Freedom from Blog

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

There Will Be Barf

There was some coughing on the baby monitor last night as we lounged in the living room reading before bed. "Do you want me to check that?" I asked. "Not really," replied the Mrs., "she's been coughing like that every night this week because of her cold." A little while later I heard the same strange cough. "I'm going to go take a look," I said while the Mrs. half-opened a drowsy eye.

As I walked toward the stairs I remembered earlier in the day reading Josh Marshall's sweet paean to fatherhood at TPM. Yeah, parenthood sure is great. It has changed my perspective in dozens of unexpected ways, made me see the world differently, feel it more deeply. Hell, feel it at all. As many of you know, I've long prided myself on not being in touch with my emotions. Now I'm a big sap. Sad movies give me a tear, babies make me smile. Don't even have to be mine. Mine, of course, is the greatest frickin' baby ever, and if you don't follow that party line, I will kick your teeth in, you morally-degenerate-can't recognize-the-perfect-baby jackasses. How's that for emotional self-awareness? I can feel my EQ rising as I type.

Pulling back the sound curtain at the bottom of the stairs, I was hit by a distinct smell. "Is the crazier of our cats peeing in the stairwell again?," I wondered. No, this was different. Like the bathroom of a fraternity house at 3 AM on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. Pulling open the doorway to the Boo room, I peered into the pitch darkness and groped for the closet light to cast a soft diffused glow on the crib. I could tell that Lang was up. She had been whimpering but squealed with delight as I entered. Ah, the joys of fatherhood, to hear that little laugh and know it could only be for daddy. But. That stench was intense. Reaching to pick her up, I placed my elbow on the cushion we'd put over the crib railing after she had taken a beaver chomp out of the wood (no kidding--it could take her years to pass that much timber through her intestines). My elbow was wet.

Touching Lang, I could tell that her clothes were wet too. So I unzipped her sleepsack, which was dripping, as was her pajama shirt. I dropped them in the crib, knowing I would cause no damage because, well, it was a veritable river of puke, the Amazon of toddler spews. How does a 22 lb. baby have that much in her? I racked my brain--what did we feed her? Any wafer-thin mints? Did I spawn a mini Ms. Creosote? No such luck on the wafers. She had eaten a mixture of spinach, peas, and avacadoes, followed by blueberry/cranberry fruit in cereal, and topped off with apple slices. Probably now mixed with phlegm. All of it now oozed from the mattress and onto the floor. The chunks stayed put. Damned apples. Picking up my giggling child it was clear that merely removing her clothes had failed to eliminate her damp, pukey problem. Plus, it was caked in her hair and on her face like a yuke mask. My daughter was a performance artist and vomit was her chosen medium. A couple of days earlier when I had gotten her out of bed in the morning, I'd noticed (how could I not) that, thanks to her cold, she was wearing a fresh coat of mucus. "Look," I had said to the Mrs., "isn't that cute? Her first booger mask!" Tonight she was a tad less cute.

Parenthood gets you accustomed to these moments. Early on, you deal mostly with poop: the black molasses of newborn meconium, the drippy mustard goo of the pre-solid food era, the multi-grain pancakes of a growing toddler. You get used to blowouts ("poo-plosions," we called them), the stained toys and car seats. Then there's the spit up. Lang was a geyser in her day, so much that we had to sleep her tilted upright in her car seat for months rather than in a bassinet. But there's always something new, and this was my first true barf bath experience. I took that little girl downstairs, and we plopped her in the shower. Now she screams. Wallowing in a river of partially digested fruit and bile--fun. Getting a bath? Bloody murder. Typical. Luckily, after the full rinse, I get the easy job: watching Lang run around the house for the next 45 minutes while Mrs. TMcD scrubs the bedroom down. Hey, she volunteered!

Why do I tell this sordid tale? 'Cause it is true. Cinema veritas. I'm sure Paul knows how this works. And since Frances and #3 have chosen another route, they can be thankful for what they have escaped. Otherwise, such a tale might seem cruel, less cautionary than an exercise in fearmongering. But this is our moment. This is our time. We have seen the fear, and we have trusted instead in the power of hope. Not some sad cynicism passing as wisdom, but a dare to dream that laughter and joy can nonetheless swim free in a lake of bilious spew. Some wonder if we can survive. Yes, we can.


At 3:06 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I have to second Josh Marshall and TMcD's encomia to parenthood -- it is a transformative experience. While I have less time to do things like blog or read the news (the latter which usually only depresses me), the truth is that I now enjoy watching my daughter grow more than anything else in the world. And it happens so fast. In the past week she has begun to giggle -- a real, prolonged giggle -- and to be to be able to sit up and hold herself for a while. Last night we bought a high chair and she used it this morning for the first time. Priceless.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Let me add that there's something special about a baby girl. I know, I know. If you had asked me years back, I probably would have admitted to hoping for a boy first, and if we ever have one, I'm sure I'll be stoked. But there is something so charming about a baby daughter that I find it hard to put it into words. When she tilts her head to me and says "night night," or screams my name from the next room ("Rahhhhhbbbb!!!")--heaven. I sometimes think that this must be why the Jews identified divine love with that of fatherhood. Down the road it will get complex and even conflictual, I'm sure. But for now it is hard to imagine anything more simple and pure.


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