A Good Baby Day

7.14.08 Baby's 9th Week


"What a good baby," people said at the barbecue we recently attended. They held and rocked him and he smiled, cooed, and fell asleep in their arms. Meanwhile, we consumed the most delicious food--people brought tasty snacks, and the hosts made awesome lamb tacos. I fed Leo in a lawn chair while chatting with the hostess, then fed him again later in the living room while Aaron drew some mazes with a young, bored guest on the couch.

The host made a wonderful punch, which I tried to enjoy in moderation. I've read that drinking while you're feeding the baby allows for time for the alcohol to be metabolized by the next feeding (and it won't yet have entered your milk during the first feeding); I figured I'd probably spill all over the baby if I tried that, so I enjoyed my drink just after Leo had his. It was the most relaxed yet festive day, and it was a very good baby day. I wanted to stay at that barbecue forever.

Before we left, the hostess ran upstairs and returned with a little piece of yellow notebook paper. It was a log of a day with her newborn daughter (now a charming 11-year-old). "9:25," it read, "nurses for 3 minutes, fusses, passes gas. 9:35, sleeps. 9:45, wakes and cries. Nurses for 5 minutes, cries..." Minute by minute, until 11 pm, the day unfolded on this piece of paper as a testament to how very, very long, and hard, the early days of caring for a baby are.

I was so grateful to see this artifact. It reminds me that Leo is not a bad baby, not a startlingly unhappy baby, not the most worrisome and inscrutable being that ever there was. It means we're not the only ones who have wondered if we're starving the kid, if it's possible that gas could really cause so much angst, or if our child is already overcome by existential despair. Like morning sickness and birth and breastfeeding, the alarming daily activities of a newborn took me unawares. Are all parents in on some big dupe, keeping the dark truths hidden so that the species will continue?

It's more that we live too separately to witness the most trying moments of each other's lives, and most of us, no matter how eloquent we fancy ourselves, just can't communicate what it's all like, any more than you can explain how worth it, how miserable-yet-negligible, those early challenges are. Already I've gained perspective on the blur of the most sleep-deprived times, and I've even begun to think that Leo might like a sibling some day. As far as I can tell, the human species is in no danger of extinction whatsoever.

Cantaloupe Salsa

Serve this crunchy salsa with chips or as a topping for grilled fish or chicken tacos.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

1 cup diced cantaloupe

2 small cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and diced

1/2 cup diced jicama

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/4 cup minced cilantro

1/4 cup minced fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced, or to taste

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

Combine all the ingredients and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.