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Baby Talk

J. Henry Drought
Madison CT USA
From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 5, 2008, pp. 30-31

We named our baby girl Daisy. But as soon as she was born I knew she was going to be tough and determined.

My wife went into labor at 10:00 pm on the night of our anniversary. Daisy may have wanted to be born that day; she just didn't realize the birthing process might take longer than two hours.

At 8:15 the next morning the doctor told my wife she was beginning to dilate, but the baby had not even begun to drop. We would learn later they were thinking the baby would need to be delivered by cesarean. The doctor said he was going to make his rounds and would be back in an hour. The nurse left the room, too, confident that birth was not coming anytime soon.

But they didn't know my daughter. Daisy has a mind of her own -- and, apparently, she doesn't suffer fools gladly. In less than five minutes my wife had a painfully strong contraction and I could see my daughter's head crowning. I sensed my daughter's irreverence: "An hour? Cesarean? Ha! Who are they kidding, Daddy? Here I come!"

I bolted for the door and yelled for the nurse and then rushed back to my wife and about-to-be-born daughter. My daughter's head was crowning further and I thought, "Oh my God, I'm going to have to catch this baby myself!"

The nurse rushed in, and despite her previously calm and confident demeanor, she blurted out "Oh my God!" and she elbowed me out of the way and yelled for another nurse and for someone to call the doctor.

In an instant the doctor rushed in -- thank God he had stopped for water before heading for his rounds. He quickly pulled on rubber gloves and went to work.

My wife was in more pain than I had ever seen. I grabbed her hand and stayed near the head of the bed to give her assurance. At the foot of the bed the doctor was on one knee, and the nurse was feverishly helping him; they both had intense looks on their faces, and I sensed they didn't want me gawking like a tourist.

So I witnessed my little daughter's birth from a peek-a-boo side view while comforting my groaning wife. Truth be told, I was a little afraid to look too closely. This birth was more chaotic than my son Jack's birth had been three years earlier.

I felt better when I saw my daughter was okay. I was still numb. A nurse guided me to cut the umbilical cord, and I cut it, somewhat robotically.

I followed the nurses over to the little table and they continued to wipe Daisy off and put stuff in her eyes. I sighed with relief. My little girl was all right. And she was beautiful.

"Did you see how hard she was grabbing me with her hand?" said the nurse. "She's a strong one."

"Good girl, Daisy," I thought. "Good for you. That was tough and you did a nice job." (Fade Out.)

(Fade In.) Five weeks later.

Except for one feeding at 2:30 am, Daisy sleeps through the night (a change from our son, Jack, who was up all hours). And, from day one, she has mastered breastfeeding like a champ. Daisy is so quiet and sleeps so much that my wife and I were worried and asked the doctor if she was all right.

"Don't worry," our pediatrician told us. "She's fine. Perhaps the 'Baby Sleep God' has shined down upon you. She's gorgeous; and very responsive."

Daisy doesn't cry much, and, when she does, it is a last resort. She tries to talk first and reason with us. When she wants something, she makes some murmuring noises to get our attention: "Agh... aghh...aghh," which translates to, "Ah, excuse me...I have poop in my pants. Can someone help me here?"

If there is no immediate response from us, her murmurs become louder: "Aghh...aghhh... aghhhhh," which translates to: "I'm trying to be patient...but can someone please take the poop out of my pants. You don't want me to get a rash, do you?"

Daisy only cries in times of desperation, during rare times when my wife or I cannot get to her right away. When she cries, though, she means it. Her cry is not the pathetic cry of a scared or helpless baby; her cry is an angry cry, a forceful demand for immediate attention. "Waaahhh!...waaaahhhhh!... waaaaaaahhhhh!" which translates to, "Now I'm really mad! Where are you caretakers? Do I have to change this diaper myself?!"

When my wife or I enter the room, we find her squirming and rocking with anger and nearly rolling over.

Even after one of us picks her up, Daisy is not placated. She continues crying and looks up at us with the fury of a person who has suffered the worst type of negligent injustice. Despite comforting, she is still indignant. "Wahhh...waaahhh... waaaahhhh!" which translates to, "Don't tell me you're sorry...and save your parents really need to get your act together!" My wife changes her and breastfeeds her, and Daisy finally calms down; yet there is a hint of scowl on her face that tells us we haven't quite met her expectations. (Fade Out.)

(Fade In.) Daisy at three months.

Daisy has the kind of unsentimental piercing eyes that stare right through you. At times, people have mentioned her slightly older-than-her-age world-weary frown. That's not to say she's not friendly; because she is. It's just that she exudes a serious maturity not often found in babies her age.

When I started interacting with Daisy, I employed the usual baby-talk style that most parents and adults do when confronted with an infant. But this simplistic communication is unacceptable to Daisy and results in a disinterested furrowing of her brow. "Daddy, please...don't disappoint me with that ridiculous baby talk."

So I began talking to her more like an adult: "Hi, are you this morning? Did you sleep well? Have a good breakfast?"

And I was astonished by her reaction. She smiled broadly at me for the first time. And she began talking back! No, not in clear English, of course. But her eyes widened and her head quivered with intensity, and she flailed her arms and she began moving her mouth, trying to form words, and I could sense thoughts bursting from her head: "Errrrgh...aghhhhh...oghhhhh...I saw Jack riding his bike the other day. It looks fun. Can I ride a bike, too, Daddy?"

"Yes, of course, darling, when you get a little older. First you have to learn to crawl."

I was amazed. The more I talked to Daisy normally, the greater reaction I got: "errrrgh... aghhhh...ooghhh...And I saw you teaching Jack how to count numbers...and spell words. And I saw you teaching Jack how to play checkers. Can I play checkers, too, Daddy?"

"Yes, sweetheart. Of course you can count and spell and play checkers. But first you have to learn to walk."

Goose bumps shivered up my arms. My three-month-old daughter was talking to me. I could see the difficulty in which she tried to form words, and I could see the intensity of her thinking.

"Don't worry, darling. Daddy will teach you, too."

She smiled again, broadly, and she lifted her head, and her mouth moved even harder, "Aaaghhhh...errrghhhh...ahhh...oghhhh...I saw you reading stories to Jack...and watching movies with Mommy. Can you read me stories? And can I watch movies, too, Daddy?"

"Of course you can, sweetheart."

I told her a quickly improvised story.

She told me the female character was a little weak.

Her passion and strained concentration were a bit unnerving. "That's very good talking, Daisy. But don't try too hard. Don't worry; you'll be able to talk in good time."

She smiled.

"Maybe you'll be a writer," I joked.

"Then I'll need to be a better writer than you, Daddy," she gurgled.

This time I frowned. "You don't have to rub it in, darling."

She smiled again, and, for the first time, she emitted a noise that sounded like sardonic laughter.

I picked her up from her reclining chair and hugged and kissed her. After all, how could a father resist a little daughter with such an indomitable spirit?

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