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Mike Tyson once said that everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face. The same might be said of having a baby. You get home, put your newborn in his carefully decorated baby room, and then the doody hits the fan. Literally.
You are at a disadvantage since your rational thought processes have stopped working. Cortisol levels in your brain went through the roof the moment the baby was born, you are terrified, elated, exhausted, un-showered and weirdly proud. Since you can’t think straight, you turn to others for advice.
Prior to Lev’s arrival, Michelle had bought an entire library of baby advice books, including “The Happiest Baby on The Block,” by Dr Harvey Karp. We were too bleary-eyed to read, so we watched a short video online, in which the author explains how to soothe a baby with the five S’s, the first of which is to swaddle your baby super tightly.
What Dr. Karp does not tell you is that at 5 days-old your baby is a well-greased reincarnation of Harry Houdini and can get his arms free within three seconds, even when you double swaddle that little f—er with two blankets and wrap him so tightly you’re certain you’re crushing his ribs.
No. He is fine and he has escaped.
Neuro-linguistic programming — the largely discredited 1970s-era pseudoscience of hucksters and car salesmen — works on my son.
This may have something to due with the fact that the nerves in your fingers don’t work anymore after sleeping no more than 23 minutes in a row for the last few nights, or that your eyes now have an opaque gauze over them, making it difficult to swaddle your son, or brush your teeth. Also Dr. Karp doesn’t warn you that when you un-swaddle him, he will pee on you and also on his mother if she happens to be nearby, and also on That Very Expensive Couch — which never mind, you had been meaning to get steam cleaned anyway.
And then the boy glances at you with that one little half open eyeball and all is forgiven.
At 3:00 a.m., I give up on swaddling and take him to the expensive pee-stained couch. He is nestled around me like a warm croissant. Occasionally, he smiles in his sleep, which makes no sense, because what is he thinking that makes him smile? He doesn’t even know what smiling is. But he does it and it makes me grin uncontrollably and kindles me from inside like a shot of bourbon.
He makes little peeping noises and I feel the warmth of his head, his ears pressed against my chest. I reflect that he is listening to me breathe, too, and feeling my heartbeat, and intuitively he is learning to breathe from me, so I slow down and relax for him.
For a brief moment he opens his eyes and I see a glimpse of liberation in those grey blue diamonds shining effortlessly behind limpid lids. For the first time in my life, I understand what it means to love another more than oneself.
I may not be able to swaddle, but I discover another trick: neuro-linguistic programming — the largely discredited 1970s-era pseudoscience of hucksters and car salesmen — works on my son. I don’t mean to brag but I just hypnotized Lev into thinking he is a burrito. He literally went from sobbing to laying there and pretending to be a bean burrito.
Silent. Delicious. Farty.
Sweet dreams, Lev. And welcome to Earth. We’re gonna be just fine.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.