At first, having a baby is as if someone kidnapped you and sent you to a country you've never visited before. Or put you in a spaceship bound for the moon. You're ripped from your old life and suddenly need a whole different skill set than you did before. Carseats—how to install them? Clothing—what do babies wear? Breastfeeding—really? Burping, diapers, onesies, baths: they're all mysteries, and those who know the secrets—like the nurses in the mother-baby unit in the hospital—are our new gods. We hang on to their every word.
Soon enough, it's the same world that I lived in before, only with a difference. Home starts out being 99% of our world, since it's the dead of winter. When we emerge, the heavy-as-lead carseat limits our jaunts to about ten feet from the car; the purchase of a foldout stroller that fits the carseat opens up our range exponentially. Yet curbs and stairs still stymie us. Previously unnoticed aspects of the landscape have new interest: handicapped accessibility; secret doors opening to luxuriously private lactation rooms; restaurants so chaotic that a crying baby bothers no one. The big local mall, which I had never fully appreciated before, provides us with our first extended stroll.
And at the center of it all is a wiggly, grunting, squirming, panting, chortling, wheezing, honking little creature. He reminds Mr. F and me of a Chris Ware cartoon: those jowly characters with old-man hair and bags under their eyes, even the children. Needless to say, we find him completely adorable.
In fact, any description of this experience would be incomplete without adding how very smitten we are. Everyone told us how hard, inconvenient, exhausting, and stressful parenthood would be; fewer mentioned the swoon factor. I guess it goes without saying, but it's something I never could have fully anticipated.