Saturday, April 18, 2015

A tooth at a time

Posted By on Sat, Apr 18, 2015 at 8:41 AM

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For hundreds of years, even smart people have been giving babies beads of fossilized sap to chew on. 50-million-year-old amber deposits near the Baltic Sea contain succinic acid, which can act as a natural pain reliever. It’s said to be good for teething babies, and Baltic traders have found a worldwide market of frazzled parents to sell to. I wonder how many amber deposits around the globe they made babies chew through before they found the right one in the Baltic region.

I’m the world’s most skeptical man when it comes to natural remedies. I only use the ones that work. But when it comes to a teething baby, I will shake as many fossilized beads at the boy as I can get my hands on.

In the beginning it seemed the most important thing about having a baby was to learn how to stay awake for long periods of time without nodding off, and if you did happen to nod off, to make sure that you were at least propped up alertly when people walked by. Newborns sleep over 20 hours a day, but never at the right times. Our baby used to sleep and wake whenever he felt like it, without a single thought given to my wife’s and my schedule.

Back in those newborn days a creaky floorboard would wake him, as would my stumbling through the dark. My wife says I can’t get a drink of water at night without letting the neighbors in on it, but even normal, everyday sounds had a way of surprising the baby. There were many times I had to run to sneeze into a pillow.

Now he’s eight months old and teething. He’s probably excited to finally be biting things, but I’m not so excited about missing sleep again. I read in a book that babies are supposed to be sleeping 12-14 hours a day at this age, but ours seems to get away with no sleep at all as long as he can fight off the drowsiness long enough to catch a second wind.

All the newborn bad habits he managed to break are back due to teething pain. Again, we’re waking up at random times during the night, zombie-walking through a dark house. My wife appears soundlessly in dark doorways with bedhair and no warning. I can never predict her next move. She stands over my bedside as I blink myself awake. It’s like walking through the haunting pages of a horror novel.

It’s not flattering for a grown man, the protector of the house, to yelp in the dark, but I have never before turned around and found Stephen King’s wild-haired mute staring back at me. I‘m more cautious now — I dangle a slipper before entering a room and dart from door to door.

Anyway, our son is cutting his top teeth in this week. They’re spaced out a bit wider than I thought they would be, but after looking at my own smile in the mirror, what did I expect? I suppose everyone’s teeth come in this wide and find their pals eventually. I’m just happy his bottom teeth came in before his top teeth. An under bite is considered cute. Looking at the disproportion between his head and body, I didn’t know whether his teeth would come in the size of Chiclets or as little as fish teeth.

They seem to be coming in fine, though, and just in time for the summer fruits and veggies. The boy will grow up in Colorado Springs, where natives smile the Colorado Brown Stain whether they want to or not. But we’re instilling good dental hygiene practice in him early, giving his teeth a gentle rub to inspire a nightly ritual. Teeth are like children in a way: You take good care of them from the start and they will be with you forever.

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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