So we have a new baby. Apparently if you stop blogging for two years, this happens. Lesson learned.
The new one is Harper. She was born a month early, an omen of what we believe to be a high-maintenance life to come. Her brothers before her demonstrated in utero the germs of their future personalities. Joshua contented himself in the womb with doing flips, foreshadowing his ability to self-entertain*. Jack tried to exit the womb via Jen’s hip socket, foreshadowing his earnestness and the general confusion with which he meets the world. Here’s an actual exchange from a couple of days ago.
Jack: Can the geese play ball with me?
Me: No. I’m sorry. Geese don’t know how to play ball.
Jack: Can the geese learn how to play ball?
Me: No. I’m sorry. Geese aren’t that smart. They can’t learn how to play ball.
[LONG pause. Minutes go by in silence.]
Jack: Can horses play ball with me?
Harper, the High-Maintenance One, sent Jen to the hospital twice, gave her preeclampsia, came a month early, was diagnosed with failure to thrive, developed a milk protein allergy, has a hemangioma on her ass, a tethered spinal cord, and a lump of fat in her spinal column. She has a team of doctors with specialties ranging from pediatric neurosurgery to pediatric dermatology, and a collection of medical bills the envy of insurance adjusters everywhere. She’s been awfully busy for someone who doesn’t have conscious control of her limbs yet.
Babies are like black holes which suck up the time, sleep, and energy of those around them. They’re fascinating to contemplate in the abstract, but kind of a pain in the ass to deal with. I guess. I haven’t been around a black hole in person, so I’m kind of just extrapolating based on our pretty nice vacuum cleaner. Harper isn’t unique in this respect. She sleeps 18 hours a day, but never long enough for us to get a decent night’s sleep. Which is awesome since we have to also deal with our seven-year old and four-year old who DO get a decent night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and energized, regardless of our energy level.
All of our kids have allergies. Jack’s are fairly easy to avoid — penicillin and bees. There are plenty of medications which are not penicillin, and there are plenty of insects which are not bees. Easy peasy. Joshua’s allergies are more numerous and more challenging to avoid. Shrimp, or at least shellfish are the worst. His face inflated like a car air bag after eating some lo mein noodles cooked with shrimp — not even the shrimp themselves. He had a similar reaction to some french fries at Captain D’s which were only fried in the same oil as shrimp. We speculate that actually eating a shrimp would make him look like a Peep in a microwave, possibly with the same end result. He’s also allergic to dogs, the outside, raw eggs, and something we haven’t identified in our attic.
Harper’s only known allergy so far is milk. Or milk protein. You don’t really get one without the other, but her gastrointerologist always uses the latter term, so whatevs. So far, the allergy has only manifested in her not being able to digest milk, forcing us to use some exotic formula which I assume is made of endangered Amazon trees and ground up mummies of Egyptian pharaohs, given how much a 12.6 oz. can costs. The expense aside, once we switched to this magic formula, she started gaining weight at long last.
It’s interesting to watch a baby eat. Somewhere we read that babies use as much as 25% of their energy just eating. If Mother Nature were trying to design a creature with the highest possible degree of infant mortality, she could not have done better than human babies. They can’t do a damn thing for themselves, and sometimes they fail utterly and completely at the only thing they’re supposed to be good at — eating. Jack remains a terrible eater. As a baby, he was just not capable of latching on and actually feeding like a normal baby. Today, as an active four-year old, he still defaults to slowly absorbing his food, not taking bites so much as he gradually advances food into his face hole until it melds with his saliva into a food goo which eventually makes its way into his gullet. Harper figured out the latch fairly early, sucked hard and often, and gained nearly no weight from it until we switched from the food she is literally genetically programmed to eat to the powdered gold in a can that no one should eat***. Babies are supposed to be sucking machines. Put something in their mouth and they’re supposed to suck it in. It’s survival. And yet they still sometimes just can’t. Or they can and their bodies don’t know what to do with it and instead just get cramps and make babies cry, like babies don’t already cry enough.
Harper has gained a lot of weight eating this stuff, enough that her doctors are pleased with her weight gain**** and that she can try nursing again (now that Jen has phased milk out of her diet). After six weeks of drinking exclusively from a bottle, we thought there was no way Harper would take to a real nipple again. There’s even a term for it — nipple confusion (something most teenage boys go through at some point, but different). Ready for disappointment and hoping for no more than a half-hearted suck or two, we got Harper ready for her first nursing session in over half her life.
And with tears in our eyes, we watched our baby girl take her first real life sucks, latch on, and take more and more and more as if she’d never stopped. That Miracle of Life crap is actually a thing. Seeing her eat and not suffer almost immediate stomach cramps was one of the most emotionally fraught moments I’ve shared with her in her short, short time in our lives. But there were no cramps or crying. Just us hacking Mother Nature’s crappy programming and our daughter sleeping peacefully after a good meal.
At least somebody’s sleeping.
*This ability comes with a price. While he can entertain himself for hours at a time, he can also talk at you with a frightening amount of energy and enthusiasm on topics ranging from mixed fractions to the superpowers possessed by each of his five stuffed dogs**.
**For reference, Baby Clifford is a math savant and knows “95% of math.” He can also fly. Puppy Clifford is an omniglot, capable of speaking any language. Tiny Clifford can do magic — not Gandalf the Gray magic, or even David Copperfield magic, but The Amazing Tony (star of children’s birthday parties in seemingly every town) magic. Floppy Clifford can keep Big Clifford from bothering Joshua. This is good, because Big Clifford’s power is bothering Joshua by playing tricks on him.
***This stuff smells atrocious. If fish lactated, it would smell like this after it had spoiled.
****This is the cruelest bait-and-switch for women that we have ever conceived. We spend a girl’s first year of life trying to get her to gain weight with abandon. We then spend every year of her life after this telling her she’s fat.