it seems like it’s too much work for her. She prefers to persistently whine and then gradually crescendo into a yodel. She will only escalate to full wailing if her earlier efforts are unsuccessful. Being in my bed seemed to work better for her, because when she was ready to get up in the morning, she did not have to cry at all. She could just kick me and smack me in the face relentlessly until I bowed to the inevitable.

Interestingly, during the day, Edith is not very mobile. She hasn’t figured out crawling or even creeping yet, and she does not like being on her stomach. If she wants a toy that is a very short distance from her, she whines at me until I give it to her.

And yet.

I’ve noticed that when she is in my bed and she is pummeling me, if I put her all the way across the mattress, she is immediately back in my face with her fingers up my nose or twisted into my hair. So, I am beginning to smell a rat.

Anyway, we did this late night switcheroo for a few nights. And then the other night, Edith woke up a couple of hours after she went to sleep to begin with — that is, she woke up at 9:00 p.m. This had never happened before and since I was just falling asleep myself and really didn’t want to get back up, I put her in bed next to me.

Well, long story short, Edith now sleeps next to me all night every night, with her head cushioned on my dead arm, and when she wants some milk or to get up for the day, she kicks me violently until I accede to her whims.

Last night, it finally dawned on me: while I was waffling on whether or not to sleep train her, she just went ahead and sleep trained me.

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.