As I’ve mentioned before, one of my best friends in the world is having her first baby in a couple months. I feel like I should have some super helpful profound shit to tell her about babies, you know, because I’ve been doing it for 13 years or so, 4 pregnancies, births and babies. Kids ranging from 13 years to 5 months.
And yet, beyond the whole “there will probably come a time when you’re sure you’ve ruined your life” thing, I’ve got nothing. I mean, I know a lot of shit. I know all kinds of shit.
For example, I know there’s no better way to wake up a newborn than to drift off to sleep. Or sit down for dinner. I know leaving in a hurry triggers baby bowels. I know there will pretty much always only be one shoe. I know The One Reliable Nap of The Day will not occur on days that you really, really need it to get something done. Particularly if there’s a deadline involved.
I know there is some sort of telepathic communication between newborns and toddlers that allows them to stagger their sleeping, waking, and getting sick. In other words, there will almost never be two doing it at the same time.
I know this will drive me nearly insane. I know I will roll over at least once and tell myself the baby is not crying, or I can just let him cry and fall back asleep, or that I had rather stab myself in the head with a bamboo shoot than get out of bed and deal with these fucking kids.
I know I will get out of bed anyway.
I know when the baby is a newborn, it’s not a cold. It’s whooping cough. It’s something bad. We should get that checked out. Right now. Yesterday. I know I’ll suspect in the recesses of my brain that I’m being irrational and slightly hysterical but I won’t care because this is my 9-pound most perfect baby creation (and part of my soul) and if something happens to him I may not go on.
I know I will not sleep until I know the exact position of my newborn, the face hands and what’s around her. I’ll check her breathing. I’ll check her breathing more than once. I’ll know this is weird but I won’t be able to stop.
These things have not faded with time. I have not become less crazy. I have only become more accepting of my craziness.
My winning moment with Arlo, I think, was when he started sucking his thumb and I determined this was due to parental neglect. You know, he’s not nursing enough. I have too many other kids. I can’t care for him properly! Poor kid has to resort to sucking an appendage!
I realize this is damn near the stupidest interpretation possible, but it’s what came to my mind, and I shared this with Mac, with a bit of a twinkle in my eye, because I know I’m fucking crazy and I’m okay with it. But every time he’d do it I’d wonder “This is my first kid to suck the thumb. OBVIOUSLY I’M FAILING THIS ONE.”
I know some babies let you sleep and some don’t. I know some will sleep in cribs and some won’t. I know this is an infuriating aspect of parenthood that never gets easier. I know some people “sleep train” by letting their babies scream. I know that isn’t something I’ll do. I know mothers need to do what helps them not go insane.
I know I like nursing my babies but hate pumping. I’ll do it anyway but not constantly. I know I may give formula but not in the first 6 months. I know this is alright.
I know this could all go to shit if I had a 5th kid, which I know I’m not.
I know I’ll feel guilty no matter what I do and slightly unsatisfied too. I know absolutely I can’t have it all. If I work I’ll miss being home. If I’m home I’ll miss work.
Sometimes I’ll feel guilty for feeling guilty, which is pretty meta right? Also ridiculous. But I have 4 kids. I should know better. Guilt? Fuck guilt. Be strong. Be secure in your decisions. Be okay.
I know I will only do that sometimes. I know I will always wonder if I’m enhancing or ruining America. I know I’m not that important. I know I want my kids to be who they were meant to be and my main job is to help that happen. I know my flaws will fuck with that process regularly, leaving me wracked and thinking perhaps a different mother would have been better for them. I know that isn’t true either.
I know I’ll think I have something figured out and then it will change. I know I will constantly be schooled by life that I really don’t know shit.
And I know none of this will really help you. Or it might. I would love if it did. But really what I know is that when you’ve had a kid or two or four you’ll write your list of shit you know, and you’ll realize it’s a ton and somehow nothing at all and both totally helpful to others and yet not helpful at all.
It’s all I’ve got and yet it’s a tiny irrelevant corner of an insane universe, and you’ve got your own corner. (With me in it, of course.)
So there. There you have it, my friend. All the things I’ve never known about babies.
I hope it helps.