There are a lot of things you learn when you decide to have a baby. There's the required reading of pregnancy books and baby manuals. There are the handful of websites that come up when you google any question + "pregnant." But the one thing that nobody mentions, nobody warns you about, is that babies are little humans.

Before I had a baby I had seen other people's children obviously, and I had limited but real interaction with the very young of our species. Babies were cute, sometimes screamy, sometimes happy, but always foreign to me. Foreign objects that other people occasionally toted around. Pets that need to be carried around and fed... It never occurred to me that babies are the puppy or kitten version of humans.

If a young dog is a puppy, what is the baby version of human? I have a fairly watertight idea of what an adult cat or dog is but I have trouble wrapping my mind around humans. Cats and dogs are quick and easy enough to fathom. Humans? Not so much. What is the baby version of human?

Discussion of what it means to be human are excluded from day to day conversation, and even if it weren't, it's much more difficult to figure out what that means than catness or doggiousity. I want to say that I know what I'm looking at when I look at my son. He's a friggin baby, right? Yes, but a baby what? Human adults are monstruous as much as anything else. I can't even guarantee a habitable planet to my son, thanks to human adults. I want to squeal for his cuteness, the way I do for a kitten, but the cloud of debt, crisis, and guilty feeling makes doing that at least partly impossible.

As a stay at home mom, it is strange suddenly to take such a long glance at a human face. You almost need to become a scientist by default, because what your baby wants and why he wants it-- this is an investigation in itself. There are a thousand things I probably should tell my son, but then I want him to figure things out for himself too. What if he asks me the questions that I don't know how to answer? The ones that we all paper over to some extent.

I sleep nearby my baby and I can hear him breathe. Through the thick white noise hum of the millions of machines in Brooklyn, I can make out his tiny breaths. But he doesn't just breathe. He gasps, like he is surprised. He barks like he is sounding out. He chatters like he is laughing. He coos like he is seducing or intimating. And he winces in disappointment or frustration. All of this in his sleep.

At some point the pair of eyes, which you stare at everyday, begin to look out at you. You see that your baby is there and he is full of intent. He wants all of your attention. He wants to know that he isn't alone. He wants to eat and poop. He wants to suck for no reason at all, just because. He sometimes goes into a trance when he is eating, because eating can be that good.

Wait 'till he tries the really good stuff! The stuff that makes life worth living. He is going to experience that all like its brand new. And he will have even less time than I do. Less time to see the flaming spectacle.