“Isn’t she beautiful?”
I gave a non committal murmur and let others in the office do the cooing and aahing. Now, obviously I wouldn’t expect anyone to shatter our workmate’s dreams by pointing out that baby Lilly looks as though she’s spent nine months licking a lemon, but the blindness of parental love never ceases to amaze me. I’m not terribly good at lying, even for a good cause, and thus resorted to complimenting Lilly’s baby-gro, to avoid pretending that a squinting gurn is a good look.
Babies – newborn babies that is – are just not attractive. They’re either wizened and wrinkly or they’re puffed up bloaters with Michelin man creases. As they get older their features emerge and then it’s all down to luck and genetics. Lilly’s father has a nose the size of North Wales and her mother’s frankly hirsute, so the poor girl was always in for a hefty whack on the head with the ugly stick. With any luck the diluted genes will even out in time.
You have to be terribly careful with names in that respect. It’s no good having a delicate daughter in mind when you christen her Serenity, if she then grows up to be a hulking great monobrowed quarterback better named Bernard. My father always maintained it would be more appropriate to give children serial numbers, and choose their names once their characters and looks had fully developed.
My children were all ugly babies in their own ways, despite the valiant efforts of my mother and her quest for positive attributes. Young G has a vacant expression which quite belies her brightness, and my son’s enormous head is still cause for concern. I didn’t see him and his twin brother until many hours after they were born and when they brought the Polaroids up to my room I nearly choked on my tea. Even the midwife burst out laughing when she saw my poor boy A.
“It’s not terribly flattering, is it?” She said, diplomatically.
“That is one ugly baby.” I winced. We both agreed it would be unfair for the picture ever to see the light of day – we would arrange for a second ‘first photo’ to be taken once his nose had returned to a normal shape.
My now-beautiful daughter E really took the biscuit in the ugly baby stakes. A tiny, spiky bundle of grumps, she looked like an elderly Romanian Gypsy and behaved like she was possessed. Without the ‘lovely personality’ to make up for the lack of looks, even my mother had to admit she was in trouble. We were all relieved when the passing of time softened everything, and in certain lights now she doesn’t look half bad.
Before you lambast me for my baby-hating evilness, look me straight in the eye and tell me you’ve never once thought a baby was ugly. Never entered your (adorable) baby in a beautiful baby contest, and checked out the competition chortling at the hideousness of other people’s snotty-nosed off-spring. I don’t believe you.