So your fetus just leveled-up and is now a human person—congratulations! You are now the owner of a shiny new baby, which is just like a ham with limbs that cries. I know you’ve probably scoured the Internet for advice for what to do with your bundle of joy and confusion, but ignore all of what you learned because I’m about to lay on you some advice that’s actually good. GET PUMPED. I have one baby and he survived his first year so I pretty much know all there is to know.
1. Relish the time your baby spends asleep on you.
The first months with your new limbed ham will seem at times endless and also far too short. When your baby falls asleep on you, unless you have to pee super badly, then let him sleep on you as long as possible because there will come a time in the not-so-distant future when he will find himself able to move around, and then he will not be restrained by cuddling. He will have important shit to do that you will get in the way of if you try and hug him for any length of time. You will become perversely grateful for his nightmares and his minor illnesses when he will cling to you and lay on your chest again. I recently savoured an afternoon of being vomited and cried on because the baby had the flu and it was like he was new and fragile all over again. If he decides that he will sleep on you for two hours while Maury Povich is on and you can’t reach the remote control, then commit to two hours of Maury because this time is so devastatingly fleeting. Also, as a side-note, watching Maury Povich will make you feel a lot better about your life choices in those tired, desperate moments when you wonder just what the hell you have done.
2. Don’t feel like you can’t take showers.
Five minutes in the shower will make you feel so much saner and more human! You will become keenly aware of the restorative power of soap. I would strap the baby into his car seat and sit him on the bathroom floor while I’d take a shower; sometimes he would cry, but mostly he wouldn’t. Besides, if he’s crying you don’t have to worry about whether or not he’s alive.
3. Kids’ music and television is annoying and babies don’t care about that shit anyway.
There’s this unholy channel called BabyTV and it is so fucking insane that it will make you wonder if you’ve ever been sober. The songs are like ear herpes and they will sap your will to live. People will tell you that it’s wrong to plonk your baby in front of the television, but you are going to have to go to the bathroom sometime and for some reason dinner just doesn’t make itself. Get one of those Baby Einstein DVDs that’s mostly just twinkly non-offensive classical music. Mine was entranced by Iron Chef for some reason that I’ll just chalk up to budding culinary excellence. And don’t worry about kids music—I realized one tearful night that the only songs I know all the words to without musical cues are All My Loving by The Beatles and The Brews by NOFX, and of course he preferred the more colourful, less kid-appropriate one. They won’t have context for song lyrics for awhile so just play what you like and hopefully it won’t terrify them.
4. There are lots of things to stress out about!
But you will develop a kind of amnesia about the whole thing, and then one day you’ll forget all about the stuff that boggled your mind and got you down. I refused to put the baby down for a nap on his stomach because of SIDS and then when I realized it was the only way he’d nap I’d still check him every 8 minutes because I was sure he probably died. I just remembered all that now. Good Lord. I think amnesia is how people have second and third children—I will not be tricked again, because I wrote a lot of stuff down—but just know that what seems terrifying and impossible now will seem trivial when you get to the part where they want to chew on the toilet brush or borrow your car.
5. Stay away from the Babycenter.com message boards.
Or mommy message boards of any kind. Those women are bored as shit and to entertain themselves they write about how much better and more advanced their babies are than yours. Her baby was sleep-trained at two weeks? Fuck off, no it wasn’t. That mother is delusional. I was concerned that my baby was slow because at six months he wasn’t crawling to the refrigerator to make himself a breast milk smoothie, but then I realized that if I went outside there was a whole world out there and they have pancakes for sale.
6. When you get to solid food, make his first taste something wonderful.
Imagine that you had been eating the same thing for six months or a year or whatever and then the first break from that was strained green beans. You know what? He’ll get to that. Make his first taste something that will surprise and delight him, like peaches or something with vanilla bean. Food is delicious! Excite your little lump. There will be lots of time for creamed corn and carrot purée.
7. Buy costumes on sale after Halloween.
Then you can dress your baby up hilariously, which is awesome because when he’s teething and wailing he will seem like much less of a threat if he’s dressed up like a monkey. People will also compliment you on your cute baby and lady, you should take all the compliments you can get. If you’ve been wearing the same pair of stretch pants for two weeks, it helps to be reminded that you made that cute thing and that he got at least some of his cute from you.
8. Breast is best but stress is worse than anything.
When the public health nurse showed up to check on us after the baby was born, I was having trouble transitioning the baby from the bottles he’d grown accustomed to in NICU to the boob. She lectured me about trying harder, about how he would get diabetes and become obese if I fed him from a bottle, even though I pumped every meal that kid ate, and how breastfeeding au naturel was the only ONLY way to go. So I fought that baby at every mealtime, because after he realized he wasn’t getting that speedy, satisfying bottle stream he was pissed. The pediatrician said she didn’t care how I fed him, as long as he kept putting on weight, and because she had the most education I went with her opinion and resigned myself to exclusive pumping and bottle feeding and everyone was happier. Stress is bad for you and the baby. Don’t let other peoples’ shit get you down—there is no ONLY ONE WAY to do anything. Everyone else’s advice (including mine) is anecdotal so take every bit of it with a boulder of salt.
9. Don’t buy cheap diapers.
It will be tempting. Just don’t. So gross what happens if you do.
10. Maintain your friendships.
Sometimes it will seem like the effort involved in communicating with another human being who is not your partner is just too exhausting to consider. Ignore the urge to become a total shut-in. It is important to have someone you can talk about poop consistency with, and it is also extremely important that you have someone who will come over with a bottle of wine and tell you about what’s going on with her. You will feel lost and lonely at times, like you are not invited to stuff anymore, or like you have lost your capacity for intellectual discussion. You need to laugh. You need to hear about your friends’ awkward Internet dates, career achievements, and personal frustrations because doing so will make you feel like you, because it is very easy to lose you, or at least the feeling of being you, in those first few months. I was always so grateful when someone would come over with cheese and hold my baby and tell me all about her hilarious sex life.
There you go. I hope that gets you started in a way that all those judgmental parenting books can’t. Shit’s about to get weird—I hope you’re excited.
Did I miss anything? What advice would you give to someone starting out?