Sunday, September 03, 2006


I'd like to talk a little about raising infants. I won't talk about prenatal care, since there's little you can do for kids before they're born other than not smoke or drink, and given my history of experimentation with various substances, my telling pregnant women to stay away from smoke and booze would be like Marlon Brando telling people to stay away from pizza.

So let's start with birth, which usually occurs in a hospital or the back seat of a taxi. In the old days, the standard childbirth procedure was for the husband to drive his screaming wife to the hospital, where compassionate doctors would lovingly clunk her on the head, let the baby exit its unconscious mother, clean her and the baby up, put it in a room with all the other babies that were born in that hospital recently, and then, after the mother woke up, allow her and her husband, who had been suffering from such mental agony in the waiting room that he had developed an obsessive-compulsive disorder, to view their newborn child through a pane of glass. "Which one's ours?" they'd sometimes ask, looking wistfully at the cutest one. "It's that one over there," a nurse would reply, pointing to the one with big ears and a funny-shaped head. The parents would then turn their attention to it and exclaim, with parental enthusiasm, "Oh."

Then, sometime between The Twist and pet rocks, natural childbirth was invented. It came at a time when Eastern philosophy, meditation and "higher consciousness" were in vogue, and a guy named Lamaze figured he'd cash in on this anti-American fad by convincing middle-class pregnant women to pay him for classes in which they were told not to take drugs while an object the size of a watermelon passed through an opening that normally wouldn't accommodate a can of olives. This masochistic lunacy is still practiced today, if you can believe it, although it does have its good points. For one thing, the baby can be brought to its mother's breasts right after being born, which allows the two of them to bond (I'm referring here to the mother and her baby, not the mother's breasts). For another thing, the mother can be absolutely sure that the baby she's holding is hers, whereas in the old days, when she was unconscious during the entire birthing procedure, the hospital could have sent her home with an orangutan.

So how do we take care of this little bundle of joy? Let's start with feeding, and as we do, let us return once again to those good old days before our society was infected with body piercing, MySpace, crack cocaine and Regis Philbin. Clever companies convinced women not to breastfeed. Actually it didn't take a whole lot of convincing since mainstream people in our society have always been afraid of seeing certain body parts exposed, as evidenced by the fact that television programs can show people getting murdered and tortured but are forbidden to show a woman's nipple, the logic being that seeing areola tissue might be upsetting. Anyway, women bought baby formula, which was basically a mixture of cow's milk and chalk, and fed it directly into their babies' mouths. We now know that breastfeeding is way better for babies. Breast milk contains the right amount of proteins, fats, vitamins and antibodies. The act of breastfeeding helps the mother and child bond, aids in visual development as the baby looks up at its mother, and lowers the probability of its teeth coming in crooked. So women, if you plan to reproduce, please breastfeed your children. I wasn't breastfed and look how I turned out.

No matter what you feed your infant, she will process it and eventually produce, from the other end of her body, some rather disgusting material, much like Taco Bell does with the ingredients it receives. This makes it necessary for you to put a diaper on your offspring, unless you raise her in a barn, in which case the child welfare authorities will arrive shortly to take her to a less septic home and put you in living quarters where you can sleep and take a dump in the same room.

Disposable or non-disposable? Some of us are old enough to remember diaper services, which would come to our neighborhoods, take our soiled diapers, give us fresh ones, and then leave, flies swarming behind them. When disposable diapers were invented, people thought, "Hey, look! We don't need the diaper service anymore! Now we can throw our soiled diapers right into our garbage can! And leave them there until the next trash pick-up day! Not only that, we can contribute more items to our badly underused landfills!" And so millions of Americans switched from natural cloth to plastic models, using maybe 30 per week per child, while the diaper services went out of business and the people who used to work there got jobs in Congress.

Now we get to the really fun part of baby care: sleep deprivation. I've never understood why people use the expression, "I slept like a baby last night," unless they woke up every three hours crying. Just about every night you can count on getting interrupted by a hungry infant, which can be fed either directly from its mother's breast or from a bottle that the mother has previously filled using a breast pump. And so the mother or father sits or walks around half-awake, perhaps watching wee-hour programming such as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or a Rogaine infomercial, while an infant suckles at a breast or bottle. It would be so much easier if you could just hook the child to an intravenous tube for the first year of its life. In addition to maintaining a constant state of satiety, which would keep the child quiet, there would be additional benefits, such as that having to drag an IV stand around would prevent the baby from getting into trouble because it would not be able to travel outside a radius of about six feet. However, as I found out at my trial in 1992, this method of feeding is illegal.