Slices of Life: Holding heaven
You forget how tiny they are. And helpless. So utterly, completely helpless. And exhausted. And hungry. And explosive. So literally explosive.
Eat, poop, sleep, repeat. Cry, but not often if you are lucky.
Babies — of the human variety. They are born helpless and remain dependent on parental care for 18 — or sometimes 40 — years. Animals of other species are born helpless, but don't often stay with mom and dad nearly as long.
Chimpanzees are one of the closest and with good cause. They share 98 percent of their DNA with humans. Either we are like them or they are like us. I guess it depends on whom you ask. Chimps are dependent on their mothers for at least five years and are considered an adult at age 15.
Elephants also spend more than a few years with their mothers. Their babies are born weighing upward of 250 pounds (ouch!) and are adults at about 18 years old.
Maternal sacrifices aren't rare, but porcupines deserve an extra ounce of our respect. Their babies are born with quills and are dependent on mom for five to 12 months. I'm surprised she doesn't kick them out sooner, quills and all.
Raccoons are born blind and completely helpless yet they set out to conquer the world on their own 10 months later.
Let's make the transition from months to weeks. Kittens start walking when they are about three weeks old. They are ready to leave mama five to nine weeks later.
And on to day(s): lizard babies are born knowing how to walk and hunt. They are able to acquire their own food at only a day old.
Despite differing rates of growth and independence, puppies, kittens and even baby porcupines all have one thing in common: they are cute. Babies are created to be cute. There is a scientific reason for this. Cuteness makes it more likely they'll be cared for; it helps further the species.
Newborn humans are no exception. Their eyes are large — as big as they'll be when baby becomes an adult. Their noses are small and their face round. It's a combination adults find adorable. Their little fingers and tiny toes are practically irresistible. Even when they cry at 3 a.m. and wake up with a full diaper, they are still cute. Most of the time at least.
And I haven't even touched on the reality of the sweet baby smell. There's nothing like it. Well, except for puppy breath.
The noises human babies make are beyond endearing. I'm not talking about crying, but about the snurks and snurzles, grunts and growls.
It's all part of nature's clever plan to make us fall instantly in love. And it works.
I haven't had a new baby in my life for more than 16 years. I'd forgotten how precious they are, especially when they are one of yours — or nearly so. And this time I realize how fleeting and cherished each moment is because it will all be over much too quickly.
I didn't realize how much I'd like her. I knew I'd love her, but I wasn't as prepared for the liking part. I guess the like and love sort of overlap.
I didn't think I was ready for this next stage but I suppose it's like becoming a parent. I wasn't ready for that either, and it worked out OK. We had four babies and managed to keep them all alive. I guess that says something.
She's 6 weeks old and I can already see changes. Eye contact. A growing awareness of the world around her. A familiarity with those she sees often. Smiles that aren't gas. Each change is welcome, but again I reference the word fleeting. She still loves to snuggle and sleep in my arms. I'd hold her forever if I could because holding her is like holding a piece of heaven.
I'm so glad she came down here to spend some time with us.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.