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Joy from an infant planet

WE knew all about how new parents talk too much about their children - we'd seen the sitcoms, the New Yorker cartoons. I'd even joked with friends that I might not be able to keep myself from telling them about burps and diapers and his (or her - we didn't know) tiny little perfect little hands and feet. You'll have to warn me, I said, when I get boring. Six weeks later, we came to our senses.

We realized that everyone was just waiting to hear about the cute noises he makes, how he hunches over when you burp him, how he looks like a little frog in his crib. How he can smile now, and how he stretches and scrunches after a nap. And his nicknames - did I mention nicknames? ``Milk Turtle,'' ``Pound Puppy,'' ``Cuddle Bucket,'' ``Sly Squirrel.'' There are more. So why do you suppose our carpenter - someone we considered our friend - nodded and backed away with a semifrozen smile when we explained to him how the doctor, too, saw right away what an exceptional child he was, how we think he has gray-blue eyes for keeps, now, how soft the soles of his feet are, and ...

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In saner moments I realize I've gone right over the edge with this child: I stare at him so hard I can hardly tell what he looks like - I can only concentrate on one part of his face at a time. And he beams back up at me, hardly blinking, drinking in. I see expectant couples now and say, in my green wisdom, ``Oh, they may think they know what they're in for ...''

I thought I knew. I thought I knew. But a door opened, a door closed, and I must be on a different planet.

His eyes were open, I think - I know he looked at me - and he was crying so hard his chin was shaking. (We made a point of asking the doctor, later: ``Did you slap our precious child? Is that why he was crying?'' He said no, no, no, he hadn't done anything, it's probably the change in air pressure or the change in temperature, or just the child saying - and here he looked up, spread his arms wide, and waved his head back and forth - ``Is this what I was promised!'' He was a little wild from having been up all night delivering babies, I think.)

So our child is crying, and I'm crying, and my wife is crying, and the doctor says jollily, ``Well, that's a good sign - a good, healthy cry gets the lungs filled up.'' Sometime later, while we're still marveling at this amazing thing and are hardly noticing, the doctor says a little less jovially, ``Well, that's about enough crying for now....'' He kept on a while after that. We didn't mind.

Seven weeks later, I have begun apologizing to friends. I'm training myself, in conversations, to start with the most amazing recent events - his smiles, perhaps, or his turning over by himself. I blurt them out, then check for a response: If their eyes don't light up, just a little, I pry myself onto another topic. But if there's the slightest raised eyebrow, the encouraging ``He did?'' I let them have it. They must be from my new planet, too.

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