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The Ballad of "Cannonball" Baldwin

First of all: a metric gazillion thanks to the countless people who wrote email and posted notes of congratulations after the birth. It was all quite overwhelming. I plan to print out the comments from announcement and save them so, when The Squirrelly gets older, I can show them to him and say "I know this is going to be hard to believe, but on the day you were born, this is how many people were surfing the Internet instead of doing work."

The authors of several of the aforementioned emails kindly notified me of some finer points of etiquette. When announcing the birth of a child, for example, you are apparently expected to mention specifics like weight and height, not just post pictures of your newborn preyed upon by roving packs of felines.

Who knew? Allow me to make amends.

The Squirrelly, a boy, was born at 2:42 AM on February 22nd in the Seattle Group Health Central campus. His birth weight was 7 lbs and 6 oz., he was 19.5 inches long, and, right from the get-go, it was clear that he'd inherited his father's boundless reverence for breasts.

The Queen's rhythmic contractions began just before midnight on the night prior. (The mathletes in the audience will have already deduced that this adds up to a three-hour labor, but let's not ruin the ending for everyone.) She had been feeling irregular contractions for days, but at 11:30 PM they become so eerily punctual that I, with the stopwatch, was soon telling her when they would begin. ("Okay, we're at three minutes, fifty-five seconds, so you're going to get another contraction in four, three, two, one ...") We had been told to go to the hospital after an hour of this, but after 30 minutes we were so certain that this was for really real that we declared ourselves above the law and hit the road.

Now, in movies, when a father drives an expectant mother to the hospital, he is invariably zooming along at 85 mph and blowing through stoplights. In reality -- at least for me -- the exact opposite was true: that was probably the safest, least reckless 15 minutes of defensive driving I have ever embarked upon. I would not have been any more scrupulous if a cop had tailed me the entire way. I imagine that if, in college, I had once smoked a lot of pot at a party and then drove back to my dorm at an average speed of little over one mile an hour, this would have reminded me a lot of that completely hypothetical time.

To put this next part in context, you need to know that a woman dilates during labor, culminating in a dilation of approximately 10 centimeters, at which point the baby can make his jailbreak. Most women arrive at the hospital at around 5 or 6 centimeters dilated; those who are less than 5 centimeters are often told to go home and return later.

So when we arrived at the maternity ward, the nurse checked The Queen's dilation to make sure we belonged there. Upon completion of the exam, she looked at us with an expression of amazement and said, "Okay, I'm not even going to tell you the results until I do it a second time, " After the second pass she said, "Yeah -- so, you're nine centimeters dilated."

(When retelling this part of the story to my relatives in the sleepless weeks following the birth, I consistently misstated the exam results as 9 inches of dilation, which was always good for a gasp and some bulging eyes on the part of the listener.)

After that it was just a whirlwind of birthin'. We were whisked to the Delivery Room where things progressed at a furious rate. The question of whether to use pain medication -- something we'd been debating for months -- was already moot, since the whole point of an epidural is to get you to eight or nine centimeters -- a step The Queen had apparently taken care of during the car ride. Likewise, most of the stuff we I had learned in our Childbirth Class was rendered equally irrelevant. I'd say "okay, at this stage you're s'posed to take short, distracting breaths," and The Queen would say "too late: now I feel the urge to push." So I'd say "Uh, okay then, at this stage we were taught to ..." and the doctor would say, "Too late: here comes the head!"

And so, at 2:42 AM, The Squirrelly made his grand debut. He celebrated the big event, moments after entering the world, by pooping. Maybe that's what all the rush was about.

Anyhow, yeah: babies. Crazy. I'll be sure to give you the scoop on this whole parenting scam over the next couple weeks. The Queen and I have already worked out a pretty good formula for the division of labor: Mama's in charge of what goes into baby, Papa's in charge of what comes out of baby. As for what's going to happen with this site, expect more of the same, although perhaps not as frequently updated (for a spell) and with a renewed emphasis on poop.

Confidential to Dooce: Labor story jinx! You owe me a coke.
Posted on March 16, 2004 to The Squirrelly


Well, Squirelly will prove to you (or already has) that shit indeed DOES happen :)

I didn't leave a remark on here when he was born -- so belated congratulations to you and the Queen :D

What a labor story... Much more entertaining than some of those I have heard in the past

Good luck over these next few weeks

Posted by: John F on March 16, 2004 4:51 PM

Oh my god you are one hot attitudinal dad.

Though it would probably be more effective if you dressed the baby in black leather jammies. Those are what, ducks?

Posted by: harley on March 16, 2004 5:34 PM

Look at him! He's a growing machine!
A button-cute, ready for take-off, growing machine!
Another thing to mention in birth announcements is gender, evne though Mssr. Le Squirelly is so clearly a boy. I mean look at that gorgeous boyish mug! Still, I had to read everyone else's comments to make sure we had concensus before hitting "post."
(for the record, when he was born, I was chronically unemployed. I bet that's alost as big a trend as work shirking. which sounds kind of dirty.)

Posted by: Jessica on March 16, 2004 5:38 PM

So, I've been wondering, did you name him after Squirrelly Bread, that weird flour-less bread they sell at PCC?

Posted by: chloe on March 16, 2004 5:44 PM

Have forgotten to leave congrats. Also forgot to assure you, just in case if matters, that that weird involution of why-didn't-anyone-tell-me- that-I'd-feel-like-why-didn't-anyone-tell-me -even-though-everybody-told-me-I'd-feel-like -why-didn't-anybody-tell-me...well, I went through that, and it's freakin' weird. As you might know by now.

Anyway, our guy is turning one year old in a week and none of it feels very strange anymore, and the world is once again accessible.

Posted by: Andy James on March 16, 2004 5:56 PM

Poop is good.

Posted by: Dave on March 16, 2004 6:19 PM

Iff'n you're looking for some bad-ass onesies, may I recommend dookiewear? Just think o' little squirrelly rockiing some of these outfits. (I'm in no way affiliated with dookie, just satisfied customer.) Regardless, I can't wait for more baby stories. CAN'T WAIT!

Posted by: Ariel on March 16, 2004 6:20 PM

I'm glad to hear the labor was so (relatively, I'm sure it felt like forever) short. I took twelve hours. My poor mother.

Posted by: Crack Dragon on March 16, 2004 7:31 PM

Oh, man. Your wife is SO DAMN LUCKY! First this quick labor (which I'm sure hurt but still) and then the cutest freakin' baby and then no dirty diapers. In is WAY better than out.

So happy for you both! Thanks for the birth story and I can't wait to hear more.

Posted by: Miel on March 16, 2004 7:32 PM

He sure is a handsome one! Glad to see everyone is fine. Was starting to worry that something was wrong with the little one since you took so long to post again (not complaining, just out of character for you =) ).

By the way, where's the envenomed talon from the sonogram?

Posted by: HDC on March 16, 2004 8:52 PM

You were in Mathletes too, huh? Hopefully, your kid will do more productive things with his after-school hours...

Posted by: Stella on March 16, 2004 9:05 PM

Aw, you two are so cute together! Is that red hair, or red scalp through blond hair? And such neck control!

My daughter loved the forearm flop, which I can see you've already mastered. Around four months we shifted it around so she was held on one hip, still horizontal and tummy-down, but facing forward. We called that the Superbaby hold, and it was her absolute favorite until she was able to crawl and didn't want to be carried anywhere anymore. Just something to keep in mind for the next four months. I'm sure you won't have any more pressing matters to think about.

Congratulations again. Tell the Queen total strangers are thinking of her and hoping she's recovering nicely.

Posted by: Caryn on March 16, 2004 10:08 PM

there aint nothing wrong with poop

Posted by: wedge on March 17, 2004 3:36 AM

I'm glad The Queen had such a short labor - it is sooo much better that way. That was a very entertaining birth story.

I must admit when I first saw the close-up picture of The Squirelly I thought your finger on the right hand side was his ear. It really freaked me out for a second.


Posted by: Susan on March 17, 2004 5:55 AM

You will now have more conversations about poop than you ever realized. Give it another two years and poop will be a major event in the house once potty training commences. It may even involve charts with stickers.

First thing our son did when he was out was poop--that's a very good thing! It's a sign of a healthy kiddo.

Congrats again!

Posted by: misty on March 17, 2004 5:56 AM

Holy cow, what an awesome labor/delivery story. God bless your dilating-machine Queen of a wife.

I've never seen the forearm flop-hold before, so thanks for that - if I ever have one of my own, I'm sure it'll come in handy.

Posted by: whiteotter on March 17, 2004 5:57 AM

preview (poop talk from 4.5 year olds):

*yells from the bathroom*
'Daddy, can you come make sure i got all the poop-fots?!'

[editor's note: kids cannot say 's' plus any other consonant: sm, sw, sp, etc. In this case 'fots' represents 'spots'.]

i agree: that boy is handsome.

Posted by: Sean on March 17, 2004 6:06 AM

Nice work! Couldn't have done better myself.


Posted by: steelbuddha on March 17, 2004 6:57 AM

What a coincidence, Rhythmic Contractions is the name of my band!

Posted by: Duane on March 17, 2004 7:53 AM

Ah yes, the "football carry" was a godsend during the "days of colic" we withstood from our first, (who just turned 11 today!). When she was born we were rushing (not really rushing though), to the hospital at around 2 in the morning. Came across Phinney at 65th, and immediately got pulled over by a cop who claimed I had run the light, (which I KNOW I didn't). He asked for license and reg and all, and as he was walking back to his car I shouted out "Um my wife is in labor...". He took a look at her, asked how quickly the contractions were coming and said, "Well get out of here then". He wasn't going to be delivering any babies, that's for sure. Glad to hear all is well, and a good birth story.

Posted by: Windopaene on March 17, 2004 9:12 AM

Is it just me or does the start of parenting revolve solely around poop and boobies? I know for us at least there was a whole new respect for poop in all of it's shades, consisencies, regularity, quantity, etc.

Now that's one of the benefits no one ever tells you about.

Posted by: Jeremy on March 17, 2004 9:19 AM

Short is good. My first and third were about 7 hours each. It's hard to watch your wife go through pain for that long without really being able to do much. My second, though...that was quick. We were in the hospital 11 minutes before he was out. I was only there for like 7 because I had to park the car. Talk about cutting it close.

Oh, and I did the "here comes one" thing too, for about 5 minute. Then I got "the voice". Any man who's been in the delivery room with a woman knows "the voice". It's something of a cross between the devil's voice in the Exorcist and the "voice" in Dune. Trust me when I say that hearing "the voice" is not a good thing.

Posted by: Sam on March 17, 2004 9:21 AM

Yar! Three hours! The Queen is a genius! Also, how much do you love the football hold, as modeled in the above photo? It's the only thing that would get my Frenchie to calm down during the afternoon crying jag (hers, not mine).

Mad snaps and props for being the poo-dispatcher. The feeding part is tiring enough.

Posted by: SJ on March 17, 2004 9:38 AM

Matthew --

I didn't get a chance to "congrats" ya earlier. A baby is a wonderful thing. A baby raised by a progressive-minded former Minnesotan is sure to be a joy forever. Much luck for all three of ya.

Posted by: David on March 17, 2004 9:39 AM

Also, for the love of my uncle's scrabble bag, DO NOT shop here for your little Squirrel:


Although the "They shake me" shirt made me snortle.

When mall punkers mate:


Posted by: SJ on March 17, 2004 9:42 AM

Wow. Three hours of labor. Don't tell my wife, who went through 36 hours with our 9-pound, 8-oz. son.

We arrived at the birth center when my wife's contractions were too painful to stand, and we were told she was only 3 cm dilated. So we spent the next 90 minutes walking around NYC's West Village (she spent more time bent over, clutching banisters and mailboxes) to help stimulate true labor.

Posted by: Doug on March 17, 2004 11:38 AM

I think a stop at the George W. Bush Online Store for some baby clothes would be a good idea.

Posted by: Duane on March 17, 2004 1:16 PM

Totally TOTALLY cool birth story. Three hours for a first delivery, jeez -- if Squirrely winds up with a little sibling, your wife will be having it on your front steps.

Now I think I need to go buy some dookiewear for my niece.

Posted by: Carny Asada on March 17, 2004 6:16 PM

I made the exact same mistake when my daughter was born, except most of the people I was talking to didn't know anything about babies, so they didn't catch the inch/cm screw-up.

But every so often I'd talk to somebody who had also had children, and the bug eyes would start to freak me out.

So, yeah . . . I know that feeling.

Posted by: Ryan on March 17, 2004 8:05 PM

my friend uses the one arm hold you have demonstrated so nicely, and then swings the baby slowly from left to right, making rat-a-tat noises. baby as rambo prop. it's actually very funny. and considering the toxic nature of what might actually shoot out, not exactly as inappropriate as it sounds. although i think the inappropriateness is the charm... try it at home today! uhm, you probably shouldn't try it in public, though.

Posted by: anne on March 18, 2004 12:58 AM

[i]baby as rambo prop.[/i]
LOL! Man, I gotta get me one of them!

Posted by: Keith S. on March 18, 2004 5:36 AM

"with a renewed emphasis on poop"

It's always great to see a sentence like that in print!

Posted by: Todd on March 18, 2004 6:36 AM

DH used to carry Thing One around stores on his arm like that. People would stare, but she loved it. They had to quit after she turned six though . . .

Posted by: Trina on March 18, 2004 2:56 PM

The Squirrely was born on the same day as my Girlfriend - coincidence? No. The Squirrely joins the ranks of God's Chosen, and must report at once - if not sooner - to http://www.the-observatory.net for BBQ ribs. Pre-chewed, duh.

Posted by: Rik H. Dammit on March 18, 2004 4:05 PM

I'm so relieved your back!
When people have a baby, make an announcement then disappear I get very nervous because once in my life I had a baby, made an announcement and then disappeared because the baby was soon clinging to life in the Infant Intensive Care Unit at Children's Hospital.
That's a long story and not really a good way to say...CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Posted by: Ellen on March 18, 2004 5:48 PM

Again, many congratulations!

Your fans in Tokyo look forward to your future missives.

Posted by: Gen on March 18, 2004 6:31 PM

anyone else notice that no name was mentioned? i, um, really thought "squirrelly" was a nickname. although cute, your child is going to get the shit kicked out of him daily from age 6 to 15 unless you change that.

Posted by: lisa on March 18, 2004 8:22 PM

"The Squirrely was born on the same day as my Girlfriend"

Dude, you gotta start dating older chicks...

Posted by: Sheronda on March 19, 2004 7:16 AM

Yeah, what's The Squirrelly's name? Because I want to go register the domain name.

Puts "godaddy" in a new light, doesn't it?

Posted by: daddy types on March 19, 2004 2:39 PM

I'm glad that the Queen delivered naturally. It's the best method, IMO. As far as the division of labor, I think you guys got the best formula I've heard. A pp said that In is better than Out, but I have to disagree. I think they are pretty equal really. They are both time consuming, the workload is variable with both duties, and both of them involve responding to another's needs on demand.

Congratulations! Hey, poop ain't all that bad. At least you aren't changing two kids diapers every day like me :)

Posted by: alexx on March 22, 2004 9:48 AM

Belated congratulations to you and your family!! Sorry, I've been way out of the loop for awhile--I'll have to brush up on all that's transpired for y'all in the past month. Hope everyone's happy and healthy, and getting a wee bit of sleep now and again...

--Karen the LairMistress

Posted by: Karen on March 24, 2004 5:45 PM