Ever been trapped in a pediatrician’s office with a screaming baby? This is a photo of Jack earlier this evening, right before his first night feed. In repose, his chubby cheeks out there like truffles. To sleep, perchance to munch.
Rewind to 2:17 pm. Location: CHOP Primary Care, Bryn Mawr, PA.
I know the time because my Apple Watch takes constant readings of my heart rate. Average resting heart rate is usually late-70s/low-80s. At 2:17 pm, according to the ambivalently-named Health app, it shot up to 129 bpm.
Was I walking briskly? Spearfishing? Hefting bags of sand onto a truck? Uh-uh. I was trapped in a pediatrician’s office with a screaming baby.
I’m actually pretty good at quieting angry babies — for a man (we grade such things on a curve). However, I lack something (two things, to be crass about it) that gives any mom an instant advantage over me in this area.
But I’m smart. I plan ahead. Traveling with a breastfed baby is challenging when you don’t have the ability to turn on the tap at the first sign of trouble. Recognizing that — and remembering the fact that at Jack’s last pediatrician’s appointment I kinda dodged a bullet because he ate right before I hustled him out the door — I ordered a fabulous device from Amazon.
The device in question is the Tommee Tippee Bottle Warmer. It’s basically a super thermos. You fill up the inner flask with boiling water, check it for leaks (that would be apocalyptically bad), fit a snap-on sleeve over it, and throw it in your commando bag. At the moment of truth, you pour the boiling water in the sleeve, take your bottle of milk from the cooler, and plop it in the sleeve.
Problem is I didn’t read the instructions on how to do this before I loaded Jack up in the car and tore off for the doctor’s office. And the device is not straightforward to use.
Jack hates being undressed. Jack hates my cold hands. Jack hates being laid prone. Jack hates being weighed, measured, and prodded. Jack hates nurses, doctors, fluorescent lights, elevator music, and when I bring him into an environment in which all of those things aggregate, Jack hates me.
The nurse walked in, said something cute, and sat down at the computer. Punching a few keys, she asked me to undress him and put him on the scale.
“All of his clothes?” I asked lamely, bracing myself for the inevitable punch in the face.
She looked up from her computer, and paused. “Yes, thank you.”
You ain’t gonna be thanking me in fifteen seconds, I thought as I pulled him out of the car seat attached to his stroller.
I laid him down on the table. Instantly, he made the Winston Churchill pout that presages the shitstorm about to rain down on all of humanity.
The scream was so bone-shattering I thought I’d actually caught a piece of his flesh with the zipper. The nurse didn’t move a muscle. She kept typing. Thus began an orgy of wailing that didn’t stop for 25 minutes, except for a three-minute break.
She did her business and left me with the screaming baby. I wasn’t permitted to put his clothes back on, though I was able to drape some crappy hospital blanket around him. I bounced, I jiggled, I did the tighten-up. It only seemed to piss him off even more.
At some point in the agonizing fog I recognized from the rhythmic nature of his crying that he had realized that he was hungry.
Ha! The super thermos.
Crap. How the hell does it work?
Crap. How do I figure out how it works with a naked baby in my arms?
Sorry, kid, I told the apoplectic Jack as I put him back in his car seat. His screams personified betrayal.
I grabbed the super thermos, put it on the counter and whipped out my phone. Where the hell did I buy this thing from? Amazon.
Bear in mind that the Navy SEALs blare high-decibel recordings of babies screaming at recruits during their BUD/S training. All the proof needed that SEALs trainers are psychopaths.
Anyway, with this fact somewhere in my addled consciousness, I pulled up the Tommee Tippee product page. The screaming was causing the right side of my skull to vibrate. I was sure someone would come bounding through the door, like “Oh my God! We’ve called 911. What happened?” Nope.
I scrolled down the product page and found the directions. Remove sleeve from WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Depress button on top of flask and WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH!!!!
Pour hot water into sleeve and place bottle.
I did all that, somehow. Got a well-warmed bottle, scooped up the Munch and sat down with the nipple already in his mouth.
Silence. Let’s bask in it for a moment, like a good hot bath.
Now, I only brought one bottle, with 120 ml of milk. Since he came home, Jack hasn’t been consistently eating like the competitor of old, which is one of the reasons we’re at the doctor’s office. He’s fallen off the growth chart, and we’ve had some successes with his eating, some disappointments, but he was hard-pressed to take down 120 ml in a single sitting even before he went to the hospital.
I was enjoying the sound of nothing when I looked down and saw that the bottle was almost drained and he wasn’t even breaking stride.
“Oh shit,” I blurted, wide-eyed, right as the doctor walked in and said, “Hi there. How’s our little —“
WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!! WAA WAA WAA WAA WAA WAA!!!!
“He’s hungry!” I yelled over the din.
“That’s good!” the doctor yelled back.
“No! I mean, yes! It is! But I don’t have any more milk!”
“Let’s see how we’re doing!” He was so cheerful I wondered if he was high.
He scooped the Munch up and did this weird lunging movement with him in his arms. Jack shut up instantly.
“Holy —” I began. “How did …” I peered closer at the doctor. He didn’t look like a warlock.
The doctor handed him back to me. He started screaming again. I tried to imitate the weird lunge and my left knee twinged. I actually managed to dial it down by the time the doctor finished his exam. Vitals looked fine, but his weight was still an issue.
“How about hearing?” I asked.
“His ears look great.”
“I meant mine.”
“Oh.” Smile. “See you in a few weeks.”
I’d managed to calm Jack to the point of normal episodic crying as the doctor left. As I was putting Jack’s clothes on, I could still feel the adrenaline burning through my body. I felt like I’d been awake for three days. But it was over.
That’s when the nurse came in with her tray of needles. “Hi munchkin,” she cooed. “Time for your shots.”