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The Column

Does This Baby Come With Airbags?
11/24/02

Peering at a newborn through the window of a nursery is the equivalent of kicking the tires on a car. Unless something is horribly wrong, you don’t know what you’re looking for.

When you kick tires, what are you expecting? Some sort of firmness, which pretty much all tires have. Some sort of bounce, which pretty much all tires have. And if you found neither, what does that prove about the rest of the car? Would the tires feel any different if the engine were about to explode and the breaks were cut? Nope. They’d still be just as firm and bouncy.

When I peered through that nursery window this past Wednesday, I was acting on the same principle. First, I found the wrong baby, and got all excited because I thought it was the one I was looking for. But the name I was looking for was Gottlieb and its name was Lopez. Also, mine was a girl and the one I was staring at seemingly had two umbilical cords. So I asked the nurse which one was Gottlieb, and she gestured at a baby I’d already skipped over because it looked no different than the other kids (except that odd-looking Lopez girl). I stared at her for a little. Then I went on and on about how beautiful she is and how I knew it was her the whole time. Inside, I was thinking, “yup, looks like a kid.”

I bring this story to you because my sister had a baby this week, on what was a very busy night for the baby part of the hospital. Before you get all excited for her, she’s already had two so the novelty has worn off. And the novelty has certainly worn off for the nurses, who had to move poor Lopez all the way into the corner to fit all the kids. I can only assume that a blustery President’s Day weekend was responsible for this baby-laden November.

I’ve never had a kid (that I know of), so I don’t know what it’s like to look through the glass at your own. But while staring at my latest niece, I couldn’t help thinking about why there was mesh wiring in the glass. A rational person would assume its there to prevent the glass from shattering if someone were to accidentally smash into the window. An irrational person would assume its there to prevent jealous mothers from shooting at the cuter babies. I assumed it was there so none of my pictures would come out well. I may not be rational, but I at least I do not shoot at babies.

I grew up the youngest of four kids, so being an uncle is not new to me. But this age is the time in most people’s lives when we start having to deal with babies. Whether it’s our siblings’ babies or our friends’ babies or our own threat of babies, we are suddenly forced to deal with them. But unlike our drunken friends, babies are easy to clean up after. They also have better handwriting.

Let me go back, for a moment, to the phrase “threat of babies.” I picture a sportscaster telling me that the game might be postponed due to threat of babies. I laughed out loud reading that over.

I was excited that I’d have a new niece or nephew, so much so that I darted across the street to the hospital. Also, I figured that if there’s any okay place to get hit by a car, it’s in front of a hospital.

My sister had already successfully delivered by the time I got there, which is good because you don’t want to screw something like that up. After some waiting and some waiting room TV, I finally saw my sister, whereupon I asked if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and I was happy and congratulated her, but would have done the same if it were a boy. Appropriately, I’d been watching Wheel of Fortune, where contestants react much the same way. That night, a contestant lost the bonus round, opened the envelope, and saw that the prize was a new car. He groaned – exactly the amount he would have groaned had the prize been $25,000, or a vacation, or anything else.

I was just happy, regardless of its gender, that my sister’s child came out a healthy, bouncing baby. Though I don’t think she appreciated me kicking it.

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