So you managed to weather a grueling nine (ten?) months and pushed a watermelon through your fine china (or -- if you’re like me -- had it excised from your stomach, alien-style), and now you’re getting ready to be discharged. In a few short hours, the hospital will allow you to walk through its doors into the vast unknown with your precious bundle of joy. And I know exactly what’s going through your mind.
What the f*** are they thinking?
I mean, this is a tiny life we’re talking about -- the most astronomical of responsibilities. And they’re ready to just hand it over to you, a woman whose Tamagotchi died under very suspicious circumstances. You can’t even keep a plant alive, let alone a human being, and your dog has been known to eat his own feces.
You are not equipped to handle this.
Only, you are! Thanks to Mother Nature and, well, me. So kick up your swollen feet, throw some wine in that peri bottle, and allow me to dazzle you with this brief primer on how to best handle the journey ahead.
This is the really exciting part. The moment you’ve been waiting for. This is where you bring your child home and … stare at it.
Although it will not feel like it, your child sleeps a lot during those first few weeks, and contrary to parental thought, they are not putting on a one-woman magic show in their sleep. And yet you will watch them with the kind of tenacity and fervor that you’d expect out of a spectator at Cirque de Soleil … on ‘shrooms. And God help you if they happen to take a breather between breaths, for you will then convince yourself that they have passed. But rest assured, the only thing in your household that is dead and gone is any semblance of your sanity.
In between bouts of narcolepsy, your child will awake to feed. Do not be alarmed. You are not being attacked by a rabies-stricken opossum, it’s just an infant with a Hoover for a mouth. I promise you that it will get better in the days to come, once your nipples’ nerves have deadened, along with your will to live.
I’m convinced that all babies are rodeo clowns. And not because they do something really cool like goat tying, but because the way they react to diaper changes would lead you to believe that they were trying to ride a bronco bull. I mean, in their defense, it cannot be comfortable to have feces extend all the way from your rear up to your neck (my child once got some in her hair?), but still … they really have a flair for the dramatic. Pro tip? Keep some toys next to their changing table and bring them out only during diaper changes. They’ll look at a new toy the way a postpartum woman looks at alcohol (Christmas!), and it should distract them long enough to get the job done.
Thanks to immature digestive systems and too few bottles that discourage the swallowing of air (shout out to Dr. Brown’s!), your baby will likely have issues with gas. As in, they will have trouble passing it. I know that this comes as a shock, given who their father is, but it’s a common problem that even Dr. Brown’s users will encounter. Burp them often. Bicycle the sh*t out of those legs. And use this as an opportunity to take as many pictures as possible. Non-parents on social media don’t know what’s really causing that “smile.”
At first, these will be of the sponge variety, until angels sing, the heavens shine down upon you, and that gross little stump falls out of your child’s bellybutton. And if your child is anything like mine, she’s going to act as though you’re bathing her in hot lava. Get in and get out as quickly as possible, but make sure to pay special attention to the rolls of their neck. I once found a Cheerio in there.
In the beginning, your baby will be inclined to sleep all day every day, but because your pediatrician worships Satan, he or she will probably recommend waking them every 3-4 hours to eat. Devil love aside, heed their advice. Your child needs these nutrients to grow and thrive. Once they’ve fed, however, you’re free to put them back to sleep. And here’s how to best accomplish that:
1) Wrap them up in a baby straightjacket, otherwise known as a swaddle.
2) Bounce them on an exercise ball. The rhythmic motions hypnotize them into believing that they’re a functioning member of society.
3) Shush them repeatedly, like that really annoying guy in the movie theater who can’t bear to miss any of the nuances of Star Wars 17.
4) Speaking of movies, you remember how creepy that horror film, “White Noise,” was? Well, that’s how scary your life will be if you don’t invest in a white noise machine. Buy one. Use it. Profit.
At a certain point, months from now, your baby is going to consume enough during the day to satiate their appetite and fulfill all of their developmental needs. However, since 10 out of 10 babies surveyed say that they love insomnia-induced delirium, some people feel that it’s unnecessary to teach them how to sleep on their own at this stage. If you’re one of these people, continue on with the above-named tactics. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with the possibility that your neglected child will surely turn into a serial killer, you can feel free to test the Cry It Out method. After 3 days of engaging in Ferber-sanctioned strategies, my child was sleeping through the night without a peep, and I’m only slightly worried that she might one day murder me in my sleep.
Not enough is said about postpartum hormones, likely because nobody wants to scare you. In that vein, I will keep this short and sweet. I once got so angry at my husband that I stabbed his PlayStation with a knife ... and then threw it into the pool when I wasn’t convinced that it was dead. Granted, it was an older version and one of three in total that we had, but still ... the malice was there. All that to say, you are not alone, and this too shall pass.
By this point, you’ve probably stopped reading and are standing on the top of a very tall building. Come on down. Because for every challenge inherent in childrearing, there is beauty to be found. Yes, it is true that you’re about to embark upon the most demanding journey of your life, but as someone who once created a meme said, “We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges.” So, mom and dad, get ready to experience the most meaningful growth of your life. Your heart will grow in size. Your patience will grow by leaps. Your floors will grow bacteria. But when it’s all said and done, your family will have grown by one, and it’s the sweetest evolution you could ever dream.
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