Here are some Things I have Learned during this whole baby adventure, sprinkled with quotes that were helpful and/or made me laugh. (The funny ones may not strike your particular funny bone. So it goes.)
“Pretend you’re good at it.” -Neil Gaiman
Surprise #1: Hand lint. Babies’ hands “resist being unfurled,” as one book put it, and their hands act like tiny lint traps. Leave it long enough without cleaning and the lint begins to smell funny. Aren’t babies just delicious?
Surprise #2: The changing table. Many babies love the changing table. They can be screaming their little heads off, but the second you put them on the changing table they are delighted. I had assumed – wrongly – that a baby would dislike the changing table as soon as she learned to associate it with being undressed and having her nether regions wiped with cold wipes, but I completely underestimated how much babies enjoy being naked.
Surprise #3: Bibs. We got several bibs as gifts and I figured I’d put them away until the baby started eating food, or just use them as regular washcloths, but (in retrospect, duh) it turns out that bibs are great for catching milk spit-ups as well. It’s the same amount of laundry (tiny baby laundry!), but you don’t have to go through the hassle of changing the outfit underneath.
“Are turtles and tortoises different, like frogs and toads? Or is ‘tortoise’ just a fancy word for ‘turtle’?”
“Please let my brain go back to sleep.”
Oh please. You just told me you were having a dream about being at Moriarty’s house playing telepathic air hockey.
There are fun things to research and less fun things to research. Researching a crib or a stroller is pretty straightforward. Researching childcare arrangements is a little more complicated. Do it before the baby arrives. You don’t necessarily need to get on a waitlist before you have your baby (though in some places you will, especially if both parents are going back to work full-time at a certain time and you need to have care in place), but it’s much easier to research before the baby’s arrival: you have more time and you’re probably less emotional about it. Finding daycare is difficult for two reasons: (1) there’s no standard way of searching, especially if you’re looking for a nanny share or home daycare, and (2) you may, just possibly, have some anxiety or other emotions about other people taking care of your baby. This second bit is heightened after the baby comes, so do the research first; knowing your options reduces anxiety.
“I dreamed I was an urban planner for an imaginary town…”
“Did you know the town was imaginary in your dream? Like Sim City?”
Baby clothes are sized apparently at random, much like women’s clothing. Gerber 0-3 months is drastically different from Carter’s 0-3 months, and American Apparel runs so small (surprise) that our baby wore the 6-month size when she was 3 months old. Unless all of your clothing is from the same company, the best way to figure out the sizes is to lay everything out on a flat surface (floor, bed, table) and group together the items that actually are the same size. Then, put what currently fits in a drawer (or wherever you’re keeping the clothing the baby is wearing day to day), and bundle the other things together in the next-size-up groups, so when the current size gets snug, you can grab the next bundle. It is astonishing how quickly they grow out of things, and even more astonishing that this is going to continue for another 15 years at least (though I have been told it slows down somewhat).
“Do what works until it doesn’t work anymore. Then do something else.” -my friend J
A crash course in zen
Let go of desires (especially the word “just,” as in “I just want to eat this sandwich”) and expectations (such as “I will be able to eat and shower and nap and check e-mail today”). You’re on the baby’s schedule now, for at least as long as s/he qualifies as a newborn, and it will be so much less frustrating to have no expectations than to have them – even small ones, like going to the grocery store that day, or the baby taking a nap longer than 20 minutes – and not meet them.
That said, having such a limited and precious amount of free time can be a great opportunity to prioritize the important stuff (showering, eating, sleeping, and reading, in my case) and let go of the rest. This is probably the one time in life that everyone is likely to cut you some slack. Take advantage of that and focus on your baby, yourself, and the other loved ones in your household.
“Today is like this. Tomorrow is a mystery.” -my friend J