Birth Control

I love babies, I do.  I like holding them, cooing at them, making funny faces to make them laugh, I love when they reach up with their tiny hands to grab my nose— as far as I’m concerned, this is all good stuff.  But I also like to hand them back.  It’s not that I don’t want babies, it’s that after a little while, I don’t really know what to do with them.  They just sit there and stare at you, waiting for you to turn into a flashy gay pirate or something and it makes me anxious.

Give me a kid who can talk and walk and we’ll dance, play, maybe color, and I’ll probably end up having more fun than they will.  But hand me a baby, and after I run through all the weird noises and faces I know how to make (which are considerable), I will silently start to freak out.

This is important because a few days ago, a friend asked me to watch her 9-month-old daughter, Elie.  It’s even more important because I accepted without even thinking.

When I got to my friend’s apartment I was anxious but thought I’d dodged a bullet because Elie was sleeping.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and she’ll sleep the ENTIRE time.

Her mother gave me detailed instructions that included how to prepare the bottle (which I pretended was elementary information) and then she left me with the parting words, “Wait until Elie is screaming to go and get her.”

As if on cue, Elie started to make noise.

“Oh that’s nothing—she’s just talking.  When she screams, you’ll know.  Oh, and one last thing: start preparing the bottle when you hear her start to talk again, that way you can go into the room with it.  Otherwise you’ll be struggling to make the bottle, hold her, and she’ll just be grabbing for it and you’ll end up giving her a cold bottle.”

She handed me the list of instructions and the video baby monitor (which was both useful and slightly creepy) and I thought, ok, I think I can handle this.  I looked at her list:

1)      Prepare bottle

2)      Change clothes and diaper

3)      Bundle up, go on a walk

Easy, right?

I settled in to start answering some work emails and about five minutes later, I heard a heart wrenching wale coming from Elie’s room, through the monitor– Christ it felt like it was coming through the walls.  And instead of running to the room to rescue her from the lonely prison of her crib, I froze.  Was I supposed to make the bottle first or get her up first?  I better get her up.

I ran to the bedroom door, but as I opened it I thought, How am I supposed to make a bottle if I’m holding her?

I turned to go to the kitchen but the desperation in Elie’s screams stopped me.  I can’t just leave her like this. Maybe I’ll mix the formula and nuke the water, then go pick her up, then heat the bottle in the water.  Jesus this baby shit is hard.

As her cries grew ever-louder, sending needles through my heart and limbs, I ran into the kitchen, warmed the water and picked up Elie just as she was about to launch a full-on assault on her vocal chords.  After a brief negotiation on positioning—she wanted to grab my boob but had to settle for the bottle– we got through the feeding with little incident.

Now what?

I looked at the instructions—“change clothes and diaper.”  It doesn’t say anything about burping, so they must not need it at 9 months.

Forgetting about the diaper, I went straight to the changing of the clothes.

Elie’s mom had laid out a cute onesie and leggings and at least I knew enough to put the onesie on first.  Too bad Elie’s head is a tad too large for the neck opening in said onesie.

In my first attempt to get it over her head, the glorified unitard got stuck around her forehead, causing ungodly noises to come from her mouth.  I’m sorry!  Shit.  Did I hurt you?

I quickly removed the cloth and she was all smiles and giggles.  Good, no permanent damage.

On my second attempt, I tried putting it on starting from the back of her head with exactly the same result.  Shit!  She’s going to hate me.

Thinking the problem was clearly that the onesie was too small for Elie’s head, I tried another one…with exactly the same result.  So on my third attempt I went from the bottom up.

I put Elie’s feet through the neck hole and worked it slowly up her body until I had all arms, legs and head in the right place.  God I really hope your mom doesn’t have a nanny-cam.

Feeling very accomplished, I pulled on Elie’s leggings and lifted her in triumph.  And then I watched in horror as she spit up all over her onesie, the leggings, and my jacket.  I guess burping would have been a good idea.  Oh well, I’m pretty sure I was supposed to change her diaper before changing her clothes anyways.

Back to square one, I removed her clothes, changed her diaper, picked up the original onesie, stretched the neck until I thought it would break, and then pulled it over her head with ease.  Hopefully that’s not ruined.

I now had the choice of walking Elie to Fillmore Street, or staying in the apartment and running through my collection of noises until we both wanted to slit our wrists.  I chose the former.  We’ve got two more hours together Elie, and I don’t think I have two hours worth of material.

Unfortunately, the walk didn’t take that long and by the time we got back to the apartment, we still had a good hour to kill.  Now what?

I looked at Elie’s array of toys and tried to figure out how best to entertain her.  There were brightly colored blobs that looked like glorified chew toys, a plastic noise-making contraption that was apparently her “first computer”, a bouncy seat, and a mirror.  What do you actually do with this stuff?

We sat down and I threw just about everything I could in front of her.  We made noises on her “computer” (and when I say “we”, I mean “I”), I shook the blobs in front of her, we stared at ourselves in the mirror…but I couldn’t help thinking the entire time, This has to be so boring for her.  I’m bored and I’m the one who’s actually doing something.

After about 15 minutes, I gave up, turned on some music and gave Elie her first dance lesson.  And we were still dancing when her mom came home 45 minutes later.


  1. Not to put too fine a point on it, but imagine what a kid does to your writing productivity.

    I don’t have to imagine (we adopted a 10 month-old who is now three), but my advice is to get that first novel out of the way before the kid arrives.

    • Thanks for the comment! I’m sure you are right…but at the rate my dating life is going, I’ll have two books published before I have to worry about anything like that.

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