The Story About the Baby, Volume 17.
So what is that word for when everything is going great, and everyone is calm and happy and complacent, and suddenly, almost overnight, everything goes straight to hell and you have no idea what is going on with anything anymore? What's that word again?
Oh yeah. "Teething."
There is a pleasing symmetry. Our darling little girl Cordelia is now four months old. And she is growing four tiny teeth. And she sleeps four hours a night. And her daddy is about to put her in the closet for four weeks.
"Hey, little girl! This is what Mild Discomfort feels like!"
For the unaware, teething is the process by which the baby's first teeth (20 in all) erupt through the gum into glorious life. This process causes a constant, low level of discomfort. Now, when we grownups feel a constant low level of discomfort, we bitch a little, pop some ibuprofen, and get on with our lives.
Babies, on the other hand, are not so used to pain. And they are also not known, in general, for bearing up under adversity with dignity and stoic determination. And their clumsy, chubby little fingers can't get an ibuprofen bottle open. So they cry and whine. A lot. And they sure sleep a lot less.
One thing the little ones do to ease the discomfort is to grab something (a plastic ring, ice cubes wrapped in a washcloth, a human nipple) and chew the shit out of it. Sadly, our little girl is teething early, and her teeth have outrun the use of her hands. So when she puts a teething ring in her mouth and chomps down, she then forgets that she is supposed to keep holding it there. She drops it, and mommy or daddy has to replace it. When this process frustrates her enough, she starts screaming and doesn't stop, giving us a great view of those cute little white nubs pushing up from under the flesh, mocking us.
In olden days, frazzled parents would rub brandy or other strong liquor on a teething baby's gums to ease the discomfort. In this modern age, we are too delicate for such strong measures. My wife and I have been splitting the difference and liberally applying this treatment to each other.
Now I ask you. And, when I say "you", I mean a specific "you" who has some knowledge of biology. Is there any species who gives birth to offspring as hapless and useless as humans? Consider baby alligators. They are born with teeth. Little, cute, sharp ones. And they certainly don't spend weeks being reduced to reptilian basket cases learning to use those teeth. No, they come out of the egg loaded for bear, ready to rend a teething ring into tiny, yellow plastic bits bearing visible fragments of Snoopy and Woodstock.
"Oh, that Jeff. He just doesn't like babies."
I know I am in for more hell from my relatives now, for describing babies as "hapless" and "useless". Well they don't move, they can't bear getting teeth, and sometimes they just stop breathing for no good reason. I love my little girl. She is adorable beyond words. But she can barely move, for God's sake! I'll soften my opinion on babies the moment they can wield knives.
Fortunately, modern science has not left us high and dry regarding the whole teething situation. Being truly the parents of the path of least resistance, we dealt with this problem by going out and getting drugs.
Loadin' Her Up With the Drugz.
Verily, I say that we are the worst parents in the world. There is no problem so minor or piddling that we can't find some way to weasel our way out of it, doing incalculable harm to our daughter in the progress. Pacifiers. Formula. Disposable diapers. Epidurals. We just suck.
And now the drugs.
Even for one as jaded and apathetic as myself, the putting baby to bed process has become rather disturbing. First, I load her full of food. Then I swaddle her. And then I get the baby Tylenol and give her a good stiff shot of it. And then she goes off to Sleepyland, and I go off to Daddyguiltworld.
The idea of medicating my daughter to make her quiet and pliable, even with something as innocent as Baby Tylenol, is really depressing to me. I mean, why stop there? Why not get little baby doses of Ritalin? It won't get rid of the gum pain, but it'll drain the strength to object out of her. Heck, I could give her Valium, but mommy and I are already taking it all.
But, on the other hand, what right do I have to not drug her? I drug myself as a matter of routine. If I was little, and having trouble sleeping because I was in pain, and someone refused me the medication that would provide a restful slumber, I would kick that person's ass. Or, at least, I'd do as much ass-kicking as possible for someone 15 pounds and 19 inches tall. Which, sadly, isn't much.
I suspect I'm overthinking this process. I'd just feel a lot better if, at some point, I didn't just take the easy way out.
I think I'll buy her a pony.
Chompity Chomp Chomp.
Although the whining and bitching isn't so cute, she does have one really adorable habit. Whenever one of my fingers gets anywhere hear her face, she lurches out and chomps on it. Then she gnaws on it with her cute, pink little gums. She's my widdle baba velociraptor.
Of course, I think this is great. My wife plays the same game, but with her nipples. She has informed me that this habit is the opposite of cute.
Nobody thought it was possible for my wife to want to wean Cordelia more. Oh, how wrong we were.
An Admittedly Excessive Response to 3 Out of 4 People We Have Told That Our Daughter's Name Is Cordelia:
No. We have not yet though of any short versions of it. Not Delia, or Dee, or Cor, or Lia. Her name is "Cordelia". Just "Cordelia". It is not Welsh or Sanskrit. It is not in some weird African language with pops and hissing noises. It is only four lousy syllables long. Is that so damn hard to say? What are we? Fucking chimpanzees?
Oh! She's Gagging! It's soooo cuuuute!!!!!
According to What To Expect The First Year, some babies learn to cough a lot early in life. The reason for this is that, when they cough, they get picked up and comforted. Thus, they learn to cough to get attention.
This is why I love babies, for all their dopeyness. They do have a certain ingenuity to them. They have very little to work with, but they leverage it as best they can.
Cordelia will not end up like this, though. That is because she is completely adorable when she coughs. I don't pick her up because I'm watching her. First, she scrunches up her face, and then she sticks her little tongue way out and rounds her mouth into a little O, and she makes this cute "Keh! Keh!" noise. It makes me wish she had more phlegm in her lungs, so I could watch her expel it. It's great.
The other night, I wiped the very, very first booger off of her nose. I should have saved it in the photo album, but we horrify our relatives with the pictures in there as it is.
Now My Corpse Is Really Worth Something
Finally, my life insurance has happened. My death is now worth two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to my loved ones. The agent patiently explained, in so many words, that such a piddly amount would be seen as my survivors as proof that I didn't love them very much. So, to any survivors who are angry at me for this reason, I send you this message from beyond the grave: bite my ass.
I had a small brain tumor removed when I was 19. Since then, I have had no problems in this area. No symptoms, or handicaps, or other growths. Yet, despite the 13 years between that event and now, it was trouble finding someone who would give me a policy, and I have to pay a considerable extra amount.
There is nothing that gives you an unnerving awareness of your temporary status on this globe like having insurance salesmen (truly, not a shy breed) look at you and go "Oh, I don't know. I just don't know."
Like computer games? A great fantasy adventure awaits you here.