If I’m ever going to bake a bun in my hot oven of ovum, it needs to happen soon. Supposing my ovaries have sustained even an ounce of the abuse that my liver, lungs and brain cells have, they might only be ripe for a few more weeks.
But motherhood isn’t something one should rush into. There are a host of reasons I’ve shirked it thus far. For starters, I’ve never really wanted to have a child. I am not an evil child-hating witch. I think kids are cool; I just never had the desire to make one. In addition, I have no husband, steady salary, health insurance, savings or idea how to be a parent. The closest I’ve come to maternal responsibility is clothing, feeding and caring for my chihuahua, Reverend Jen Junior. But you can’t put your child in a purse and go to a bar. Like Vin Diesel in The Pacifier, I am totally unprepared. I have never changed a diaper, made a bottle or rocked a baby to sleep. Would one day of motherhood be enough to convince me to head down to a local sperm bank? Or would the trials of motherhood prove so difficult that I would start layering condoms?
Please list all the materials required for this experiment (including, if applicable, how they were obtained).
– human baby (one)
– parent supervisor/coach (one)
– baby supplies: diapers, baby wipes, baby food, etc. (provided by parental unit)
In this portion of your report, you must describe, step-by-step, what you did in your lab. It should be specific enough that someone who has not seen the lab can follow the directions and recreate the same lab.
Luckily, I got to skip the part of motherhood that requires squeezing another human being out of my vagina. I also got to skip the parts that involve puberty, teenage angst and dating. Instead, I would be mother for a day to Henry, the five-month-old son of my friends Jen and Hank. The two met years ago while acting in my middle-earth drama, Lord of the Cockrings. When my friend, Tom, played Chuck Woolery between the two, they made a love connection in less than two minutes. Now they are married, living in a house in Jersey.
For my day of motherhood, Jen invited me to their home, where she would remain on hand to coach me and prevent disaster. Although Jen and Hank are both relaxed, cool parents, they are smart enough not to leave their infant alone with a totally inexperienced
Henry smiled beatifically at the mistreatmentt of Mr. Whosit.
burnout like myself.
Jen and Hank are both stunning, and as a result Henry is one of the most adorable babies I have ever seen. Because both parents are tall, Henry is also one of the biggest babies I have ever seen, weighing in at more than twenty pounds. The three-pound barbells I’ve been curling for a year would do me no good, especially since almost every task of motherhood entails holding your baby in one arm while you do something with the other arm. If you want to get an idea of what caring for an infant is like, try tying an arm behind your back for the entirety of your day. Or better yet, carrying an extremely fragile twenty-pound art object in the crook of your arm all day long without dropping it.
“The trick is occupying the child in order to accomplish whatever tasks you have,” Jen noted as we entered her house. “But I’m not one of those helicopter moms.”
“What’s a helicopter mom?”
“You know, one that always hovers.”
Thankfully Henry was easily occupied. After years of performing for disinterested, drunken audiences at open mikes, I found him to be an ideal audience. He was immediately taken by my goofiness and crackly elfin voice.
“He likes you,” Jen said, handing me the behemoth tot and instructing me to place him in the Pack-n-Play. Cribs are totally passé, but the Pack-n-Play is like an infant universe. It is a portable playpen with a canopy, foldout changing table, and diaper bag. An attachment provides ambient bird sounds, water sounds or music. And the entire Pack-n-Play has a vibrating function! I wondered why any of us still sleep in beds.
In the Pack-n-Play were two little stuffed toys — a bear named “Moosey Bear” and a more abstract smiley-face creature named “Mr. Whosit.”
“He loves it when you beat up Mr. Whosit,” Jen noted, giving the hapless toy a sound thrashing upon the sides of the Pack-n-Play. Henry smiled beatifically at the mistreatment of Mr. Whost, as if to say, “This is the best show I’ve ever seen.”
Jen handed me Mr. Whosit and I took a turn cathartically beating the crap out of him. I then read Henry his “Baby Einstein” books, which were soft, books with pictures of animals on them that he seemed more interested in hugging than looking at.
I heard Jen fire up a vacuum in the kitchen.
“You shouldn’t have to vacuum,” I said. “I’m the mom for a day. You go relax.”
“I’m not sure I know how to do that,” she said.
“Here let me do it.” I took the vacuum from her and quickly realized that vacuums have advanced at the same rate as baby furniture. The last vacuum I used was a leaden Electrolux as old as me, but Jen’s vacuum looked like something out of Starship Troopers. It was blue and purple and had several baffling attachments and hoses. It could have sucked up a small sofa.
After watching me unsuccessfully attempt to wield the modern vacuum around the kitchen, Jen quietly took it out of my hands.
I returned to the Pack-n-Play to fetch Henry for feeding. I hoisted the little dude onto my hip as Jen stood by and explained the complexities of getting Henry into his highchair. I had to slide the chair’s tray out with one hand and with the other place Henry into the chair, keeping a hand on his tummy so he wouldn’t fall over while I slid the tray back in. My stick arm trembled under the pressure.
“It’s amazing my mom managed to smoke all those years,” I observed. “Where did she get a free hand?”
I secured the infant inside the chair and presented him with the various courses of his meal — a bright pink one that looked like borscht but was actually pears and blueberries, a green one that looked like wheatgrass but was actually blended organic green beans and a beige organic whole wheat oatmeal course. If adults ate like this, we’d all be much healthier.
“You’ve got to watch his hands while you’re feeding him. He tries to stick his fingers in the food,” Jen warned.
Acid casualties and babies tend to be on the same page aesthetically.
“How much should he eat?” I asked.
“All of it.”
Apparently the goal of feeding time is to get as much food into the baby’s mouth as possible at the expense of ones dignity. If it takes opening your mouth wide like a jackass or pretending the spoon is an aircraft, these are things you must do to ensure your child eats. That is until they are old enough for you to induce guilt about “children starving in other countries.”
The other goal of feeding is making sure the child’s face doesn’t become encrusted with food, which will happen if you don’t wipe the excess off after each bite. “The wipe is really an art form,” Jen told me as I accidentally streaked green bean across Henry’s cheek.
Luckily, Henry really likes food, and before long he’d gobbled his meal up like a trucker at a greasy spoon.
“I’m gonna go get the Fun Ultra Saucer,” Jen suggested.
She emerged carrying a bright purple contraption.
“I won’t be surprised if you build one for yourself,” she added.
“It’s like a massive trip toy!” I exclaimed, placing Henry’s legs through the Saucer’s leg holes. The Saucer is designed so that the baby chills like a ringed planet at the Saucer’s center. The rings around the baby contain sensory stimuli — sounds, lights, mirrors, rattles and spinning wheels that make it a “fun ultra” experience.
“I don’t know who is designing baby products—” I began.
“But they must be smoking a lot of weed,” Jen finished.
“Exactly. Who thought of this? It’s genius.”
After thoroughly exhausting the Saucer, we headed downstairs for a Teletubbies fix, which I looked forward to because watching TV is something I know how to do. Plus I’m a big fan of Teletubbies. I was thrilled when Jen told me that Henry also really dug Teletubbies. Not surprising, since acid casualties and babies tend to be on the same page aesthetically.
I slid Henry into a Lennon Baby bouncy chair, and got ready for quality entertainment.
As Jen scrolled through the channels, I told her about a six-hour Teletubbies viewing marathon I engaged in with my friend, Ennis. At one point, Ennis turned down the sound on the television and turned up Beck’s Odelay. It looked like the Teletubbies were dancing to Beck. It fit more perfectly than The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon. We were amazed by the synchronicity, when suddenly a guitar magically appeared that Laa Laa started playing.
Jen turned on the TV. The episode began and Henry started giggling.
“Look — Tinky Winky hates the music that Laa-Laa is playing so he puts his hands over his ears and runs away. He probably wants to listen to Cher,” I noted.
“He’s running away with his purse.”
“He’s off to Crobar.”
It’s sad when you are obviously enjoying an episode of Teletubbies more than the infant next to you.
Quantify the effects of the experiment.
Henry was almost asleep when the episode finished. I carried him upstairs and put him in a swingy chair for a nap. Unlike a bouncy chair, which bounces, a swingy chair rocks gently back and forth, lulling the infant to sleep.
“How can he sleep with all that movement?” I asked.
“It’s the movement that helps him sleep.”
As Henry snoozed I spoke to Jen about motherhood.
She read to me from a journal she keeps that she’ll someday give to Henry when he’s old enough to appreciate it. In it she’d written simple things one might write in a baby book like his weight and height. But she also wrote down her fears about current political leaders, war and the destruction of the environment. It made me realize how terrifying it must be to raise a child in the political shitstorm of the new millennium.
“Do you want to make a bottle?” Jen asked cheerily.
I belted out “The Unicorn,” a little ditty about how the last remaining unicorns were swallowed by the flood of God’s wrath.
“You use four-and-a-half scoops of this,” she said, pointing to formula and a tiny scooper. “Then you add the water and put it in the fridge.” I washed my hands and began scooping out the formula, but it only took about five seconds to forget how many scoops I’d poured.
“Wait, was that three or four? I can’t remember.”
“Just pour it out and start over.”
Little noises emanated from the swingy chair. Henry had woken and he was crying. I picked him up and held him.
“Shhhh, it’s okay,” I cooed softly. I tried to convince him that it really is okay, but he was eyeing his actual mother. I felt like I was exploiting him for the sake of science. Although I’ve felt like this many times, I always continued because the exploited were usually embittered adults like me. But when a perfect five-month-old wants his mama, you’ve got to give him that.
I handed him to Jen and the crying ceased immediately.
After a spell, she passed him back to me and we ventured into the kitchen to make a bottle of apple juice, which luckily involved no mixing, measuring or short-term memory. Resting Henry on my hip, I twisted open the bottle and poured the juice inside.
“You’re a natural,” Jen observed.
“Yeah, but I’m uncoordinated,” I said, struggling to twist the bottle closed.
I lay him down in the Pack-n-Play and helped him get a grip on the bottle, which he sipped in a frenzied manner. Once he’d depleted the contents he held the bottle to his lips like he expected more to come out.
“I’ve done that with cans of Budweiser,” I observed.
Jen reached in, showed Henry that the bottle was empty and removed it from his clutches.
I sat down on the couch with Henry on my lap.
“Do you know any songs you could sing him?” Jen asked.
“Does he like Zeppelin?” I honestly didn’t think I knew any baby songs, but then I remembered some really dark ones my Scottish grandparents used to sing to me. So I belted out a chorus from “The Unicorn,” a little ditty about how the last remaining unicorns were swallowed by the flood of God’s wrath because they were too busy “laughing and playing silly games” to board Noah’s Ark in time to escape.
“Ooh, I think somebody did a stinky,” Jen suddenly remarked.
She must have a nose like a bloodhound because I could smell nothing.
I’d been hoping I’d get through the day without a diaper ordeal, but it was bound to happen. I flipped open the Pack-n-Play’s changing table and held my breath. Luckily, the many years I spent as a swimmer have enabled me to go for long periods of time without breathing through my nose.
I’m actually more like an infant than a parent.
That said, no matter how many Baby Alive dolls you played with as a child, little can prepare you for real diaper changing wherein you are forced to actually wipe shit off another human’s ass. And regardless of how cute and little the human whose ass you’re wiping is, it’s still pretty damn gross.
Jen instructed me to take Henry’s feet with one hand and lift his butt up whereupon I was to remove the diaper and baby-wipe the ass clean with the other hand. I held his feet and lifted gently.
“You’re not gonna break him,” she said.
I put a little muscle into it, hoisted him up and slid the diaper off.
“Oh that’s not a bad one,” Jen said, pooh-poohing my horror.
“If that’s not a bad one, I don’t want to see a bad one.”
Several baby wipes later, he was fresh and clean as an Irish spring and I was humbled by the thought that long ago my mother was just as grossed out by my diapers as I had been by Henry’s.
I really need to call my mother, I thought.
Summarize your findings. Don’t forget to attempt to identify possible variables that could result in different findings for others trying to recreate your test results.
Obviously this lab was just a tad incomplete. If I really were going to take the experiment to task, I’d go out, find a baby daddy and get preggers. Then I’d spend the next thirty years writing about it. But I don’t have that kind of time.
The main variable in my experiment was the baby I cared for. I got an unfair advantage because Henry was an unusually content baby. Not to mention he was so cute he could make any woman want to toss her diaphragm into the garbage. The experiment would have been fairer had I spent one day in Jen and Hank’s home and the next on an episode of Nanny 911.
Not to get too “Lifetime” on readers, but the best thing about being a mom for a day was the feeling of nurturing another being. It was also great just being around a baby.
Given my lack of experience and my bafflement with modern day vacuums, I was not too shabby a caretaker. Henry thought I was cool, although that could be because I’m actually more like an infant than a parent. I spent an inordinate amount of time admiring the toys and I couldn’t focus long enough to properly make a bottle on my first try. Plus my favorite part of the day was watching TV, probably not a good sign that I’m ready for motherhood.
©2005 Rev. Jen Miller and Nerve.com