The baby was wrapped to her front with a green sarong covered with turtles. After a day of shopping for a stroller, clothes, diapers, pacifier, bottle, and other essentials that she had seen babies on TV having, they had morphed into a moving plait of woman, baby, and cloth. They had dropped off their goods at home, and were now out on another mission. She could feel the baby’s warmth but not its weight. Paula’s walk became a parade of adorations. Multiplicities of weightless warmth. Never had she felt so publicly admired, so conventionally righteous. Babies were the new power suit. It was easy to forget it wasn’t really about her. Though it should have been about her! The baby had barely been in this world, what could it have already done to earn admiration?
By the time they got to the library, Paula was glowing with the validation of strangers. She was beginning to feel relatively normal again. It was nice to be in the library. Paula felt she had something in common with the people around her, strangers who for some reason were all propelled to the same place at the same time. She was after childcare books, someone else after a feng shui guidebook, someone else the fifth instalment of the Love in Area 51 series.
The childcare books were in the 300s but she found herself gravitating to her favourite non-fiction section, the 130s. In the Dewey Decimal system at least, the paranormal precedes language, technology, science, law, and medicine. The mere placing of ‘occultism and paranormal phenomena’, as the label read, in non-fiction was romantic. Humankind – walked on the moon but still couldn’t quite pin down ghosts. Not fiction.
Paula took a book off the shelf. The Prophesies of Nostradamus. She turned to a random page and in a whisper, read to the baby. ‘One day, two great masters will be friends. The truth will consume the lady. Poison hidden in the heads of salmon. Noise, a human monster, purged by expiation. Hmm.’ The baby stared ahead, oblivious. Paula put Nostradamus back on the shelf. ‘Let’s go find your books, then.’
The Tiger Parent Guidebook/How to Stop Your Inner Tiger/The Idle Parent/The Helicopter Parent/The Unicellular Parent/You Can’t Give Vodka to a Baby/Y2K and Your Baby/Babies for DUMMIES/Smart Child, Smartphone/Eco Baby/Ego, Baby/The Dolphin Baby/The Forty Year Old Baby/Help! My Baby is Cuboidal!/Call Me Mum!/So, You’re A Mum/Where’s Dad?/What to Expect When You’re Expecting/What to Expect, Sorry/25 Baby Names/1000 Baby Names/10,000 Baby Names
The selection went on. It was overwhelming. She could become any sort of parent she wanted to be. Dolphin parenting appealed, until she learnt that it did not mean spending a lot of time in the water and being cute but simply a ‘balanced style of parenting, firm yet flexible like a dolphin’s body’. Unicellular parenting involved 24/7 skin on skin contact with your baby. The language of all the single parenting books reeked of condolence. In the end, Paula went for Babies for DUMMIES.
She had a quick flick through. The baby in the book got older as the guide progressed. What a baby should be doing at seven months was abnormal for a baby at three, and vice versa. Paula used these milestones in reverse to work out the age of her own baby, assuming it was “normal”. She zoomed past the 1-3 month chapters, it could definitely stretch its arms, kick, and grab fingers and toys. She skipped ahead to the 8-10 month section of the book. The baby couldn’t yet sit up by itself or crawl. Turning back a few chapters, where the baby could laugh and roll around, Paula concluded that the baby was around six months old.
CHAPTER 79: 270-280 MONTHS OLD
By this time, babies have begun to grow disillusioned, despite a mastery of object permanence. The post-high school confidence from the 216 month stage in their life has long gone, and they revert back to wariness similar to their 150-190 month or “teenage” insecurity. The previously held rose-tinted hope has been replaced by a more realistic, but still incomplete, view of the world. They are prone to restlessness and may exhibit strange eating and sleeping patterns. Social habits vary greatly, with some finding shrinking friendship groups as more babies of their age begin to mate and couple off, while others choose to maintain a wide but shallow network of “friends”. Sexually, most babies will have grown out of sleeping around out of boredom and misguided attempts at filling personal voids, but some may still exhibit this behaviour, which is fine. Unproductive comparison to other babies near their age is almost impossible to avoid. It is a period of great uncertainty.