Today I drove up to Oakland to work "at home"--which is to say, at Mary Anne and Kevin's place. Mary Anne had errands to run, so I kept an eye on baby Kavya (and puppy Ellie) while she was out. (And btw, M posted a bunch of baby photos today--my favorite is the one with the toes.)
We've done this before, and Kavya and I generally get along pretty well. I hold her hand occasionally, and she usually lies or sits quietly in various seat-like devices, and occasionally she raises a fuss and I give her either a pacifier or a bottle. And then she spits up on me, and everyone's happy.
Today, though, M had been gone for about an hour when Kavya started to fuss. She rejected the binky (I just now finally confirmed that that word in this context does indeed come from a brand name) and the bottle, and kept being vocal, so I picked her up. M had recently mentioned something about swinging her in the air; I still wouldn't be comfortable doing that, or actually tossing her in the air the way some people do with babies, but I did sort of swoop her upward.
Which would have been fine if not for the fact that the room we were in has a ceiling that's only seven or eight feet high.
The bump of her head against the ceiling was very slight. It took her a second to register it.
And then she started screaming.
There was a time, when I was first hanging around babies, maybe 15 years ago, when the sound of a baby crying made me panicky. Some deep-down part of me was convinced that the baby was ABOUT TO DIE IN HORRIBLE AGONY! and that I must immediately drop everything and run to avert impending disaster.
But I've had enough exposure to babies crying since then that I thought I was over that. I can think more or less rationally with a baby crying nearby, and can take reasonable and measured responses.
But it turns out that a certain kind of piercing scream is a different matter. And screaming about something that's my fault makes it worse.
I didn't know what to do. I held her and tried to be comforting while she screamed her little lungs out, in a mix of outrage and pain, into my ear. I was sure that everyone in the building and for a block around could hear her, and would come and demand to know what I was doing to her.
She finally quieted down (it probably wasn't more than 30 seconds or so, but it felt like forever). So I lifted her away from my shoulder to see how she was doing. And the moment she saw my face she started screaming again.
(I have that effect on a lot of people.)
After two or three more repeats of that last paragraph, I got her lying down on M&K's bed, and she quieted down, and pretty quickly went to sleep--all that screaming must have been exhausting.
I figured I would move her to one of her chair-like devices where I could see her sleeping. I picked her up--and she came awake and started screaming again.
But it was clear that she was only half-awake. I put her down again and she went to sleep again. So I brought my computer over to the bed and more or less worked while she slept.
There were several times in all this when I considered calling Mary Anne, but she was in the midst of stuff that would've been hard for her to interrupt, and the bump really had been very slight. If it had been worse, I definitely would've called. Nonetheless, I was half-convinced that that would be the last time I'd be allowed to be alone with a baby.
As it turned out, after some sleep K was fine, and eventually M came home, and I told her what had happened, and she said that K had gotten bumped before and it wasn't such a big deal as long as her soft spot hadn't been hit (it hadn't). And she pointed out that the ceiling in the other part of the apartment is significantly higher; Kevin, who is clever, does his baby-swinging in that area, thus avoiding hitting her on the head with the ceiling.
Anyway, the whole thing was a good reminder to me that I don't know how parents (and childcare professionals) do it. Five minutes of baby screaming left me a nervous wreck.
Later, on the way home, I heard Says You on the radio, and one of the words they played Fictionary with was "clour"--which turned out to be a word from Scotland referring to a bump on the head that doesn't break the skin. I was amused.
In other news, Tim P came by mid-evening to give me my contributor copies of Flytrap, which looks good as always. Fiction by Haddayr, Stephanie B, Jon H, Sonya T, Greg van E, and Jan Wildt; poetry by Alan D; nonfiction by me and Nick M; plus the usual nice production values and an editorial/life update by Tim and Heather. Their baby is due imminently! So exciting!
After they read this entry, though, I imagine they won't let me hold the kid. :)