Calling the shots

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The first two months with a newborn are not as glamorous as one might think. During the week, it’s mostly just stumbling around a dark, creaky house in saggy tighty-whities at 3 in the morning with a tiny boy peeking over your shoulder and refusing to go sleep. The bags under my eyes have reached bulldog status by Tuesday morning and my wife and I just bump around the house, mumbling to each other. Weekends are made for recovery. I feel most dad-like when moving slowly through a Saturday with a cup of black coffee.

Everything comes at you at full speed as a father; it’s a time for split-second decisions, and I’ve never second-guessed myself so much.

“How can you be a father,” I whisper to the squinting man-boy in the mirror, “when you still look like a son?” (The man in me is just wrinkled and gray around the eyes of a child.)

I thought fatherhood would be something I could just ease into, like a fat man in a hot bath. But it happens immediately — scalding you with uncertainty — and it’s difficult to make all the correct decisions, big or small.

Where should we send him to college? Should I change his diaper immediately, or let him marinate?

One thing I do not question is my duty to protect this boy and his mother.

The very first day of his life, I put the circumcision doctor’s hand to the test before he picked up a scalpel. I gave him a heaping spoon of sugar to hold. And, driving home slowly from Penrose-St. Francis Hospital and taking the curves in the road as if I had a grocery bag full of eggs in the back, I knew I had to shake my fist at the honkers. Everything around us, even now, is in danger of getting my fist pushed through it. (I try to have a punch ready as the elevator doors open, just in case.)

But what about the silent killers, those we don’t see coming?

I’m somewhat of a hypochondriac about these. My baby sneezed in my face the other day and I swear I felt the sniffles coming on for days. Ebola is in the news, spreading across Africa’s map like a Nazi invasion. Enterovirus is seizing children with its deadly claws just up the road in Denver, while children in Colorado Springs are coming down with pneumonia. Viruses can lurk under dirty fingernails, in doctor’s neckties — germs are everywhere. 

The world is a scary place, especially for a baby who has yet to crack the 2-foot mark on the measuring tape. I’m tempted to just tuck him in a Heisman-hold and start running.

We took him for his first shots recently to protect him from the big diseases, the melodious-sounding ones like diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis. These diseases still exist today, though not as common as they were when Doc Holliday wheezed his way through the streets of Glenwood Springs, and our survival rate has improved over the years. But it’s not really a confidence-booster when the pediatrician scrambles into the room through a sliver of an opening and immediately locks the door behind him.

I went for my flu shot recently. I had to hold the wall for support. I was surprised when the little baby with a fuzzy head handled the two-inch needle jabbed into his leg with minimal crying. His head turned red for a moment and he forgot to breathe, but he handled it.

I had to hold the wall again.

Pico spent his childhood years in the Springs. Now, as a father, he's seeing the city (and life) in a different light. Follow him on twitter at @DavidXPico.

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