Newborns are assholes.
It may take a bit to let yourself accept this as fact. But there’s no getting around it.
Yes they look unbelievably cute in that thing. Yes they are heartbreakingly precious. Yes you would feed any part of yourself to all the hungry things † to save any part of them pain. Yes they redraft your moral constitution and recompose the melody of the sun. Yes they rattle tectonic plates and lay waste to useless civilizations. Yes they look unbelievably cute in that other thing.
But make no mistake. They’re dicks.
Dig, if you will, a picture.
Of an immense man seated at your kitchen table. His face unfettered by muscle. His belly an offshore bank. He smacks a toothless gob. He farts with a velocity and force that, someday, tenured robot linguists will translate as glee.
Grapefruits of gas escape capsule out his ass. Genetically engineered individual serving watermelons of gas.
He’s world-class at the why-me whinge. In a tone or volume just below the threshold of pain. Cries over milk. Spilt or still housed in the mammary factories he inherited.
Also, he uses milk as a metaphor for EVERYTHING. For being a nip cold or having his chub leg pinched. For hiccups or the humiliation of reincarnation. For unreasonably wavering political positions or uninvited dogs licking his toes.
He sprawls on the flailing floor. He’s the hamfisted operator of every available extension.
He’s unconscious of the fact that he’s far too drunk. Slaps you with exaggerated gestures. Head-butts you when he mismanages the spin.
You offer him food.
He chugs from giant vase glasses. Eats like a sex starved man who is horrible at cunnilingus. Lets the liquid dribble unbound. A little regurgitant bubbles past his lips. A wet burp. Expels gas as carefree as an octagenarian taking a kindergarten nap.
Looks at you unblinking.
Has a funny little smirk like the backstage to every joke ever made. You feel for an unquantifiably long yet brief second that you’re in on it.
But instead he vomits. A lot. On your hard-earned fashion sense. On your ability to fucking care about your haircut.
And then he shits his pants.
You know this because he happens to be leaning against you, and you feel a warm wet balloon flower and deflate against your thigh.
And there he sits. With his dumb disarming pleasant angel fat face.
Waiting for you to deal with it all without ever being conscious of the fact that you. Are dealing. With it. All.
Newborns are miserable assholes.
Their cries are pterodactyl drive-bys. They have unrealistic, uninformed opinions. They always blame you for everything solely because you are the first person they see.
And on top of that bowl of spaghetti is the fact that Nature suggests you react to their cries like you’re running from a lion. Or blindly punching a smiling shark in the nose.
You know why you hate flying with infants? †
Because when they scream on the plane your brain screams at you to save them. In case their parents are frozen or just done got ate.
Because Nature is smart enough to figure out a way to make us care about useless tiny loud assholes. And not leave them behind when we cross the ice-flows or move to other planets. Because survival of the species, and stuff.
And you know how that impulse is manifested?
It starts as an amygdala explosion in the brain case. † And because there is no immediate tiger, that explosion hits the blast walls you’ve spent your life building (well, some of you). Fire boils water. Water turns to steam. Steam streams out your nostrils and pores as I-hate-when-people-bring-their-kids-to-parties.
That impulse, for a new parent, is a more direct maze.
You’re new to the experience, so you aren’t able to properly divert the emotional flood to your usual creeks and ponds. And your fear is there ALL OF THE TIME. Because oh yeah the little bastards can stop breathing AT ANY TIME for NO FUCKING REASON.
You never sleep. So your brush-it-off glowing personality is compromised. You’re basically a boxer at the end of a fight, being interviewed in the ring.
Even if you’re really good at not giving a shit, you don’t have the option of not giving a shit.
Because every time that baby cries you have to throw yourself on a grenade. For a fraction of a second. An infinite number of times, every day. You have to fight off your desire to fight-or-flight that tiny iddy biddy widdle bun.
It’s understandable to want to shake the baby (don’t shake the baby).
I am a fuck up. † And one of the benefits to being a fuck up, at times, is the ability to live honestly. To admit shitty things about yourself to yourself, and then never change them.
So believe me when I tell you that when my newborn cries I should be put on the shortlist for sainthood.
I patiently try every tiny turn of the environmental nob to salve his woe. Mood lighting? Check. Dramedy, not comedrama? Check. Blanket on and off? Sure. Cuddled, but securely alone? Bien sûr. Less baby Mozart, more Electric Wizard? † It’s your world, kid.
But also believe me when I tell you. When my newborn cries. I can understand babies in baskets pushed downstream.
I can understand dropping everything and running blindly in any damn direction.
I can understand why we make stories with monsters that eat them.
I understand the flash pan thoughts of a solar flare.
Every single time.
Newborns are insufferable assholes.
But chances are, you’re probably one too. (Not all the time. We’re complex creatures, after all. But still.)
So here’s a quick cheat list I’ve found helpful for dealing with the first two months.
Use only the methods of torture for babies sanctioned by the Geneva Convention.
(Yes, the asylums of the 1950’s are alive and well in a land called infancy.)
Dress them like a reality TV star congressman. Style their hair as though they’re prepping for the red carpet of a suburban strip mall strip club.
Take lots of pictures. And hang them on the information highway. For later.
Before handling the baby, do your best imitation montage from Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno. †
(Or better yet, try to channel young Arnold Schwarzenegger. † That dude created seventeen dialects using only fractional twitches of his quads and delts.)
Do multiple reps and sets. Exhaust the muscles that might be inclined to shake things.
Growl. Lace the lyrics of Itsy Bitsy Spider with profanities. Tell your newborn the truth about religion, jobs, and marriage.
You have a small window where they won’t remember a thing you say.
Chant. Hold in your mind the sense memory of hugging the last pet you didn’t know could die. Improvise having a beer with your grandmother when she was your age.
Or, if you’re the type that needs structure – be paranoid that that spot in the corner. With whom your newborn chats constantly. Is probably ancestral ghosts or aliens or inter-dimensional beings forming disciplinary committees about your every move.
And, at every opportunity – tell that lizard brained fat ball that all is love. That the seas roll with love. That love rattles the leaves from trees.
Because even if you don’t. Maybe the little fools will actually believe.
Newborns are without a doubt egocentric assholes.
Sometimes they accidentally smile or chuckle, and you have a better idea of the composition of meteors.
Sometimes when they fall asleep nestled at your chest, they let slip a sup of nothingness.
Every day, you get a free doctoral class in the calculus of your terrified core.
Every day, the center of this chaos no longer has to be you.
From now on you know. As much as anyone knows. How your Mom. Dad. Felt with you.
And you will find it is enough. To have just this.