Newborns are actually pretty funny. They look reaonsably human, but as far as people go, they just don't work very well. They always look somewhat confused, like they made a wrong turn a ways back and weren't expecting to end up here. They can go from zero to miserable in the blink an eye. And their own bodies can betray them at every turn, flailing, gurgling and regurgitating without their permission.
Westley's arms distressed him almost immediately. He had to be swaddled at all times, lest he melt down over an unexpected self-slap in the face. He had to cry about pooping. The sound of our ultra-powerful, pet-hair-gobbling vacuum (which I'm sure can be heard a few houses away) soothed him to sleep. And when he slept, he was so deeply asleep that he had to be woken up to be fed...and then he'd suck a mouthful of milk and fall back asleep before swallowing, breathing peacefully with a stream of milky drool running down his cheek.
Westley was also a funny baby in how his presence made me feel. Raw and vulnerable, sure...but also ridiculously confused. Comically so. There were times when I honestly wasn't sure what he was doing in my house. I suddenly had a pet dude! I'd stare at him, silently asking, "Where did you come from, little man? How did you get here?" It was a joyful kind of crazy to constantly be reminding myself, "No, he's not an illusion. He's really my real baby." Rob and I looked at each other and said over and over, We made a baby, and laughed.
Because having a baby is funny stuff. It's huge and life-changing, and that part is serious business, but actually being with that new baby in those first days--really having the baby--is also beautifully, surrealy funny. If I had those brand-new baby days to do over again, I would laugh more. I would laugh at my tiny son, cooing after he sneezed as though to say, "Thank God that's out of my nose!" And at my husband, bringing me stale rolls with margarine and maple syrup in the middle of the night when I craved pancakes. And I would laugh at myself, trying desperately to make the mental shift to "mother" overnight and coming up short.
Those first days are the epitome of comedy in the oldest sense, with the baby as the happy ending to the story of pregnancy. But they're also the beginning of a fabulous, funny story about emotional gymnastics, improvisation, and fish out of water. And the sooner you let yourself laugh, the better.
Much love to Rebecca and Kristen, two women who can always make me laugh.