For those who don’t know, 37 weeks is a watershed moment in any pregnancy. At 37 weeks, the baby is considered “full term.” Technically, it means that his lungs are fully developed, but I like to think that he’s done cooking, and is now just staying in the oven to keep warm. Moreover, 37 weeks is a milestone for the parents-to-be. To explain, I have to digress slightly.
To a child, parents always seem partially insane. This insanity grows noticeably more subtle as the child gets older. Think about this and you’ll see that I am right. When I was young, my parents would tell me not to do something and when I asked “Why not?” one or both would reply with, “Because I said so.” Children learn logic quickly. Just about any child, whether or not they know the technical term, realizes that “Because I said so,” is at best an ad hominum argument. Over time, we simply come to accept that it is a mild form of insanity. There are endless homilies that get spun: “Don’t eat that, you’ll spoil your dinner,” is another classic. We know, rationally, that many small meals throughout the day are better than a few large ones. Again, insanity. Even so this insanity seems to diminish over time. Nevertheless, it leaves an intelligent child wondering how their folks even avoided the loony bin in the first place. And what caused them to go round the bend?
Thirty Seven Weeks. At 37 weeks, something happens inside the crania of parents-to-be. (I’m reminded of a lyric from They Might Be Giants: “Something unpleasant has spilled on his brain…”) At 37 weeks, the pressure on the brains of expectant parents has passed beyond a threshold where it can be further contained. This pressure often takes the form of, “Will this child ever arrive?” Or “what the heck is taking so long?” Or (speaking directly into the bellybutton at this point): “do you need directions or something?” There is no more room for the baby and it has begun to smush and deform the brain of the parents. This leads, of course, to a mild form of brain damage, which in turn positions the would-be mommy and daddy somewhere just left of sanity. Yes, we have hit that mark, ladies and gentlemen, and we are pleased to announce that we now join our own parents somewhere over the rainbow.
Suddenly, everything my parents ever did makes perfect sense. There is an eerie logic to all of it. It also helps explain the great divide between those who find it easy to install car seats, and those who farm the job out to rocket scientists. The ones who find it easy are the ones who installed the car seat after 37 weeks.
Bill Cosby spoke of kids being the brain damaged ones, but I think it is the other way around. This is the truly transformative moment, the one which no one ever warns you about, the sudden feather-light tip from sanity into insanity. I fight it, I really do. But then again, I suspect everyone does. I suspect that my folks fought it. No one wants to be insane. No one wants to talk in a goofy voice to an infant who can’t understand a word you are saying anyway. But we have no control over that part of our mind anymore. It’s gone, and we’re left stammering to a newborn infant things like, “Do-you-have-a-dir-ty-diaper?”
What’s even more remarkable is the fact that when I’ve announce that we have reached the 37 week mark, I have gotten knowing glances from parents, a kind of subtle turn of the lip, gleam in the eye, a secret handshake, a “welcome to the club” nod. You are one of us now, it says. And the scary part is that by “us” they don’t mean parents–they mean insane.
All of this I am attempting to take in stride. In fact, I find it oddly comforting. I look forward with great enthusiasm to things like changing diapers, and 2 am feedings, and spit-up, and glass-shattering, brain-bending screaming. All things that a perfectly insane person would look forward to. The truth is, I don’t mind the insanity at all.
I just wish someone would have warned me about it.