Do you remember what it was like when you went away to college for the first time and at every event for the next 12-48 months people asked you: "so how is it to be away at college?" At first it was an exciting question to answer. You had waited for the moment when you could finally say goodbye to your parents and your old self to grow the wings of a butterfly and flitter off into the fun of what you thought adulthood would be like. Endless parties, sleeping in to skip class, junkfood for three square meals a day, with a little bit of self-exploration and personal growth thrown in. Life is wonderful! But after the first 15 people ask you the same question you dread these conversations and recite your publicly acceptable rehearsed answer as it gets shorter and shorter. "Yeah, my roommate is ok. I'm a psych major. College is great. No, I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Thanks for the $20."
Talking to people about having a new baby is just. like. that. Except there is the added bonus of lots of unsolicited advice and personal anecdotes because people assume that you are suffering as much as they did when their child was born. "Oh, I'm sure you're exhausted to the point of hysterics." Actually no. He sleeps constantly; I sleep at least 50% of the time that he sleeps. "And everything must smell like baby puke." How did you not master the art of avoiding being spit up after the first time? "I know you're a clean freak, but get used to a messy apartment." He's not a toddler yet, so we're more than capable of cleaning up after our normal daily mess in a timely manner. "You must want to kill your husband constantly." WHAT?!?! The person who actually makes my life easier???? Never!! I think they want to see that you are suffering as much as they did because it validates how difficult their early baby experiences were. The truth is, not everyone has that kind of a parenthood experience.
Baby (or as he will now henceforth be known: Little Guy), is a little over a month old now. What is it like to be a new parent to him? Boring. Yes, every once in awhile he pukes half his body weight and it comes out it nose or poops WHILE I'm changing his poopy diaper and then pees on himself (despite the fact that I covered up his own little guy...that thing sure knows how to snake itself to the...no...let me just stop there because I am picturing him as a teenager and the trouble he is going to get himself into). But for the most part he just sleeps, eats, and goes to the bathroom. He is a glorified Tamagotchi.
Yes. A Tamagotchi. A mid 90s electronic appropriately looking sperm-like pet that everyone had to have. At first you were very excited when you got yours. Finally! The cool toy that everyone had, you now have too! My little egg was purple (my favorite color during childhood) and like most children, I spent the better part of at least 36 hours being completely obsessed with ensuring its survival. I fed it and cleaned up after it's poop like a dutiful mother would. I turned the light off when it needed to sleep and checked it all night long, when I should have been sleeping, to ensure that I did not wake up to a miserable electronic pet...or worse yet, a dead one. And I was in heaven. It seemed so easy! I was going to be a great nano-mom.
Then, somewhere around day two I started to space out and wanted to do other things with my time. I didn't want to be tied down to a schedule of checking up on a time-sucker when I could be playing with things that were actually alive like my cat, my friends, or even my little brother. I tempted fate often enough, wondering what would happen if I didn't feed it or let the poop pile up. It would look sickly; It would be sad; It would eventually die, right? But I had too much guilt. I would save it at the last minute every time. And when it finally did die, as devastated as I was, I took solace in the fact that I could just reset it and get a new one. I'd be a better parent this time around.
Having a newborn baby is exactly like that. Except there is no reset button. My job is to simply keep this little guy alive. And the first few days at home were bliss. Like clockwork for the last 32 days every three hours he needs to have his diaper changed, be fed, have his diaper changed, and then go back to sleep in that order. Do all that on repeat and have a happy, healthy baby. Then, somewhere around day 2, my ADHD kicked in and I started to wonder what were all the things I could do with one hand. I learned pretty quickly that, with no upper body strength to speak of, was basically work a remote and drink a beverage of my choice. I also learned that I cannot feed him and do something else at the same time or I'll miss his mouth and make a mess everywhere. I also learned that up until this week he was too small for any device we own that will keep him out of his uncomfortable bassinet for extended periods of time and that he is VERY particular about how he lies on me (his only other housing option aside from my husband) while sleeping. I now have more pillows around me at all times than I did during pregnancy to prop him and every one of my limbs up to remain comfortable for as long as possible.
But on the plus side I have watched two whole TV series and about 30 movies, learned more about classical music and jazz thanks to Pandora, grown closer with my fur babies, eaten so little that I have lost enough weight I am back into my normal jeans, napped more times than I thought I ever could in one day, and online shopped until I dropped...my wallet under the coffee table where I could not get it until my husband came home and took Little Guy for his shift.
I can see why some parents become overwhelmed by their children. The brief moments when Little Guy cries are terrifying as I quickly scan over my brain for all of the things he might need until I press the right button to make him smile and fall back asleep again. I can see why hours and hours of that would wear anyone thin. These moments, though, are brief and nothing like the horror stories I was told to prepare for. My little guy is not a cryer. He's a sleeper and a snuggler and thus, after waiting and waiting to be a parent to a newborn, it has actually been pretty great. Maybe he's just saving it all up for when he turns two?