Top 5 Things I Didn’t Know About Babies Until I Had One

5. Coneheads
I did know about this for several years before my son was born, but I still wasn’t really prepared for it. Naturally, since the plates of the cranium have not yet fused in a fetus, and the birth canal is fairly tight to negotiate, the head tends to get stretched like dough being rolled out. The result is a distinctively pointy shape. My advice… do not dress your newborn in a sleeper that looks like Beldar’s pajamas. It may seem funny at first, but it really only makes things worse.
4. The fountain (boys only)
When we learned we were going to have a boy, lots of people started warning me to be sure to “cover him” while changing his diaper. I understood the premise, but it wasn’t until I saw it in action that I really understood how important it was. Fortunately, no one was in the line of fire.
3. The smell of formula
Baby formula has a very peculiar smell. In fact, it seems to be an amalgam of many different smells, each of them peculiar in its own right. The only one I’ve really been able to differentiate is potatoes. I haven’t checked to see if any potato-derived substances are actually in the formula, but there is definitely a potato-like smell in the mix. One thing is certain though: once you’ve smelled baby formula, everything smells like it.
2. The umbilical cord
OK, I actually learned this about 6 months ago when my niece was born, but it was still quite a shock. I always had this impression that the umbilical cord was completely removed at birth, but in fact a little stub of it remains attached to the baby’s abdomen for several days to a few weeks. You have to swab it with alcohol to stave off infection, and day by day it gets more shriveled, harder, and discolored (not that it was a pretty color to begin with). Our baby’s umbilical stub fell off about 2 weeks after he was born, and SLP compared the detached remnant to a crusty bit of chicken that was stuck on our barbecue grill for a week.
1. Meconium
What is “meconium,” you ask? It is nothing short of incontrovertible proof that babies are aliens from a world far stranger than our own. Merriam-Webster describes it as “a dark greenish mass that accumulates in the bowel during fetal life and is discharged shortly after birth.” Yes, in fact it is a dense, sticky, green-black, tar-like substance that fills a newborn’s diapers for the first two days or so after birth. Its most distinctive trait, however, and one you don’t even really appreciate until the “regular” bowel movements begin, is that it is devoid of odor.

What’s that Smell?

Today has been an interesting day. I arrived at work this morning to notice that the strange smell some of us perceived yesterday in the office was even stronger today, and generally was of the natural gas variety. We called the gas company and they sent someone out to inspect our equipment. He found no gas leaks, and informed us that it was his “educated guess” that there was a dead animal somewhere in the building.

Sure enough… I moved aside a panel of drop-ceiling tile and looked inside, and about 2 feet from my face was a huge dead rat.

Another coworker, much bolder than myself, grabbed a plastic bag, and using the bag as both glove and receptacle, picked up the dead and now partially decomposed rodent, and took it out to the dumpster.

The most disturbing part, of course, is that it’s highly unlikely that this rat was working solo.

Now it Smells Like Fish and Roses!

(The title of this particular rant is, of course, the line spoken by a smart-ass bratty kid in a 1980s TV commercial for some kind of air freshener product, or possibly that powder you shake onto the carpet and then vacuum up. Her mother had cooked fish for dinner, and then attempted, futilely, to cover the stale cooked-fish smell with a “rosy” spray air freshener, prompting this clever quip from her daughter. If you can identify the product it was for, please let me know!)

I hate the smell of cigarette smoke. It was around me perpetually when I was growing up, and while I bear absolutely no grudge against my parents or my deceased grandparents as a result, I still find the smell highly objectionable.

I know I am not alone in my dislike of this smell. How can I be, when so many people — especially women — attempt to cover their own smoke smell with generous dousings of perfume and/or cologne? Here is the crux of my rant for today.

I work on the 25th floor of an office building, and I typically park on the 6th floor of its parking deck. (For my friends back in Minnesota, that’s Southern for “parking ramp” and for those in California, “parking structure.”) Hence, I take at least four rides in an elevator daily while I am at work (my attempts to be healthier by getting off at the 20th floor and walking up five flights notwithstanding).

It seems to me that, without fail, on at least one of those rides the elevator is filled with a noxious cloud produced by the combination of cigarette smoke lingering on a person’s clothes, mixed with excessive quantities of disgustingly potent perfume applied in a feeble attempt to mask the first smell. Let me say to all of you who attempt such things (as if there’s even an infinitessimal chance that one of you is reading this):

IT DOESN’T WORK!

The perfume does not mask the cigarette smell. It just makes it worse. And believe me, it stays around long after you’re gone. So do us all a favor… quit smoking. Then you won’t need the nasty perfume, either.

Update (May 16, 2018): Wow… over 16 years after I originally posted this on a blog that predates my use of (or… come to think of it, the existence of) WordPress, I just received an email from Christine Costello, who played the bratty kid, letting me know the product was Lysol. (I hope she took my assessment of her performance the right way… obviously it made a lasting impression!)