Until Pepin was born, I only had one image in mind of what it'd be like to be a father: A sunny hike in the woods, carrying her in a backpack. That's it. The rest was mystery. I couldn't imagine how else we'd spend our time.
It's been eight weeks now since Pepin was born, and until this week I'd never carried her outside in anything but a car seat. She'd never gone outside save for brief moments between insides. For all she knows the world is 70 degrees, has two suns (in her room and ours), and a handful of people she can't understand. We might as well be living on Tatooine.
She's been under house arrest. Kept away from the coughing crowds in a kind of reverse quarantine. No Target, no grocery store, no unecessary guests. Doctor's orders. We've called it Camp Pepin, as isolated as a tent in the woods. This is what happens when you're born during flu and cold season, five weeks early, and only five pounds. Your immune system is understaffed. Everything is alien. You're a sitting duck.
We haven't argued the point. We've had nowhere to be. We'd had Amazon Prime. We've pulled Pepin from the brink, and as terrific as the nurses were in the Special Care Nursery at Methodist Hospital, we don't ever want to see them again except at an Applebee's or a 10-year reunion. If one of us coughs, it's an Ebola-grade interrogation. If we had hazmat suits, we'd hand them out at the door ($8.69 from Amazon Prime, with booties).
Medicine saves your premature, tiny baby, you listen to medicine. It will take awhile to trust our own instincts, and even as I say that I think of the unvaccinated and the web-educated and I realize it's going to take even longer.
But on Sunday it was nearly 70. We set Pepin in the stroller and I pushed her for the first time down the sidewalk. We intended to go around the block and instead we went for brunch. Parked the stroller outside next to our table. Hadn't even thought to bring a pacifier; we were performing without a net. Pepin slept. We ate. No one got sick.
Today, Pepin gets her first big round of vaccinations and her get-out-of-jail card. In adjusted time, she's still just a month old, still weighs less than many newborns. But we can't keep her from the world forever. NOt if I ever hope to get her on my back in the woods. No risk, no reward.
(Photos: Pepin attempting tummy time—the first step to crawling, walking, leaving, returning to care for us in our old age. Also, brunch with stroller, Pepin sleeping outside like a Finnish baby at daycare.)