Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
"Assume I don't know anything." This is what I always tell the nurses in the hospital when I have a new baby. And I'm not just being modest or cute or something. I have picked up a few things about caring for babies in the last seventeen years (SEVENTEEN YEARS); but there are a few things that I will never, ever learn. For instance:
1. That baby is asleep. Sleeping babies breathe very shallowly. If you really, really feel the need to freak out over whether she is breathing or not, you can slowly, quietly go in real close and listen, and you will be able to tell if she is breathing. It is not medically necessary to swoop down upon the child, hear her gasping with fright, and then clasp her to your bosom, heaving with grateful sobs because she lives, she lives still!-- and then be upset because the child is now screaming and you had just gotten her down for a nap.
3. The best place to feed the baby is in her mouth. In the middle of the night, in the dark, in the fuddlement of chronic sleep deprivation, it may seem wise to attempt to feed the back of the baby's head, or to insert a pacifier into her ear, or even, in extreme cases, to nurse the baby when she is upside down. Babies do not find this funny.
4. That's not a naked bottom. That's a grenade, and you are its next victim unless you take evasive action. I don't care how many times the baby just pooped, how many gallons she produced, and how finished you reckon she must be by now. I'm telling you, before you take that diaper off, get another diaper ready NOW NOW NOW. Maybe two diapers. Maybe a towel you never cared for.
2. Men get tired, too. While my husband isn't quite as sleep-deprived as I am, he's still pretty damn tired. So if he doesn't bound out of bed with a song on his lips each morning, and if he doesn't waltz through the door with a merry grin at the end of the day, it doesn't mean he hates me because I'm fat, and it doesn't mean he's planning to leave us next week to go be with his secret other wife, who is blonde and doesn't cry at him and get snot on his good work shirt. It's just means he's tired. Soon the baby will sleep more, and we won't be so tired, and things will be fine again.
5. It may seem smart and sweet to ease anxiety and quash sibling rivalry by telling the toddler (and previous youngest child) that the baby is her baby. The problem is not that this doesn't work. The problem is that it works too well. It's extremely cute when the toddler wants to kiss HER BABY'S head; less cute when you're frying up meat and the baby is howling a blue streak, and there are no fewer than eight other children in the house who would gladly hold the baby while you cook, but they can't, because they are all afraid of the hysterical three-year-old who won't let anyone touch HER BABY.
6. They're not called new babies for nothing. Every single time I have baby, I secretly suffer pangs of guilt and horror over how different I feel this time around -- what a terrible, cold woman I've apparently become. After all, the other children (that I've lived with and cared for and laughed with and cried over and read to and argued about and rocked to sleep and bathed and shopped for and thrown birthday parties with and taught to read and gotten to know every inch of over the course of years and years) are so dear and familiar to me; but this baby (who I just met, and who can't make eye contact for more than a second) feels like a stranger. What is the matter with me?
7. That turkey wrap on whole wheat flat bread with sprouts? Means nothing. NOTHING. Guess what, slim. It's super easy to eat healthily when you haven't even checked out of the hospital yet, and the only two jobs you have are to gaze adoringly at the baby, and call room service. But what happens to your fresh new start once you've been home for a month, nothing fits, everything is damp, and you think you may possibly have taken a shower this week, but on the other hand, you certainly did not? You will find yourself tearing open the refrigerator door and grabbing a handful of cold macaroni and stuffing it into your mouth -- not because you're so hungry or so starved for energy, but because you're absolutely desperate to accomplish something. And if that something is just eating a handful of cold macaroni, then so be it.
8. Don't say anything in public about baby carriers, slings, wraps, or whatever it is that people are currently lugging their sweet little hugger muggers around in. Just don't. Even if you're among friends, even if you feel confident in your choices as a mother, even if you are an expert on infantile hip development, even if you've done extensive research on the psychological effects of kangaroo care in humid climates. You think mothers like to go on and on about their babies? You haven't heard tireless, unbridled, unstoppable blather until you've started a conversation about baby cariers, and have witnesssed helpless bystanders jumping out the window in a desperate effort to escape hearing another word about how Jerrica, here, has discovered a whole new way of mothering now that she's completed her epic transformation from an Ergo kind of mother to a Moby kind of mother, and how for a whle she thougth she might be a Tula kind of mother, and let's not even talk about that dark time when she tried really hard to be a Baby Bjorn kind of mother (ptui), so, but anyway, really, can we just talk about slings? Can we? Hey, do you feel a draft? Does anyone know why that window is open?
9. I FORGOT THE BABY! No, I didn't forget the baby. I'm holding the baby. That's where the baby is. I'm holding her. Sheesh.