By John Jericiau
It’s been just shy of five years since I’ve cared for an infant whose age is still referred to in terms of days. I figured not much has changed, which is why I’ve been able to simply retrieve from storage all the necessary equipment and bottles and nipples and tools that one needs to tackle the round-the-clock project that comes with this bundle of joy. I’ve tossed aside the books that tell you what to expect when you’re expecting, or how to raise a happy baby. I’ve got this. I’ve raised two boys from birth, one arriving exactly eight months after the other, so if I can do that, I assume I can handle a single newborn.
Oops. Never assume, and never rely completely on memory, especially as the ageing process is accelerating in your own body and mind. Here are a few things I forgot about.
THE CRY. I forgot how piercing, how disturbing, how bone-rattling the sound is. I forgot that once that sound starts, your own body quickly stops doing whatever it’s doing at that moment in order to go stop that sound.
THE DIAPER. I remembered that the first few fillings of the diaper were black, but I forgot that it’s a sticky gooey tar that is impossible to wipe off and even more impossible to tolerate more than a single whiff of. What you’re dealing with can only be described as a thick mustard, only this mustard takes your appetite away and/or makes you gag. That’s as far as we’ve gotten so far, but I know that more good times are ahead.
THE FATIGUE. While I’ve become accustomed to occasional nights of interrupted sleep with our two boys, I forgot just how painful it could be to go practically sleepless for days at a time. As the days tick off the calendar, you lose any orientation to time of the day or day of the week. 11:00am feels exactly the same as 11:00pm; Monday feels just like Saturday. Your own attire morphs into the easiest thing you can sleep in (thank God for sweatpants), because there’s no undressing as you catch some winks or nod off on the sofa with the baby in your arms. When you wake up, you’re amazed that you haven’t let the baby roll on the floor or drown from the drool coming from your mouth as you slept.
THE CHORES. Suddenly it becomes impossible to do the most mundane things like laundry and cleaning. Sitting down to do some paperwork, pay some bills, or just read something like the Sunday paper – forget about it! The only things that get done are things that are absolutely needed to survive: prepare clean bottles for feeding, replenish diapers that disappear before your eyes, or answer the nonstop telephone calls and email well wishes. Cell phones are incredibly useful for sneaking in some reading or correspondence while giving the baby a bottle with your chin.
ETC. You never make it to the bathroom until you’re about ready to burst (or worse), you watch your uncut fingernails start to grow curly, and you wonder if you’re ever going to see your partner’s body again. You become reacquainted with the line-up of TNT, Lifetime, and CNN, especially for the hours of 1-5am. You eat things you normally wouldn’t at times you never would before. You wonder if you can really keep going.
And just when it gets really bad, you realize just how much you love this little person that depends on you so much. And you realize that you wouldn’t want it any other way. That’s life. That’s love.