When my daughter, Violet, was born in a Salt Lake City
hospital five years ago, one of the first things that I noticed the nurses
doing for her was this whole trickery known as swaddling.
I stood off to the side of the room, next to the fresh
flowers and the big blue plastic pee container for people who might need that
kind of thing, and I watched as my teeny baby girl got burrito’d by a friendly
Hmph, I thought. What the hell is this?
And long story short, for whatever reason, I became fixated
on the sort of ancient art of swaddling.
Still, I am what I am, and even after I asked the nurse to
show me how she was doing it, and even after I practiced on a little girl who
probably didn’t appreciate going from being swaddled up hard and fast by an
expert to being jostled around and then lifted up in a loose-fitting, flappy
anti-swaddle, I still sucked at it.
Whatever. I never
Henry came along two
years after Violet, and I continued my rough form of baby comforting by laying the poor guy on the
bed and rolling him around like a countertop roast beef while I tried to get
the thing right.
Part of my problem in this world, I think, is that I really
want to be good at stuff but I try and learn it all on my own, without too much
influence or help from anybody else. So, short of that one swift demo from the
nurse a couple years earlier, my only informed education when it came to
swaddling was to cram my kids into some kind of reject Hot Pocket.
Still, looking back on it all now, I know that I did
occasionally nail it, and that there were two or three times when I managed to
make the cross fold and then the high fold and then the final fold, with that
tight little pull at the end with a bit of grace, you know?
Life is super weird.
You can get really used to doing something sort of
half-assed until one day you just come to accept the way you’re getting it done
as the right way, or at least as an acceptable way; nothing wrong with that, really. Lying to ourselves makes the world go round. Yet, every now and again, something
happens that grabs your wheel and steers you off the same old highway. In my
case, it was Charlie’s arrival a month-and-change ago. Such a sweet little baby
boy, he is. I wanted to do him right, for once.
So I did the only real thing you can do if you’re
42-year-old man with no clue at all.
"Daddy’s gonna make you into a burrito."
I went on YouTube. (Dear God, there are a lot of people with a lot of spare time out there in the world, huh?)
I punched "swaddle baby" into the search box, and boom: It was as if I had invited 10,000 sweetly effusive women whose long-suffering dream is a two-minute segment on the Today show into my bedroom.
It was like a giant orgy of baby love. And let me tell you
people something. I waltzed right in to all that like a sheik or a George
Clooney. I watched one video after another, Charlie rolling around there on the
floor, probably feeling jittery, probably sensing the weird electricity in the
air and that something was up. I practiced the way certain ladies used their
dainty, slim fingers to tug and raise and tuck.
I practiced swaddling
a big fat baby made out of air.
I practiced swaddling some teddy bear my kids had left lying
And finally, when I felt half-confident enough, when I felt
as if all of my shitty swaddles from the past five years were ready to have
their asses handed to them on a White Castle tray, I scooped up my baby son and
laid him down on a big blanket of frogs,
just as he was starting to try and eat his hand (sign of hunger) and cry.
“OK, OK, OK, little guy,” I whispered. “Daddy’s gonna
swaddle you up! Lucky lucky kid. Daddy’s gonna make you into a burrito.”
And I did.
With one eye on a video on my computer screen, I carefully
mimicked each and every move the lady made, that last fold across making my
heart rise up into my throat just the same as if I had just floated a big
three-pointer at the buzzer.
The long moment went to slow motion/Charlie’s cries became
deep, drawn-out growls/my hand made the final move through a thick cloud of
He was quiet.
I’m not lying.
Charlie’s tears stopped, and his heavy eyelids floated around
in his baby skull, trying to figure out what had just happened.