In the latest “Love, Recorded,” Matt takes on the new year, best of lists, worst of lists, and the rash, while wondering about the changes past and to come. Baby Grace has a big year ahead of her.
We have put up the fourth side of the crib. For a while, the crib was pushed up against our bed with the adjacent side open, so that her mattress and ours made one J-shaped sea. My wife could reach out and comfort our baby in her sleep, when Grace spit out her pacifier or shook with nightmares. Our baby is a pacifier baby. She needs to suck to soothe herself, and she hasn’t had a nipple since month one. The nipple has been a source of much angst to all of us.
“It feels like the crib is so smaller,” Cathreen says as I close it off. The crib looks like a cage. We hate to be separated, but Grace keeps rolling around, widening a gap between our mattresses, as if teasing the abyss. “She’s not a careful baby,” Cathreen says.
We’ve put up bumpers in the crib like at a bowling lane, because that is how Grace uses her head. She flings it around at imaginary pins. I never knew about these bumpers until we had her. We have heard not to use them. We have heard to use them. They say a lot of things, people, the internet.
When we put up the fourth bumper, we can no longer see her from our bed. She can’t see us. That night she is still up at 3 AM, crying. We know how sensitive she is to change. My wife is up with her, and I keep waking. “Please,” Cathreen begs. She takes away the bumper so they can see each other.
Online, people are posting list after “best of” list. In our house, it has been the year of the rash. Our best of list is: Grace. Our worst of list is longer. Rashes are at the top. Before pregnancy, I never knew people could be allergic to the cold. I never knew the things a body inside a body could cause. It’s a good thing I didn’t, for procreation’s sake.
Now Grace is the one with the rash, red splotches with little white pinpricks in the middle, all over her back and butt and legs. She smiles and holds her feet up as we check. I tell her how helpful she is. She likes when we stick up our thumb in her face and say, “Good job!” We have a list of things that make her laugh.
Cathreen freaks out. “My poor baby,” she says again and again. She seems worried that I’m not so worried. For some reason, Grace’s rash hardly fazes me. She’s happy. Her temperature is normal. She has no other symptoms. At other times, I worry constantly about her, but what worries me is seeing her unhappy. When she cries, I get a headache. When she frowns, my neck hurts. I fear the age where children become disappointed by their parents.
The pediatrician’s office says we can make an appointment the next morning. The nurse says it’s probably nothing. We wonder if it’s a food allergy, or Cathreen’s cold allergy, passed on through birth. Grace has been eating new solid foods. There’s always something new and dangerous.
There is a day I get home from work and Cathreen is on the internet reading about New Year’s, new years. She asks me what my resolutions are. She says for 2011—we are having trouble with time. I want to sell my novel. I want Grace to be happy. I don’t want to fuck anything up. The potential of things. What worries me is that Grace was born perfect, and any flaws that come up will be on us.
Our 2011 has been devoted to baby. It’s been so long since the baby has not been the bulk of our lives. I see now how pregnancy trained us. How the various ills and anxieties prepared us to think about the baby constantly, to put her first, her health and development. The next year will be like ten years. Grace will learn to crawl, to walk, to speak. We will have to baby-proof much of the house. She will need friends, play dates, new toys and books and stimulation.
Grace has this toy musical station where she sits in a kind of pouch and stands on piano keys and can touch other piano keys with her hands or look at herself in the mirror. When we got it, she kept one hand in the pouch, nervous. She could barely touch the keys with her tiptoes. Now she can practically walk across it, turn herself and reach the microphone rattle. It’s been a week.
Some days, Cathreen flips through the old photos and asks me to look at them with her. I say I’ve seen them already. I point to our living daughter. But she shows me pictures of when Grace was born, how different she looked, her cheeks as big as another baby’s head. “She looks so mature now,” Cathreen says. The other day, we took Grace to a pizza restaurant and the guy at the counter asked if he should cut the slices small enough for the baby.
She changes so much so quickly—of course she does, you think. But really, she changes so much so quickly. Looking at the photos is like looking at another baby. A baby baby. Our baby seems already an adult.
We are learning the same lessons every parent learns. Other parents try to teach you, but some things cannot be taught. How much you miss. How much you miss your baby even when you have her in your arms.
“Watch her,” Cathreen says as I work on various projects I’ve agreed to, never able to refuse. “We have to put her in our heads.” Next year, all I want is to remember everything.
–photo Flickr/Rochelle, just rochelle