Friday, November 13, 2009

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

I cannot claim that we were not warned. We were warned. Oh the warnings.

Between the Wife and I, we have had new parents lined up around the proverbial block, veritably pushing and shoving each other for the chance to tell us how hard it was going to be. I firmly believe that as much as people enjoy being comfortable, they freaking love being miserable, as long as they know someone else will be next. Eyes positively twinkle. Grins tremble with mischief. For further reading, please see Every Japanese Gameshow Ever Made.

So we knew it was going to be hard. We got that. But really, there’s a visceral quality to the hard-ness that you just don’t hear about. Well, that’s not true. You hear about it. But hearing about it isn’t really useful. Hearing about how hard Mike Tyson hits is not the same as actually being punched in the gut by that same fine gentleman.

The best way I can think to describe what it’s like is the ditch-digging scene from Cool Hand Luke.

“Boy, Mr. Baby wants him some clean diapers and he wants them right now.”
“Diapering up, Boss.”
“Now boy, what’d you go and put them nice clean diapers on Mr. Baby for? Can’t you see he done already soiled them? Now maybe you should go on and do that again.”
“Yes sir, Boss.”
“Boy! What do you think you’re doing putting diapers on Mr. Baby when he clearly needs to feed again and then be burped and rocked while he screams bloody murder right in your face? You get on that, boy!”
“Getting’ right on it, Boss.”
“Boy! Did someone come by here and tell you to stop getting Mr. Baby’s diaper changed? Now get that done afore I whoop some sense into you.”

So, it’s like that, on an infinite loop.

And it’s hard enough right there, but having the Wife roll through this same torture right next to me is simply heartbreaking.

First of all, watching her give birth to our son redefines the concept of a humbling moment. I don’t care if you’re a Navy SEAL or Frank Lloyd Wright or Thomas Jefferson or Gandhi. In a contest of accomplishments against a woman who has given birth, you lose. I’m still not sure I believe all the things I saw during that process. It was simultaneously the most miraculous and most brutal thing I’ve ever witnessed. I figure, given the events of the Boy’s entry into this world, she’s done enough for… oh, say, ever.

But the Boy does not agree.

There are certain boob-related functions for which the Wife is ever-so-slightly better equipped than I, and her services are in high demand among the sub-one-week-old demographic at our particular address. Aside from that, she feels an almost irresistible need to stay by his side at all times, which must be programmed in at the genetic level. You never know when those saber-tooth tigers are going to strike. I wish I could poke fun at this, but I’d by lying if I claimed to check his breathing less than three-thousand times a minute when he naps. He’s just so little.

They say sleep deprivation is the foundation of any really effective torture regimen, and I say Amen. There have been times over the past few days that I would have gladly confessed to orchestrating 9/11 for a half hour of solid sleep. Given the Wife’s already spent body, and our cumulative lack of shuteye, you might think we’d be a mess.

We’ve often joked that we would never go on the Amazing Race, as much as we love the show, because after a few days of non-stop stress and extra-strength jetlag, we’d be at each other’s throats.

I can no longer stand by that opinion.

Because, as a team, we’ve never been better. We teeter and lurch past each other like two Drunken Masters, swapping diapers and wipes and bottles and our tiny little sensei himself. When I can’t get the swaddle, the Wife is there. When the Boy refuses to be soothed by the very woman who squeezed him out of her lady-business just a few short days ago, I scoop and I shush and he’s suddenly all eyes and no mouth, and There Is Peace. Briefly.

And these skills are not static, I am not Shush-Man to my wife’s Swaddle Girl. It’s more that whatever ball I seem to drop, the Wife snatches up and tosses back into the air, and vice-versa. It’s a dynamic little improv act we’ve established, and if 4am manages to arrive and our audience is snoozing away in the back row, there are high-fives all around.

It is hard. But...

It is hard and it is the best thing I’ve ever lived through. Everyone tells you this, too. I don’t have any movie references for this one. All I can say is, as hard as it’s been, I’ve never been happier about anything in my life.

There are moments, and they’re rapidly growing in both frequency and amplitude as we work the kinks out of our act, that make all trauma seem like a bargain.

In those rare moments of planetary alignment, when milk and diaper and burps and swaddling are all checked off the list, the Boy assumes an expression that the experts call Calm Alert, but which I can only describe as a state of perpetual, slightly cynical disbelief. He sits in my tiny little hands, and he sizes up his world. His lip curls up a little and he squints at everything with the same confused expression. I would not be surprised if his first words were: “Are you kidding me?”

But the best moments, the absolute best moments, are when I’m done burping him. He’s a great burper, by the way, an epic burper. You may have thought you heard thunder in the past week, but it was just my Boy venting a little milk vapor.

At any rate, when I’m done burping him on my shoulder, he wriggles and grunts his little way up a little further, and he doesn’t stop until his tiny face is nestled up in the crook of my big dumb neck. And then he just kinda… melts.

And every time he does this, it’s the best moment of my entire life. Hands down. I glow from within like some sort of human/lava lamp hybrid

They told me it would be hard. But now… now I know why.

You don’t just get the best moments in your life. You have to earn them.