First draft of a new magazine article

Working on a new magazine article – any comments?

By all accounts (and by ‘all accounts,’ I mean mine), our first-born daughter Suzie was a great hospital baby. She did everything she was supposed to do. She even did it in the right order.  Eat, poop, sleep, eat, poop, sleep, repeat ad nauseum etc, etc. 

Every now and again she would pop off one of those big old slow and tired “I can’t believe I’m really finally here” yawns. Sometimes she would crinkle up the corners of her tiny little mouth what looked to be a big smile. The twinkle in her eye that came alongside the smile says “”y’all really think that I’m smiling, but the truth is my tiny little belly is full of enough gas to heat a block and a half of row homes in Queens New York for the whole month of January.” 

She never really cried or fussed or anything like that at all. Everything was as ordered up for and all perfectly normal. I think it is important at this point to offer one important clarification about “normal.” A big part of becoming a dad means that your view of “normal” radically changes. Sleepless is normal, broke is normal, projectile vomit is normal, etc. I think you get the point.

I guess since everything was so easy at the hospital, we maybe we got a bit over confident.  But how could it not be easy there. At the hospital they bring you trays full of food, at regular times, just ready to eat. At the hospital they give the baby all her baths, and wrap her up just right in those tiny soft little blankets. At the hospital, if you want to rest, you just tell the nurse and they say, “Of course, you gonna need your rest. We’ll take the baby to the nursery. You just ring when you are ready fro her to come back.” Important hindsight realization here – when they said you’ll need your rest, that wasn’t exactly right. I needed my rest, your rest, the parking lot attendants rest, and half of

Williamson

County

’s rest.

The biggest thing about the hospital is that connected standard order to every one of those buttons that you push. Kind of like room service healthcare.

Beep.

“Yes how can I help you?”

“Do you have anymore of those orange popsicles?”

“Yes I do. Would you like one?”

“Sure…hey actually do you have two? My wife might like one too.”

“I’ll be there in just a minute.”

And then just a minute later, there she was. Two orange popsicles.

“Ohh, you know what. My wife is resting now. I’ll just take both of those since you came all the way down here. Thank you.”

They caught on to the two popsicle trick pretty quickly. On the second day we were there I almost got kicked out of the hospital for crank calling the nurses station.

Beep.

“Yes, how can I help you?” asked the nice nurse.

“Is your refrigerator running?” I queried.

With a puzzled tone she said, slowly,” Yes I’m sure it is.”

“Then you better catch it.”

Click.

But beyond my amusement, the buttons really did serve a purpose. Suppose you have a real question or maybe something just looks funny or smells funny. You just press that button and then like the 101st Mounted Cavalry, (unless you have called down too many times and asked if they had “Prince Albert  in the can?”) there is a stampede of scrub-dressed people more than ready to help with anything you might need. 

So in hindsight, with the delivered food and the baths and the nursery and the button, how could everything not have been great?

It seems to me that perhaps a better use of our limited national baby rearing resources would be to have one of those button-pushing things at the house.  At the hospital if I had a question I could just wander out in the hallway and look confused and someone was sure to stop and ask if I needed anything. At the house, I wander out into the hallway looking confused and I am liable to stand there fro hours. Even now, all three of the kids, my wife, and even the dog would just wander by without so much as lifting an eyebrow.

But since Suzie was so great at the hospital, and the fact that she slept like a baby throughout her often treacherous first car ride home, we thought “Hah, this parenting stuff is a piece-of-cake.” But then reality reared its fuzzy blond haired with a soft spot on top head.

The very minute (and by minute I mean nano-second) we walked through the front door of her new home Suzie turned from “perfect hospital Suzie” to “very upset at home Suzie” and she began to cry. And cry. AND CRY.

It was not one of those “wah-wah” I am a little bit uncomfortable cry. Nor was it a “boo-hoo, I am out of the safe secure environment that I have known for the past nine months and now everything is loud and bright and scary” cry. But to say that it was a “yawooo, wahee, ahhhhhhh” cry telling us that she was a bit unsettled but that at some point down the road the unsettled would settle would really have to be a significant understatement. No, this was clearly a “blood curdling, asteroids are headed straight for planet Earth if there is a God in the universe why in the world would He ever deign it acceptable for these two knuckleheads to take me home with them” cry.

That was her cry…of desperation.

We tried walking, talking, singing, dancing, holding, not holding, holding again, nursing, shaking toys, playing music, and walking…again. All of that happened in the first nine minutes we were home.  After those 540 horrific seconds we were done. Out of tricks. Completely played out. At the end of the proverbial parental rope. It was simply time to face the music. We were failures as parents. The good news fro you is that this was just the first of about 47,000 times I had this feeling. In the first month.

So as best as I could tell, we had two options at this point. Option “A’ was to take her back where we got here. Good thing there was not a liberal return policy at the hospital because as I came to realize in discussions with my attorney, returning her was not really a viable option. Option “B,” or as I called it then, “the point of no return,” was to try again and just hope that somehow we’d get better at this stuff.

For the next five hours the world went into super slow motion mode. We walked and talked and sang and nursed (and by we, I mean my wife, for the nursing part, that is). And Suzie cried. And she wailed. And screamed some more. It was a deep, horrible, mournful sound. Much like the sound I imagine a frozen wolverine with its leg caught in a rusty bear trap on a

North Dakota

January night would make.

Then when we could take no more of the wolverine wailing we picked up the phone to call the pediatrician.  Again, another very important clarification.  When I say “we,” I mean my wife, as “we” are not allowed to talk with the doctor on the phone anymore. Turns out that over the past few years it has since become painfully apparent that “we” tend to miss small yet significant details that could possible be important to the doctor. Little things like ‘her head is on fire,’ or ‘there seems to be some sort of greenish fungus ooze coming from her belly button.’ Those were the small things that “we” would miss.

So while Mommy is on the phone with the doctor, Suzie and I are still walking around and around and around and around. As we walk, I am trying to listen in to the conversation, feeling it important to periodically offer small new updates. As if the information I offer is not abundantly obvious.

“You know, she’s still screaming.”

And then a moment later, “Hey, I thought you might want to make sure the doctor knows she’s still got that whole wolverine thing going.”

And then finally, “you may want to see if he knows anything about parental deafness, because I think I am starting to lose the hearing in my right ear.”

Ten minutes later, after she and the good doctor have walked through every possible scenario my lovely, exhausted, exasperated bride comes over and leans against the corner of the desk where I am now sitting. Because while she had finished up the phone call, I was multi-tasking.  I spent the last 10 minutes on line looking for other possible solutions to appease our small shrieking one.

I think that this actually is a “new-generation” parenting skill that is way overlooked in all those classes. In addition to all of the regular “what to look for/when to call in the doctors” type of stuff, there really ought to be an elective class entitled “How to quickly access WebMD while balancing a wolverine screaming child on your shoulder.” To me, that should really be right up there with breast-feeding, car seats and the rest.

And so in the midst of the noise and the chaos and the frazzlement, my wife has a still, but puzzled look on her face. So I said, “Well, what is it? I’ll bet she’s allergic to the carpet…”

And with “the look” I just stopped. Suzie didn’t, but I did.

And in the quietest, saddest voice I had ever heard her use, she sighed, “The doctor said, that ‘sometimes baby’s cry’”

Over the din of wolverine-tin-tin I could barely hear her.

“The doctors said what?”

“Sometimes baby’s cry.”

Huh…26 years of medical school and that is the best he can come up with.

“Sometimes baby’s cry? No traumatic car seat disorder, no sububurban adjustment malady, just ‘sometimes babies cry?’ “

           I moaned with the smallest hint of desperation.  “So what are we supposed to do with that golden nugget of information?”

What are we missing here? As the analytical Dad I knew there had to be a better answer than that. We’ve read the books, seen the videos, and listened to the tapes. We even went to very one of the parenting classes. I can’t recall even one time where someone said, “Sometimes baby’s cry.”             

            “So after that groundbreaking bit of medical discovery, what was the advice from brilliant Dr. Welby?”

“He said to walk and sing, and nurse, and try to relax.”

“Oh! Of course, relax.”

At this my blood pressure moved somewhere close to the boiling point of mercury, “We’ve been relaxing for the last six hours. If I get anymore relaxed and I am going to explode!!!!!”

And so it continued. For another seven hours and 42 minutes we walked and sang, and tried to nurse, and cried.  And by cried I mean all three of us at this point. And we walked and cried, and cried and walked some more.

And then, finally, at 11:26 pm CDT on April 28, we reached the end of ourselves, and admitted that we needed a higher power.

So together the three of us resolutely walked, well actually two walking with one catching a ride and wolverining all the way, to the den. We knelt to our knees at the ottoman altar, made a final reassuring glance to one another, and…

“Are we doing the right thing?” she said.

“Yes absolutely,” I confidently replied.

And with that we begged for help. We picked up… (dramatic pause, please)… the “

Nan

phone.”

Nan

is my mother-in-law. Her actual name is well…. I can’t exactly remember. The grandchildren that came before ours stared calling her

Nan

. I think we are to the point now where her driver’s license says ‘

Nan

.’ No last name or anything. Just

Nan

.

“Hello,

Nan

. Suzie is crying. A lot”

“What kind of cry?”

Nan

asks.

Aha…we didn’t know there were different kinds. I thought we were on to something here. I asked my wife, “Did Doctor ‘Sometimes Baby’s Cry’ ask that question?” She ignored me.

“Uhm, it’s a loud, wounded wolverine kind of cry.”

“Oh. I see. I’ll be right over” And with that

Nan

hops in the Nan-mobile and heads to our home.

Moment’s later

Nan

strides in confidently, quickly glancing around the room to survey the disaster at hand. She takes precious little (screaming) Suzie, snuggles her close to her chest, holding the quivering angel underneath the “Super-Nan” cape and within a second, in literally just the time it takes for her last few wolverine whimpers to leak out of her small mouth. In a few more seconds, Suzie is completely quiet and with a few more breaths, fast asleep.

And then it was quiet. And it was good.

We looked at each other, at

Nan

, and at sleeping beauty, and immediately knew, that Suzie knew, that we did not know what we were doing. This was one of the first of about a million (and by a million I mean about a billion) times when I would realize that I had no idea what I was doing, and that this little persons life hung in the balance.

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Posted on March 11, 2007, in Dad stuff. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Jeff, first of all, please allow me to say that I find this article to be funny as all getout. I can’t imagine there being anyone who reads it that wouldn’t think the same— Excellent job.
    You have a couple of minor typos and misspellings that need to be addressed before submitting it.
    “I needed my rest, your rest, the parking lot attendants rest,” should be “parking lot attendant’s” or “parking lot attendants'”, depending on whether you’re talking about one or more than one attendant.
    “Sometimes baby’s cry” should be “sometimes babies cry”.
    Were you not submitting this to a magazine, I wouldn’t nitpick. And I realize an editor would pick up on the very minor mistakes and correct them. But it really looks more professional this way.
    All in all, I give this article an 11 out of 10. Excellent job. I hope it gets published.

  2. I should have used better spacing so my correction looks clearer— “parking lot attendant’s” or “parking lot attendants’ “. The apostrophe and quotations ran together when I posted that.

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