Ante-natal #5

Today we did precious little apart from sleep, and use a thermometer to verify that our air conditioner’s thermostat is correctly configured. Yesterday, though, we had our last ante-natal class, which concentrated on what you do after the baby arrives, which sounds more to me like an ante apres natal class, but who am I to judge?

I learned some more things I thought were self-evident truths to be wrong. You don’t use baby wipes to wipe a baby, for example, unless you really like irritated skin and an unhappy infant. You also can’t avoid spending a fortune on a steriliser to clean bottles, unless you want to spend every waking moment boiling pans of water to sterilise things. So much for my plan to avoid enriching the proprietors of baby goods hypermarkets the length and breadth of Singapore.

I got to practice swaddling a baby in a blanket. I only had a plastic baby with terrifying eyes to work with, and I worry that the real thing may be less cooperative. Then again, the woman taking the class reiterated the importance of establishing a routine; so it’s going to be a sensible and acceptable bit of parenting for me to read the novels of Donald Westlake to our child as I bathe it.

Part way through the class somebody rang my phone, which meant the other parents-to-be were treated to the death-metal ringtone that I had built for me by a big man in Hereford. That seemed to scare them a bit; my wife and I had arrived a little late for the class, and we’d never met the other participants, as we’d swapped into this class to make up for the one I missed while sneezing and coughing in Seattle last week. Parents need routine as much as children, and can be startled when a man with a bushy moustache appears and starts blasting The Music Of The Apocalypse at them when they thought they were going to be learning about nappies. But better they learn now than later is what I say.

I forgot to ask about my plan to circulate a photograph of a turnip to all and sundry when the child enters the world. It would be interesting to see which of your acquaintances is brave enough to tell the proud parent that they’ve been boasting about birthing a root vegetable. If nobody says anything, I think that will indicate bad things about your circle of friends.

Speaking of photographs, there’s a guy who does a roaring trade in passport photos for babies, by simple virtue of having the right apparatus to hang a camera over a cot and shoot a photo of the reclining infant. However, if you’ve got a picture of a turnip that you’ve drawn a face on with crayon, you can dispense with his services and just have a fun conversation with passport services and customs officials. The joke will of course be on me if our baby has a turnip for a head.

Apparently breast milk is good for squirting on your baby if they have gummed-up eyes. I do worry that might lead to some weird fetishes later in life, but it’s a bit early to be worrying about that now, and I suppose it will give the child something to talk about. And an all-abiding respect for breasts.

There was some handy advice about caring for your baby with unfortunate consequences. You shouldn’t let the little thing get overheated or smoke nearby, but we live in a tropical country and our next door neighbours chainsmoke, so that means no open windows for a long while. Or we invest in a very big fan to blow the smoke back. Or we move. And we don’t get to make the child wear mittens, but I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.

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