With this . . . thing . . . growing in Sarah, keeping the Big Secret means nonstop paranoia. We feel like sophomores who have been smoking pot all afternoon, certain that everyone can tell we’re baked, and that everyone is whispering behind our backs. They’re not, not yet. But it does feel like everyone is talking about babies, which of course isn’t true. It’s just that, for the first time, I’m paying attention.
We had a big deck party and it was babies this and babies that all afternoon. Sarah and I tried hard not to make eye contact in fear that we would be found out. One guy, a creative director at DDB or something, told me he was looking to patent a strap-on vest for fathers filled with milk so they could “breastfeed” their babies when Mom wasn’t around. He called it . . . wait for it . . . “The Milkman.” I thought it was brilliant, until Sarah asked me if I would ever consider wearing one. (Editor’s note: not long after, the writers of Meet the Fockers had the same idea and put Robert DeNiro in one. Coincidence? Editor’s note #2: Boy, DeNiro’s career has really blossomed.)
Another friend told me she’d recently heard several women throwing up in her office bathroom one morning. “It was a Wednesday,” she said. “I thought, did I miss a party last night?” Then she learned that all of them were pregnant. “I’m so sick of all this baby stuff,” she said, taking a big slug from her wine glass. “Having a baby is the new black.” I couldn’t wait to tell my incontinent wife that she was on the cutting edge of fashion.
Like all fathers-to-be, I found myself watching new fathers, searching for signs of satisfaction and distress, taking mental notes.
So that’s how you hold the thing. Like a football.
OK, non-alcohol wipes are the way to go. Check.
Hmm, that car seat looks like trouble.
Ben and Ursina [Sarah’s brother and sister-in-law, respectively] have now been parents for five weeks. Lillian was born right around the time we conceived, and everyone agreed that the kid was pretty much delightful. Sarah was particularly smitten, sending presents across town every other day. I myself was happy, but between you and me: initially, I thought the kid was just another lumpy, screeching bundle of poo. And so I wasn’t terribly interested. Until Sarah’s tests came up positive, of course, at which point Lillian was instantly fascinating and beautiful and wonderful. And an endless source of mystery.
On Saturday we all made a trip to the beach, and Ben had Lillian swathed in so many towels you couldn’t even see her head. She looked like one of those massive burritos they sell in college towns. Somehow, a bold grain of sand managed to infiltrate the fortress of towels and attach itself to Lillian’s face. She began wailing. Ursina, enraged, took back her baby, while Ben begged for forgiveness, which Ursina did not grant easily. Ben may as well have punted Lillian into the lake. He spent the rest of the day alone.
The next day, while Ben and Ursina ran errands, Sarah volunteered for baby duty. She decided to read the kid “Owen,” a colorful book about the exploits of a neurotic little mouse-boy and his blanket. Right around the time when Mrs. Tweezers suggests dipping Fuzzy in vinegar, Lillie began to wiggle with such excitement that she got a paper cut on her toe. It began to bleed a little, and though Lillie didn’t cry, I worried for her safety. Sarah’s safety.
When Lillie’s parents got home, I figured it was curtains for Sarah. To my surprise, when Sarah showed them the blemish later, neither of them seemed to mind.
My confusion was complete. A grain of sand on Lillian’s face yesterday rates a code red, and earns Ben the cold shoulder for six hours, and a bloody toe today doesn’t even register at all? What gives?
Then it dawned on me. The sand incident was the father’s fault; the toe massacre wasn’t. Aunts are forgiven such things. Husbands are not.