This month Clara and I welcomed our first child, a daughter, into the world. She is unbelievably wonderful and it already feels like she’s been with us forever. Here are some thoughts on life with a newborn (sometimes, on life with this newborn specifically), in no particular order:
- When she cries, it’s often just sad little wimpers or snuffles, but when she has just the right mixture of sad and angry, she really sounds like she’s saying “WAAAH! WAAAH! WAAAH!” You can see her mouth make the ‘w’ at the beginning and everything.
- If she’s not crying, she’s not using her vocal cords at all, so everything she says comes out sounding like little dolphin noises. It’s very cute.
- She’s surprisingly smiley and alert, and has been since day one! I’ve never known such a smiley baby. If she doesn’t keep it up, that’s fine — no need for her to smile if she doesn’t feel like it — but it’s nice for now.
- Newborns have so many instincts and reflexes! I’m impressed by how she can already twist her head and body in order to gaze at her beloved Floor Lamp. On the other hand, she seems to have no idea which muscle releases the poop, so she tries them all.
- There’s also the apparently useless “startle reflex” in which she tenses her body and pulls her fists up to either side of her head. Things I thought would cause the startle reflex but don’t:
- Doors slamming
- Popping open plastic packaging
- Creaky groany hospital bed machinery
- Things I did not think would cause the startle reflex but do:
- Shifting her from one arm to the other
- Jostling the bassinet she’s sleeping in
- A draft of wind across her face
- A deer feeding on grass in a moonlit forest glade five miles away
- The startle reflex
- She seems to really love fabric, especially the edges, brushing against her face and hands. Not sure what that’s about, but I’ll take it! Just not while she’s sleeping.
- My goodness, she is so strong. She’s holding her head up for several seconds at a time, and if she locks her legs while I’m changing her diaper then when I lift up her feet nearly her whole body comes off the mat. She’s basically Avocado Baby.
- “Sleep when your baby sleeps” is fine and all (but as I heard a friend say, “Do I cook when my baby cooks and clean when my baby cleans?”), but it doesn’t account for how the first half-hour or so of the baby sleeping is spent tensely waiting to see if she is actually asleep or will need another round of comforting before she drops off, and the last half-hour is spent tensely waiting for her quiet whimpers to turn into actual cries of hunger (or to disappear if she goes back to sleep for another hour). If she only sleeps for an hour at a time, that can mean no sleep for us parents.
- It is so easy to look at her and see that she’s doing her best to make sense of a difficult world. Somehow, that makes it easier to believe the same thing about myself and everyone else. I caught myself briefly holding my phone (embodiment of the internet) with the same emotional tenderness as I hold my baby, and in quick succession I thought “Whoops!” and then “Actually, this seems correct.”
In general, being a parent may figure into some future blog posts, especially ones in the updates category, but mostly you can expect this blog to go back to the usual, “mathematical look at everyday life” sort of post. It’s just that for me, everyday life now includes a baby.