Sharon talking - I came across this recently and it brought back so many memories of the life of my children, and the immediate months after their birth.
1 - You expect your world to narrow a bit. You can't just bounce out the door whenever you want, and besides, you still need to figure out what the hell you're doing.
Even so, it's a surprise when your thoughts are suddenly consumed by poop, and poop exclusively. Smell, colour, texture, volume, frequency, how it arrives, how it departs, which clever literary references describe it best.
Friends told you this would happen, but still. You realize you've hit rock bottom when you start gushing at a dinner party about soft, even grains in a thick yellow paste. Don't fight it. Embrace it. (The talking, that is. Not the poop.)
2 - Asking other parents for advice is like reading the Bible. It's a deep well, and there is some good stuff in there, but it's couched in language you don't understand, and when you do piece together a few bits, they all contradict each other.
3 - The advice you hear most often isn't really advice at all, so much as a doomsday prophecy. "Your life will change forever," they intone vacantly. "What should I do? How can I get ready?" They laugh, "There is no ready. Forsake all hope, ye who enter parenthood."
This is, of course, maddening. It's the biggest change in your life, bar none - marriage isn't even in the same league - and you can't prepare for it. If you're used to bending the world to your will, this will be tough. You can't help it. You'll read books, buy clothes, put together a nursery, and that's all well and good, but it won't matter. When she/he arrives, it'll still hit you like a ton of bricks.
4 - Sleep deprivation. This is the other advice/doomsday prophecy you hear constantly. Know how you greet new parents with the gentle joke, "Getting any sleep?" It's no joke. They're not getting any. They're up all night, feeding and rocking and pacifying and white noising and not sleeping. Night after night after night.
5 - The cats have been great. They took a few days to warm up to Brooke, but now they love her, and they're very gentle. In general, if you worry about pets attacking your baby or smothering them, don't. They're more likely to get kidnapped by the chupacabra. Instead, worry about actual dangers: falling into the pool, getting hit by a car, developing allergies and metabolic syndrome (among others) due to oversanitizing.
6 - ….but you won't get much chance to worry at all, since one of the biggest things you lose is unbroken time. Love going for a long run, playing a great game until 2am, curling up and reading a trashy book cover to cover? Too bad. Free time now comes in 5–15 minute bursts. Get used to running laundry back and forth, playing Candy Crush, and reading Facebook posts. Pro tip: try podcasts or audiobooks, they're hands free.
7 - The worst part might be the unrelenting sense of helplessness. If you're accustomed to controlling your environment, being productive, getting things done, hoo boy get ready. A baby will smack you upside your head. The first time they scream for an hour straight and you can't calm them down, no matter what you do? That's tough. The tenth time? The hundredth? Straight up demoralising.
Take a step back, leave her in the crib and close the door and catch your breath. She may be pissed, but she's also healthy, vibrant, and damn but she has a pair of lungs on her. She could be the next Lady Gaga.
Repeat after me. The baby will cry. The milk will spill. The diapers will blowout. It is as it ever was, time and time again. Amen.
8 - I'm obviously not much for helpful tips, but I will happily shill for one product: Dr. Brown's bottles and pacifiers. They're great.
I don't know what it is about babies and burping and farting, but it's kind of a love/hate relationship. There are techniques and positions galore to avoid swallowing air, but in the end, Dr. Brown's bottles worked for us. Brooke stopped fighting and actually relaxed while she ate. Winner winner bottle dinner!
This is me now reminiscing -
When my first child was introduced to her great grandad, he held her and was looking down at her and said "It must be great to be a baby. Eat, sleep, and just blow-off!" I knew exactly what he meant!
My first child had terrible colic, and I can well remember walking the streets late at night pushing her in her pram trying to pacify her and she crying so very loudly because she was in so much pain. Eventually she was so exhausted with the pain and the crying that she fell asleep, and then I could go home and try to have a normal life. But it was so frustrating at being unable to stop the pain she had as parents are expected to know how to deal with these things. Eventually the community midwife, or it could've been the Health Visitor, I can't remember as it was so long ago, anyway, they suggested putting 2 or 3 drops of brandy in half a teaspoon of warm water and then when the baby opened its mouth to yell, just tip it in. The first time we did it she fell asleep so suddenly and became so relaxed and floppy that we were seriously concerned "Is she still alive?"
The other advice we were given was in the form of a serious question …
"Do you ever feel like doing something really drastic when she's been crying for hours, and whatever you've done hasn't worked, and all you want to do is to go to bed and sleep?" said the midwife or health visitor.
Feeling that this was a trick question to see if I was a 'fit parent' and to avoid my child being taken into care, I replied with some horror "No, of course not!", but knowing full well that I was lying through my teeth as I had entertained several thoughts like that when walking the streets in the rain, the cold, and the dark, with a pram containing a child crying incessantly and seemingly with nothing being done to stop the child crying! Looking back now I'm surprised that a policeman didn't stop me and ask what was going on!
"Well, I'll give you a tip. Open the window first before you throw the baby out, otherwise you'll have a helluva mess to clear up!" said the midwife/health visitor.
It took some moments to realise that she was joking!
I can remember coming back one afternoon from an early shift at the hospital when I was doing my paediatric placement, on the baby ward, to be greeted by my partner with "He's been crying all afternoon and nothing I've done has stopped it! He's your child, you deal with him!" whereupon said partner took themselves off to the toilet with three closed doors blanketing any noise from us. I rapidly found that I couldn't do anything to pacify him either, so in frustration I put my coat on and said "Sod you! I'm going down the pub!" and went out the front door and closed it behind me. As I did so I realised that the crying had stopped, and now there was peace and quiet! I looked through the letterbox at him sitting in his high-chair in the middle of the room, and he was looking at the door and grinning at me! Child 1, parent 0!
Parenthood is a wonderful thing ….. for other people!