Friday, January 9, 2015

On My Soapbox: Baby Know-It-All Edition

Our Christmas holiday was filled with a lot of fun, a lot of food, a lot of friends, a lot of family, and a lot of - something that's only an indirect f-word in this scenario - surprises: a couple very close to us gave us the gift of impeding baby news. I am excited, as the misery that is parenthood loves nothing more than company, and I'm always happy to learn of a pregnancy that's not mine. This is their first go-round so they asked me if I had any tips. I asked, "For pregnancy, babies, or general child-raising?" She responded, "Anything you can give me."

Being put on the spot, and having just emerged from the mind-numbing newborn phase, my first thought was: take up smoking marijuana and light day-drinking to tide you over until the heavy drinking starts after the kids go to bed.

After some time, and a little more serious thought, I came up with the following that isn't quite as white trash but still just as honest.

* The first two months will exponentially suck. Even if they don't and you have a "good baby," a wrench in the shape of Benjamin Button has just been thrown into your life and adjustment is inevitable. Your relationship will be tested, self-doubt will completely wash away every good thought you ever had about yourself, and you'll realize that while you could do it no-problem in college, you actually can't survive on only three hours of sleep. But right around the 2-month mark is when the little, wrinkly, screaming thing you've been wrestling with gives you a smile that will forever instantly melt away all of your frustrations for the rest of your life. Until then, though...

* Taking up some sort of recreational activity will save your sanity. Unfortunately, since most parents are too tired, can't find the time, and are too poor to leave the house, drinking heavily becomes your recreation by default. But although there are other in-home activities...

* Sex is no longer pleasurable since it's the thing that brought you into this hell. Or maybe it's just because...

* There is a mourning period. All you've done and learned how to do is take care of yourself and keep yourself from accidentally too early kicking the bucket. Suddenly, yourself is the last thing you're thinking of. While some people transition to this fairly easily, most of us don't and can feel some resentment that we can no longer enjoy the mundane time-wasters we did before. Was it actually possible that we spent an entire Saturday on the couch watching Top Gear?! And you'd pretty much sell your soul in a second to be able to do it again, which is why kid-free weekends feel like you're in literal heaven (and are a MUST). So...

* Don't let Tom Cruise tell you otherwise, Post-Partum Depression is a real thing. The meds may make it impossible to have an orgasm, but doing something about the depression is necessary. And even if it doesn't look or feel like everything you've ever heard on the news (yay for not envisioning drowning your kids in the bathtub!), it's still something many suffer from and can last well beyond baby's 1st birthday. That aside...

* Don't freak if you're not instantly smitten. All you hear about is how celebrities are instantly, insanely in love with their newborns so if you don't feel it yourself you think something is wrong with you and might do something drastic. Right after Zoey was born, my mom asked me, "Aren't you just so in love?!" I had to think about it and came to, no, I'm not. There is an instant, obvious connection, especially for the mother, but, for the most part, you are strangers; you need to learn about the baby and the baby needs to learn about you. From my personal experience, I didn't feel the physical, gut-wrenching love until both Zoey and Holden smiled at me for the first time (and definitely started sleeping better). But it's all biology - even if it's not there in the beginning, it *will* be there. Making it just a wee bit harder, though...

* Say good-bye to surround-sound. And anyone speaking above a whisper will seem entirely too loud. For the first couple of months all it does is sleep, then all you want is for it to sleep, and while noise level doesn't always have an affect on baby-sleep, your nervous system will tense at every micro-noise. But although noises will seem forbidden, you'll experiences them in ways you never thought possible. You'll just be prevented from being the one making them. Also...

* Prepare to lose wrestling matches to an infant. You may work out every day, be able to run through beach sand, scale mountains, or do one-handed push-ups but you are never weaker than when trying to wrestle an infant into clothing. People who put tights or jeans on their babies are either incredibly crazy or deserve some kind of medal. I am neither so the most Holden wears is full-body pajamas when we leave the house. Otherwise it's short-sleeved onsies all the way. In that vein...

* Figuring out a way to split baby-duties is tough but necessary. The Who-Is-Doing-More pissing contest will inevitably happen no matter what but if in reality things are split pretty squarely, it can't get too overblown. It doesn't seem like it, but rational thought is actually possible during this time. And makes it so you...

* Don't let outside influences make you feel inadequate. Your baby will make you feel inadequate enough, you don't need to entertain the opinions of others who don't spend night and day in your house. I had a house full of people as I let my baby cry-it-out because a 30-minute nap just wasn't going to cut it. Judge if you want, but what you think really isn't my problem (which will slowly become your mantra). And although it may always seem like it...

* Your job isn't to keep your child constantly pleased. Fed, dry, content, out of harms way, sure, but it's ok for them to be pissed off and/or not get what they want. Once again, with guests, I let Holden cry it out at bedtime (just to be clear, when I say this, I mean he cries for a max of five minutes), and someone *coughmydadcough* asked me, "If he doesn't want to go to bed, why did you put him to bed?" I responded, "Because I let him make all the decisions?" For the first few months, being happy and healthy will be one in the same since all they want to do is eat, sleep, and be dry, but eventually getting out of that habit can be tough. So...

* It's never too early to establish a schedule. Ok, 6-weeks is too early, but babies tend to slowly fall into habits like eating and sleeping every certain (i.e. 2-3) hour. Parents, being the arguable ring-leaders of this circus, can either gently guide a baby to a schedule (lots of books can help with this), or shoot it to shits. I'm a type-A schedule-person so having a baby not on a schedule was just not an option. Like I...

* Prepare to plan trips to the grocery store weeks in advance. Or anything else that involves leaving the house, if it even gets that far. I learned how to make my own cream-based soups (i.e. Cream of Mushroom for casseroles) because loading me, a toddler, and an infant into the car for something that wasn't life or death was just entirely too much work. But...

* As soon as you begin to count on something, it will change. Sure, Holden has a schedule so I'm better able to predict what he might want or need at any given moment, but kids throw curve balls better than the Majors. Remember what I said about feelings of inadequacy before? Yep. And just to keep the curve-balls coming...

* Although you'll spend most of your time questioning the validity of your existence and the level of your adequacy, you actually do know what you're doing. Those things called instincts kick in and even though you may be questioning everything you do, you really are doing everything right. Hey, as long as it's still alive and kickin', right? Well...

* Right and wrong become subjective; it's all about survival from one minute to the next. You have intentions of doing everything "perfect," and "by the book," but after awhile you forget what that even is. Desperation kicks in and you just want to save your sanity and maybe even have a hot meal. But just...

* Accept it, your house will never be clean. At least within the first few months, and the most cleaning you'll be able to do is moving organized piles around so you can enjoy at least one clean corner of the house at a time. Like I told a friend of mine, Holden is five months old and it has taken those entire five months (and a few weeks) to feel like I had any sort of control over the house situation. And it's still considered a good week if no one (besides myself) runs out of clean underwear. While this doesn't seem possible...

* Time ceases to have meaning and you will be at least 30 minutes late to everything (which is why doctor appointments need to be planned months in advance). And every trip outside of the home feels like you're packing up and fleeing the country. Thus...

* Time moves exponentially fast. Even though you'll be aware of every second of the clock, your days will go by in the blink of an eye. Sometimes days will go by so fast that they'll melt together to form one giant super day.Which only contributes to the fact that...

* Pregnancy Brain is a real thing. Baby Brain is even real-er, transitioning nicely to Kid Brain, then full-on dementia. Basically, you'll never remember anything again for the rest of your life. Except when...

* Suddenly, without warning, and even though you swore you never would, you sound exactly like your parents. And you don't even care, doubling your shock with the realization that your parents weren't heartless robots, and that they actually *did* know what they were doing and weren't just trying to make your life as miserable as possible. "My parents did it with me and I turned out fine," will become the words you live by. But...

* Know - or at least remind yourself at every turn - that nothing lasts forever, the good and the bad. There will be good days and bad days, but they'll all end with the beautiful gift of bedtime. And one thing I've learned after this second - and final - time around is that through the bad times - the newborn phase, teething, disastrous naps and night sleeps, the Terrible Two's - wonderful things will emerge: a gummy, drooly grin, 12-hour night-sleeps, and a sweet, smart, spunky child.

Obviously I'm leaving out a ton but having only been in the game for four and a half years, I still have quite a bit to learn and experience myself. No one will ever be an expert or have all of the advice, which is why it truly takes a village to raise a child (and why there are so many books and child how-to's that contradict each other). All we can do is offer what worked for us. I'm happy to be part of this couple's village and can't wait to meet the new little booger.