Posted Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 5:27pm by Darren Baker
Czech the Children- Chapter 8 -Outdoing the drive-in
Outdoing the drive-in
Five days was the standard time for releasing mothers and their newborns from hospital. I was happy for that. When I worked at McDonald’s, the overnight cleaning lady once claimed she had a kid in the morning and was back to scrubbing and mopping at midnight. Doing the drive-in one better, you might say. She certainly had the physique and demeanor of what you might call a tough broad, and my respect to go with it, but I found the Czech system more to my liking. Besides ensuring there were no post-natal complications and that breastfeeding was on track, I needed the five days to scrub and mop our own home to make sure everything sparkled for the little one.
We acquitted ourselves as new parents quite well, if I may say so. Terka helped by sleeping through most of the night, taking her baths in stride, and not being finicky about feeding. Indeed, her appetite became ravenous over time. She would break out into a sweat and keep one hand pushing behind her head to make sure her suckling was not interrupted until she had her fill.
What really impressed me was the ESP that apparently exists between mother and child. One afternoon Vet was sitting there and suddenly said, “Oh, she’s hungry.” I turned towards the bedroom and then back to her with the father-ain’t-got-a-clue look.
“What hungry, I don’t hear a thing.”
She assured me it wasn’t a mental moment or even a mother’s instinct. She felt the milk starting to well up and that could only mean one thing. And wouldn’t you know it, the soft stirrings of a waking baby could be heard from the bedroom at that precise moment. While it was great to witness these mysteries and wonders of life in action, it was also a relief. Had the baby kept on snoozing, all that milk would have left Vet feeling bloated in the grips of a gravitational tractor beam. Looking around the room, I could see only one other option for relief, and not a very willing one.
With any newborn, the big deal is always firsts and that includes clipping fingernails and toenails. Nobody wanted to do it, not Vet, not her mother, this even though we forked over for a set of baby clippers with little pink and blue balloons on it. Fine, give me the damn thing. So I lifted her foot and appreciated for the first time just how small an infant’s nails really are.
My hand wasn’t shaking like you see in the films, but it was definitely, forgive the pun, a nail-biting experience, a tad akin to working in a bomb disposal unit and you’ve got all these wires to cut before you can breathe easily again. But I quickly got a handle on it as I moved from finger to finger, toe to toe, and everything was going well until I clipped the last one too deeply. Poor kid cried out in her husky voice. I got “the look” from the ladies, but otherwise there were no overt explosions.
Other firsts, like Terka being able to hold her head up while turned on her abdomen or baby teeth starting to emerge, all went according to clockwork in all the baby books we had. These included the most famous one in the States, Dr. Spock’s, which was sent to us by Leon’s mother. She was the closest thing I had to a grandmother, but living far away, I only saw her rarely.
I don’t know why she sent it. Maybe Leon told her I wasn’t mature enough to be a father, maybe it was supposed to be another dig at socialist medicine. Even Dr. Spock seemed to be consumed by the lingering effects of the Cold War. While thumbing through it, I came across a paragraph with instructions for how parents should sit down with their children and discuss nuclear Armageddon. In the end, we got next to nothing out of that book or the other ones. We found our instincts worked just fine in almost every case.
And I do mean almost, because of course we know you shouldn’t give a toddler anything that could poke a hole in, say, somebody’s ear. This has to do with the time Terka was developing her motor skills and got into imitating whatever we did. For example, every time we took her out of the bath, we dried the inside of her ears with a cotton swab on the end of a stick. She wanted to try it herself, but we firmly told her no.
One evening I’m sitting in front of the news and she comes crawling up to me, clambers up into my lap, and stands up, all the while I’m listening to some report that has my total attention. That is until I went, “Yeow!” As you probably guessed, Terka had one of those swabs in her hand and stuck it straight into my ear. She clearly punctured the membrane because I lost all bass sound in that ear.
I know this problem well. During my first winter there, I got into a snowball fight with my students in front of the school and one of them pummeled me directly on the ear, the same ear in fact. I went to the hospital to get it checked out and they wrapped it up and told me I would have to wait a couple of days for the membrane to heal. In the meantime, I was to beware of students with snowballs.
But there was no telling how far Terka jabbed that plastic stick in, so we went to the hospital just in case. And who should we find on duty that night but the same doctor who treated me before. Of course, she remembered me and got another good chuckle when I told her what happened now. Again, she wrapped it up and told me to wait a couple of days for it to heal. In the meantime, I should add infants with ear swabs to my watch list.
I have no idea what that report in TV was about that made me oblivious to having an armed toddler in my lap, but I learned my lesson. Any man who doesn’t have a keen sense of his surroundings, the one that allows women to know exactly what’s going on around them, would do well to develop it if they ever hope to head the kid off before they get their hands on something really dicey.
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