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Books: American Parent

Sam Apple just came out with his second memoir (after Schlepping Through the Alps) called American Parent. From it, we learned that The Lamaze Method was created by Stalinists and based on false science that was forced upon the Soviet scientific community because the government couldn’t afford pain relief drugs for women in labor. He swears that’s true! Anyway, here’s a sweet (and sick, if you think about it for too long) excerpt about how his love for his newborn was like a romantic crush:

At times my love for Isaac felt almost romantic. The first time I noticed this, it bothered me. I expected to love my newborn son, not to have a crush on him. But a crush is what it felt like. Jennifer and I would usually be ready to collapse by the time we put Isaac to bed at night, but in the few hours we had before Isaac was due to wake up again, the one thing we wanted to do before falling asleep was to look at photos of him or discuss our current favorite parts of his body.

“I think right now it’s the fat under his chin,” I might say.

“I’m going through a thigh phase.”

“Oh, you’re right! I forgot about the thighs. Can I change my answer?”

It was enough to make even the most sympathetic of non-parents shoot themselves. And there was more. Some nights we would stand over Isaac’s co-sleeper and admire him. No one’s sleep has ever been so appreciated. Isaac would move his hand to his nose and I would run to get Jennifer as though he had just stood up in his co-sleeper and recited the Gettysburg Address. He would make an unusually sweet clucking sound and I would be racing to get the video camera as though the fate of the free world rested on my ability to capture those sweet clucks on film.

The only thing we appreciated more than watching Isaac sleep was watching him wake up. The wake-ups would begin with the slightest disturbance of the lips, a movement so subtle that you would never notice it unless you happened to be watching him. A quiet moment would pass and then the wet tip of Isaac’s tongue would appear and disappear again, like a small crustacean peek- ing out from its shell and deciding the time was not yet right to take on the world. Then another, even longer, pause. You would think that the show was over. You would think that you had imagined the whole thing. And then, before you could catch your breath, the second act would begin with a dramatic rise and fall of the eyebrows.

The eyelids would somehow remain closed but, as though the eyebrows’ rising had flipped a switch, the rest of the face would now go into a flurry of motion. The nose would twitch. The forehead would wrinkle. The fat of the second chin would quiver like shaken Jell-O. The mouth would move left then right, sending ripples through the soft pink flesh of the cheeks. The second act might last anywhere from ten seconds to a minute. It was impossible to know. The only thing you knew for sure was that you had never seen anything so fascinating in your life. And then, just when you were sure it could not get any better, the dé-nouement: Like a magician’s sheet being whisked away to reveal the impossible—the assistant’s body split into two, the rabbit gone and replaced by a dove—Isaac’s eyelids would flick open to reveal not pupils but two glowing white orbs. Your instinct would be to applaud but you would have no time because already the yawn would be starting, a yawn so gaping and enormous that it would seem somehow bigger than the face from which it arose. Sometimes the yawn would go on for so long that you would begin to worry that it would never end, that you would have to come to terms with the fact that your child would always have a large hole in the middle of his face. But eventually the mouth would close and the lips would seal. The face would quiet until it was as still as it had been during the peaceful sleep that had preceded the show. And then, and only then, would the eyelids open again to reveal two perfect brown irises staring back at you as though nothing out of the ordinary had just taken place.

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