Human Embryo — Source: PBS

Babyhood to Parenthood

I used to be a baby. So did you. So did the Rock. And Kim Jong Un, the Queen of England, Kanye West and a whole bunch of others.

It’s one of those taken-for-granted things that we share as humans (and the entire animal kingdom, for that matter).

We all used to be babies.

Yes, very profound, I know.

Hey look, it's baby Kanye West — Source: Huffpost

Hey look, Kanye West used to be a baby — Source: Huffpost

The part that astounds me most about it is how babies fit into a chain of events that stretches across the timeline of all life on Earth.

Think about it. The only reason you exist is because two people got it on, which resulted in two cells that divided into four cells, which continued dividing until you had a gazillion cells in the form of another human.

If we play it in reverse and reach further back, we have two humans who divide into four humans, which divide into eight humans, and so on, until we reach the millions of ancestors spanning the entirety of Homo sapiens, until our species molds into the one preceding us, which molds into another, and so on, until we arrive at that single-cellular level once again — to all of whom you owe your entire existence.

A broad view of your ancestry

A broad view of your ancestry

To put it bluntly, if only one of those millions of couples hadn’t gotten it on and cells divided along the way, you wouldn’t exist.

How cool is that?

Adding a branch

So in the spirit of multiplication and division, my wife and I continued this tradition that’s as old as life itself.

Two weeks ago, the results arrived. A baby boy we named Santiago, born at 8:36pm at a birthing center in Austin, Texas.

Just like that, we were thrown into a new realm of life humans called parenthood. Billions have been through it, and they often have lots to say about it, like how it changes their perspective on things, and how no one else can get it unless they’ve also been there.

I’ve always assumed they were right, meanwhile, acknowledging I had no idea what they meant.

Now I’ve got my little baby boy, and I’m starting to get a taste.

Here are my initial observations:

Nesting is real. Within weeks of finding out we were pregnant, our home took on an entirely new form. Birds might explore fields and gardens to gather their grasses, stems, and mud (and pieces of plastic for good measure), but we found ourselves at a gathering-ground that was dense with a wide array of human nesting materials, like sofas, rugs, and chairs: a strange place called IKEA. It’s not that the baby needed a sofa, rug, or chair — cuz you know, it’s a baby — but we were driven by a primal force that ordered us to gather. And gather we did. Throughout the entire pregnancy and to this day, we’ll often feel overcome by a sudden urge to clean and order our home, whether it’s 3pm or 3am. It just happens. For me, it’s a little reminder that, “hey, you’re just an animal like the rest of them.” And animals nest.

Nest built by male bower bird in Australia — Source: VitalForest.com

Nest built by male bower bird in Australia — Source: VitalForest.com

Modern birthing is weird. Most people opt for a hospital birth, which must seem so odd to the rest of the animal kingdom. “What are you guys doing in there? … What’s with all the metal instruments? Florescent lights? Needles? Seriously?”

To be fair, I totally get why we do it. We want the best for ourselves and our children, and the hospital seems to offer the most features: access to doctors, medicine and all kinds of equipment in case anything goes wrong. But what if nothing goes wrong? In that case, can’t we do like the giraffes, elephants, snakes, beavers, and the rest of them? It seems like another one of those situations where humans forget our animal nature. This is a process that billions have done with no medical assistance, and by now, it almost seems that we can’t imagine doing it any other way. It felt right to put our faith back into those natural abilities, all the while knowing a hospital was a short drive away, just in case we needed it.

Newborn African elephant — Source: bioGraphic

Newborn African elephant — Source: bioGraphic

Simple bodily functions become more obvious. Yeah, we all know it. We eat, drink, poop and pee, breathe, and that’s basically what living is all about. But with a baby, you get to start from scratch, strip away the extra B.S., and pay 200 times more attention to those few basic things than usual. Babies don’t judge. They don’t scheme. They don’t walk or jump around. They just drink, poop, pee, and breathe. Boil down our animal nature, and that’s what it’s all about.

Pandas eating — Source: Alain Jocard

Pandas eating — Source: Alain Jocard

The cliched sleep deprivation of new parents finally makes sense. I always thought parents were tired because they had finicky babies who woke them up all night. But the thing is, you’re supposed to wake them up every two to three hours to feed — counting from beginning of session to beginning of session — so we’re often waking the baby up more than he’s waking us up. Each feeding session might take an hour or more (at least for our tongue-tied baby who needs breastmilk + formula), so by the time that’s all done, you might have 45 minutes to an hour to sleep before the next session begins. It all makes sense now.

Japanese macaque nursing baby in snow, Honshu Island, Japan — Source: Toft Tours

Japanese macaque nursing baby in snow, Honshu Island, Japan — Source: Toft Tours

You forget things all the time. Where you put something, where you wrote something down, what time appointments are, where our heads are at, that kinda thing. I blame the sleep deprivation, and the new status quo of juggling a thousand things at once.

Things get interrupted all the — The first few days are pretty much about starting a bunch of things and then interrupting them with a bunch of other things that get interrupted with a bunch of other things that add up to a trail of unfinished things interrupted by unfinished things — half-done dishes, vacuum plugged in and laid out (for nesting purposes, of course), half a load of laundry just sitting outside the washer, and so on. Except for those bodily essentials, the feedings, the vitals checking, the diapers changing — those always get done.

You forget your own survival basics. Oh snap, I haven’t had water or food in five hours. Better do something about that.

Dad jokes are real. I don’t know why. They just start coming out. It’s weird.

A classic — Source: Superficial Gallery

A classic — Source: Superficial Gallery

Infant reflexes are adorable. When they get startled by a noise, the whole body will spring out like a flying squirrel and then quiver so gently until he’s resumed to sleeping baby position again. It’s utterly adorable.

You redefine what’s possible to do in a day. “Dust and wipe off counters” used to be the kind of task that would stress me out. Ha! My days are now enormous.

You hit walls. I know there were two or three must-do-by-today items I didn’t get to. But when “survival” is at the top of every to-do list, you learn to make some concessions.

Lots of heavy lifting. Car seats are heavier than I was expecting, and then you add a baby to it and start lugging him around, plus account for all those sessions of holding, feeding, and burping him throughout the day (on top of utter sleep deprivation), and it all starts to take a toll on the body. My back was shot by day two.

Alec Baldwin doing some heavy lifting — Source: Daily Mail

Alec Baldwin doing some heavy lifting — Source: Daily Mail

I might have discovered literally (and I literally mean that) the best thing in the world. It’s being sandwiched between my baby on my bare tummy and a heated sack of rice under a sore spot on my bare back. Little Santi is sprawled out like a frog, and I’m just watching him melt onto me while his legs twitch here and there, and it’s pure bliss.

It really gets you thinking about the big picture. I started this blog post to share a couple observations on parenting, and suddenly I’m pondering the entirety of life on Earth. What’s that about?

Thinking Man

Thinking Man

Anyways, that’s it. That’s what the parenting club is all about.

Plus one million other things. But hey, I’m hitting one of those walls I mentioned earlier, and I’ve gotta get back to this survival thing I’m working on.

Back for more soon!

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