Our son is officially a one-month-old. What a shocker. No really, I’m kinda stunned. I look back at his newborn pictures and it is already hard to imagine that he’s grown so much so quickly. I miss the tiny bean we first came home with. I miss when he had hair. And yet, I’m thrilled (even relieved) to see him growing into a more independent, expressive, hardy little man.
The first month was not exactly what I imagined it would be. For me at least, it wasn’t the extremes people describe – the new baby euphoria, the utter despair over midnight crying spells. I was emotional, but more raw and a little vulnerable than big highs and lows. I was tired, sure, but never exhausted. Some people even warned us that the first few weeks were “hell,” and frankly they haven’t been. It’s been more like plugging along at a much slower pace than pre-baby, visiting with friends and family, adjusting to a new kind of sleeping, learning to breastfeed, eating lots of treats, and staring at the boy we made, wondering how this happened, anyway – I mean, how did we get here? I remember, but it seems like a dream.
Our birth was also a huge surprise. So many things about it. Our midwife expected him to come on/near the due date because of my dilation early on and the fact that we knew the precise date of conception. And he was 9 days late. I also found contractions felt a lot like menstrual cramps, and I never did feel them in my back the way others described. Transition wasn’t noticeably different from the rest of active labor for me, and I hated being in the tub (after so much planning for water birth!). Last but certainly not least, we caught the baby ourselves with no help from a medical provider – the last thing I’d imagined might happen. He caught me so by surprise that instead of yelling “he’s coming” (or something otherwise helpful, to cue the nearby midwife that she might come over and check things out) I yelled “what is happening!!?!?!” just before standing up and grabbing him by the neck as he slid out. I’m still recovering from the shock of seeing our whole baby son in our arms so abruptly, and seemingly without warning. (It turns out he transitions quickly between things in life – he’s a man of action, our guy.)
Other surprises: I now wear a size 32 F/G bra. Breastfed baby poo stinks, despite what the lovely lactation consultants may tell you. Baby clothing sizes make absolutely no sense, and the people who manufacture “newborn” onesies that are as long and as wide as my forearm should be shot for wasting our money. Our kid won’t sleep for more than 45 min. in his adorable, super-safe bassinet and prefers to be jumbled up all sweaty in bed with us. Newborns have opinions, and if they are anything like ours, they are pretty good at winning arguments.
I remember being told about childbirth that at the end of the day all of the reading and preparation we did would fade into the background, and we’d just do it. We’d use our instincts and the support we had around us, and get through it just like women have forever. I wish more people said this about babies. Instead there are a thousand books with well-meaning advice (often contradictory) and warnings about potential problems, and if you are a good student like us it can be darn confusing. For the record, our baby has had stinky farts, rashes, a bloodshot eye, sudden hair loss, unexplained shrieks upon waking from a deep sleep that just about put us in hysterics, what I consider “projectile” spits ups, bizarre nipple-tugging behavior while nursing, and a million other befuddling symptoms. The numbers say that real trouble – food allergies, milk supply problems, acid reflux – is pretty rare, and all of this falls under the realm of what is “normal.” If so, why do I keep reading these damn books?! If babies really are this funky and moody and messy, I should stop reading and listen to the wise old women I know who say “if your baby doesn’t have a fever or seem lethargic, you don’t need to worry.” (Case in point, he just yelled suddenly and angrily in his sleep, and went right back to peaceful snoozing.)
I’m convinced there is a rhyme and reason to it all, and I don’t have to have it all figured out. I just want to be reassured that we aren’t missing a major sign of imminent disaster. Is that too much to ask?
Having ranted for so long I don’t know how to sign off, so I leave it in the words of Deux who just stopped by the couch to peek at our sleeping bean and say, “I can’t believe we have a BABY.” That, dear friends, is the biggest surprise of all.