When my closest friends have their first baby, I try to stick with telling them the good stuff. When you’re new to this game, the last thing you need is someone telling you it never gets easier. New moms are like freshmen: they’re undergoing awful, torturous hazing and I like to take the role of supportive upperclassman. So it’s only after they (inevitably) manage to unintentionally injure their child that I tell them about the time I dropped Sally. It usually makes them feel better about themselves.
So in post-Labor Day start-of-fall fashion, I say “welcome” freshman moms. This is a unique time in your life (I’m told with the second baby you’re lucky if you remember how old he is, forget solid food schedules). Welcome to fragmented sleeping. Welcome to nonstop chatter about your newborn’s bowel movements and actually telling someone “good job!” for managing to defecate on herself. You’ll be charting every ounce your baby drinks and alternating between fear he eats too much and panic that he doesn’t eat enough. You’ll fret over diaper brands, washing her clothes separately or with yours (FYI: none of this matters), and the poisonous chemical du jour (FYI: this probably doesn’t matter either). You’ll get sweaty and anxious over whether he’s hot, cold, hungry, tired, needs to be bounced or needs to burp. Suddenly the world will look dirty and germ-coated, so you’ll sanitize everything. . . . Well, you’ll want to. You’ll probably be too tired to actually do it. And you no doubt already have lofty parenting goals and a laundry list of things you’ll never let happen.
Yeah, that’s because you’re a freshman.
Let me tell you how it really goes down. You’ll keep the TV off when the baby’s awake for . . . eh, about a week. Then you’ll watch Oprah and Grey’s Anatomy reruns while you nurse. You’ll reason that it’s okay right now but that you’ll ditch the television once baby becomes more aware. Good luck. You’ll succumb to the crudy kids’ programming the rest of us fell victim to.
Yes, you will.
I was never going to use a pacifier. When I see toddlers walking around with them it drives me nuts, so the natural plan was to avoid them in the first place. We got out of the hospital and popped one in Sally’s mouth on the car ride home. She was a sucker, plain and simple–actually, I’m not going to explain it. I did what I needed to survive. That’s what you’ll do, too.
I never let Sally hold her own bottle. Absolutely not–I didn’t want her walking around with it and making it her attachment object. Didn’t matter, she was completely attached and getting rid of it was like getting a meth addict out of his basement.
I never let Sally have juice (“Too much sugar!”) except at parties or for very special occasions. And now I have a freak who treats Tropicana like it’s the elixir of life.
Your kid will eat stuff off the floor. If you’re lucky, it won’t be alive. You will put the bumper on the crib when Jr. starts rolling around in his sleep and whacks his head on the rails–even though the books say you shouldn’t and you are afraid you look like a bad parent. News flash: just about all of us put the bumper on, most of us sooner than you. You’ll read Curious George–which is a horrid story about stealing an animal from his jungle home for no reason and without remorse–every night for three weeks because it makes your baby happy. You’ll learn everything there is to know about Thomas the Train, Disney princesses, horses, astronomy or whatever it is your child is in love with, even if it’s the last thing on earth you want to learn about.
You’ll be barfed on, drooled on, pooped and peed on. Before, any one of these would have warranted an outfit change for you, and for a while you’ll change baby’s clothes immediately upon any mess. Eventually it will become more of a three-strikes rule for both of you. Oh, and you will not finish a conversation for years because the aforementioned poop, pee, drool and barf will interrupt everything. Even when the kids get old enough that they’re not constantly oozing, you or the mom you are talking to will have to break every 13 words to deal with a kidtastrophe. Just accept it.
You freshmen are going to spend a lot of time this year freaking out. My advice: Find an upperclassman to befriend. We’ll tell you our own horror stories at the appropriate times so that you feel better about yourself. We’ll even tell you it gets easier, which is a total lie but necessary when a freshman is crying. Parenthood changes and in many ways gets better over time, but it doesn’t get easier.
Don’t worry, though. Lots of much dumber people have survived this and raised non-criminal children. You’ll be fine. And someday you’ll be the upperclassman secretly giggling at all the useless worrying a new mom is doing. Just remember you were her once, and it was very real and worry-worthy then. When her kid bumps his head, be nice and tell her about the time your son stuck a bean in his ear. The freshman will feel better, since that will surely never happen with her child.