Observations: starting to track objects with his eyes; recognizes both his parents and smiles when smiled at; loves being outside…
Ever tried relating to someone in a womb?
It’s not so easy for me. He’s supposedly covered in lanugo, a strange and temporary hair. His eerie pictures from the ultrasound resemble a creature from a low-budget sci fi film. And didn’t he have a tail? Last week, his size was compared to a fruit I’ve never even heard of.
But then it was casually reported to me that he had the hiccups.
If you’ve lived in an apartment designed like mine, you may have forgotten (or willfully ignored) that when you sit down in the bathroom, there could be someone in the apartment next door doing the same thing you are. Someone only about three feet away from you, separated by a couple panels of drywall. Someone you may have never spoken to, but who spends a great deal of time within a stone’s throw of you. Someone you could almost pretend is not there, except for the occasional toilet flush or loud coughing attack.
This was my realization: that often, within a few inches of me is a living, hiccuping person who, through the walls of a couple layers of tissue and fluid, can hear the muffled sounds of my life. And if I listen closely, I can hear his.
He and I may not share lanugo, appearance, language, or much else yet, but we share practically the same space.
And we both get the hiccups.
If you’d like to marvel at the human body today, and if you haven’t recently eaten anything, you should watch this infographic-in-motion which shows how a baby gradually takes over all the space inside his lady host. He starts innocently enough, confined to the space already reserved for lady parts. But by just five weeks in, the baby has outgrown that area and begun to compress the lady’s organs. At 13 weeks, he’s moving around in there, and at 21 weeks, he has purchased all four railroads and built a hotel on Park Place. All the normal organ business, if there is such a thing, is now being carried out in an extremely constricted space. Despite this intrusion, mom just laughs and keeps going (though never at the same time for fear of incontinence.)
Babies take a lot of room and I have a sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t stop when the little thing clears out of my lady’s belly. And more, I’m afraid that I’m going to wake up one day soon and there will be so much baby-related paraphernalia that I won’t be able to find the baby itself and I’ll have to give up and settle for spending my days with a few boxes of diapers in a swing that’s a little too small for me.
It’s all those products that seem so daunting. And all of them branded with ridiculous names like Mommy & Baby-A-Go-Go or Kid Science Labs or Grow Free. Play Free. BPA Free. None of it sounds like things I even want in my periphery vision, let alone jabbing me in the soles of my feet as I investigate the mysterious crying sounds coming from somewhere inside my apartment.
I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what I really want to hear, that 99% of child-rearing can be accomplished with a handkerchief and a Swiss Army knife. Because I already have those things and I like the design better.
But there’s no ‘BPA Free’ sticker on the knife, so I guess I just reserve it for prying open new containers of baby products.
One of the realizations that has come with growing a baby is that I have taken on a new role in life. We’re talking top five life-defining roles. Right before this point, I’d pretty much figured out my roles in life:
After that come a whole bunch of things like
citizen, and other things that are extremely important but that I’m not about to put into any kind of order. Although, I suppose if I had to, I would. The three roles above do compete for my attention, so the order is intentional.
Ok, great. Now, where do I put
parent in there?
Complications: Unlike an ethical robot, I do not always succeed at keeping my various roles in the proper perspective. The order I’ve placed them in doesn’t describe every moment of my life, but it does help me realize when I’m doing it wrong. One more role adds multiple new ways of doing it wrong. But: my various roles do not necessarily compete. Sometimes they reinforce each other.
I know this because I believe that I’m a better pastor because I’m a husband. This is an individual thing; it does not mean all pastors would be better married. (There are people who are better pastors because they are recovering addicts, but that doesn’t mean that I should start using.) My hope is that being a parent will also make me better at my other roles. Even though it’s important in its own right. Even though it will compete for my time and attention and sleep. Too optimistic?
If so, I’ll have to start ranking again.