When my wife Lala was pregnant with our daughter Poppy over a decade ago, one of the things we worried about most was bathing. We went to all the stores within 100 miles that carried baby-related paraphernalia just to find a bathtub that would be the most comfortable for our little darling. The one we settled on was made from polished plastic and included a pillow, foam underliner, and the ability to change colors like a mood ring or pregnancy test if the water was too hot.
We didn’t need so much technology after all. The day after Poppy came home to our little 500 square foot adobe casita, we set the tub on our 1950s dining room table between a line of hypoallergenic bathing products and a hooded terrycloth towel, bath mitt, and washcloth, all washed in Dreft detergent weeks before. While I held Poppy, Lala filled the tub from the kitchen sink. I tried to hide my anxiety by walking Poppy around the living room and singing her bad pop song parodies. When Lala brought the plastic trough back to the table, the tub hadn’t turned from pink to red so I thought all systems were go for this most auspicious occasion. Cradling Poppy’s neck, I lowered her into the bath and something felt wrong. Lala, in trying not to scald the baby, had gone too far in the other direction so the water was cold enough to blanch boiled fruit. Poppy immediately went from a blissful state into a full squall. Tiny goosebumps rose on flesh that had never seen the sun, and she started shivering. Lala muttered an appropriate profanity, and we yanked Poppy from the shallow drink, wrapped her in the cowled towel and decided to try this cleansing thing again in a few days. As it turned out, it was easier on all of us if Poppy got into the real bath with Lala. The water was never too cold, and Poppy loved having her mom guide her in what looked like a primitive form of water-aerobics. As for the newborn bathtub, I think we pawned it off as new and gave it to a friend who was expecting. We figured they were a more modern couple than we were and would have more luck with it than we did. Besides, you can’t recycle something that turns color.