In motherhood, there are certain codes you’re expected to follow. Rule Number One is this: you must believe, truly believe, that your offspring is the gosh darn cutest in the world.
I thus feel a bit sacrilegious in saying so, but Nico really is quite ugly right now.
She’s developed breastfeeding acne and has started loosing her hair, though only in a ring at the top of her head. I joked with my mom the other day that Nico looks like an pimply adolescent and a balding old man trapped in an infant’s body. On that bald spot she’s also developed some sort of scaly skin condition that our pediatrician assures us is normal and can be treated, if it gets worse, with either olive oil or dandruff shampoo.
The icing on the cake is she’s been officially declared a “spitty baby” by said pediatrician. This means she spits-up and/or vomits every couple hours and frequently has milk coming out of her nose or dripping down her chin. Most of the time, this barely seems to phase her, so she’s not in pain, thankfully. She’s just really, really spitty. And balding. And pimply. And scaly.
The other day we were meeting with another pediatrician about Nico’s spitting-up and as the woman went to leave she threw in a perfunctory, “Oh and she’s really cute,” about Nico.
“Not really,” I said. “She’s kinda in an ugly stage right now.”
The pediatrician looked horrified. I think she was considering calling Child Protective Services. Then she walked out without another word.
It’s not that I don’t think Nico is cute. She is tiny. She jacks her fist up in adorable fight-the-power movements when she sleeps and sometimes will smile away while she lets out a succession of farts. When I take walks with her in my Borne kangaroo carrier, her little limps flap to all sides of my chest like sausage links in a windstorm.
But she is also verifiably ugly right now. In a completely cute way.
The funny thing is, my little sister, whose baby girl Linnea was born about a month before Nico (and born some two months early, so she had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit until recently), has had the complete opposite reaction to her baby. Granted Linnea might just be verifiably adorable. She’s pimple free. And about 5 or 6 pounds with a full head of hair. And she has to be swaddled nearly all the time. So she does appear to be a bundle of cuteness in pictures.
But my sister is also just a different kind of mom than I am. The other day on Facebook she posted a picture of Linnea that read “It’s all over folks, the cutest baby in history has been discovered.” And my mom told me that recently, when my sister took Linnea to a doctor’s appointment, she walked up to the receptions and said, “Are you ready to see the most beautiful baby ever?”
And here I am in Iowa, changing Nico’s diapers and calling her mi feíta, or my little ugly one.
I reason that she can’t hear me. But also that it’s true. Nico’s not at her cutest right now.
And yet I still love her like the dickens. Possibly even more so than if she were perfectly, boringly cute.