Sadly, dad's main role is doodie duty

Posted: Sunday, May 07, 2000

When people ask me, ``Dave, what's it like to have a newborn baby in the household?'', I immediately answer: (nothing).

This is because I am sleeping. I spend a lot of my day in an unconscious state, because my two-month-old daughter, Sophie, does not believe in sleeping at night. She feels that the nighttime hours are best used for making loud, inexplicable, Exorcist-style noises. At 3:30 a.m., her bassinet will suddenly start shaking like an unbalanced clothes dryer and erupt with a wide range of squeaks, gurgles, chirps, snorts, snuffles, grunts, etc. It does not sound like there's a lone baby in there. It sounds like the entire Barnyard of the Demons. (Which would be an excellent name for a band.)

Sophie routinely makes noises that cannot be explained by the known laws of physics. Recently some friends came over to admire her, and we had her all dressed up in a cute little baby outfit featuring little bloomers with cherries on them, and while everybody was gathered around admiring how sweet and delicate and innocent she looked, Sophie - who is, physically, no larger than a standard pumpkin - cut loose with a series of massive, resonating, bloomer-inflating bodily blasts that you would think could be produced only by a 350-pound man who had just won a burrito-eating contest. If I had not been holding her firmly at the time, I believe she would have propelled herself, missile-style, through the ceiling.

``How ... cute!'' our friends said, as the aroma wafted around us, fog-like.

I'm not saying that all Sophie does is make noises. As a brand-new human being with an inquisitive mind, she is also exploring the mystery and magic of the world around her, by which I mean she is trying to get her hands completely into her mouth. This is her primary goal in life. Her arms and legs constantly wave around in a random manner, and every now and then, when a hand happens to land on her mouth, she becomes excited and starts sucking on it like crazy. But then, without warning, the arm yanks the hand away, which makes Sophie VERY angry. If she ever finds out who is operating her arms, she is going to give that person a piece of her mind, if she ever figures out how to talk.

Yes, it's an exciting time in our household, a time of learning and growing and having plastic bags of frozen breast milk in the freezer next to the Tater Tots. In our family, we strongly believe in breastfeeding, which has many benefits, the main one being: Men cannot do it. Not that I don't contribute! I'm always giving my wife useful breastfeeding pointers, such as: ``Time for you to breastfeed her!'' And: ``Time for you to breastfeed her again!'' And: ``I would gladly breastfeed her, but, tragically, I am a man.''

(Actually, I suspect that men CAN breastfeed; it's just that, in the entire history of the human race, no man has ever actually tried.)

I do change diapers. A LOT. It is a known baby fact that babies put out far more material than they take in; physicists now believe that babies account for most of the matter in the universe. If you were to stack up all the diapers I have changed in just two months, one on top of the other, you would never be invited to a party again for the rest of your life.

Our house would smell like a malfunctioning sewage plant, except that we have a product called the Diaper Genie, which encloses diapers in a long, odor-proof plastic bag. As a parent, I believe this is the greatest of all humanity's inventions, including lowfat Cheez-Its. You take your diaper, you put it into your Diaper Genie, you twist the plastic bag, and, as the French say, Voila! (Literally, ``You are not smelling any more the poop.'')

When your Diaper Genie fills up, you open the bottom and remove an amazing, 15-foot-long, segmented, caterpillar-like Chain of Doodies. We've been throwing these away, but it seems to me we ought to be turning them over to the U.S. Air Force as a potentially devastating military weapon. If we were to merely THREATEN to drop one of these babies on Iraq, Saddam Hussein would break his fingers dialing the Surrender Hotline.

Another excellent item of modern baby technology is the battery-powered swing. When your baby is in a bad mood because she cannot get her hand inside her mouth, you put her in this swing and let it rock her gently into a blissful state of suspended baby animation lasting long enough that sometimes you can actually take a shower. This device works so well that I think we should make a larger version and use it to calm hyperactive adults, starting with both major candidates for president. If you're a psychiatric professional who would like to explore this idea, let's schedule a meeting. I want to sleep on your couch.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.



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