I clearly remember leaving the office on my due date to visit the obstetrician. I had been 4 cm dilated and significantly effaced since my birthday, a good three weeks earlier. In the newsroom, at meetings and at interviews, my heavily pregnant self made people nervous. I asked my obstetrician when I should stop working. He looked at me and, once he recovered from the shock that I was still in the office, suggested I not return.
That was June 10. My daughter came into this world on June 23, thanks to some hearty doses of Pitocin to hurry her along. Any first-time parent will tell you, those first six-to-eight weeks are “baby boot camp,” grueling, exhausting and testing your limits. I can’t speak on second babies. I only had one.
As a good reporter, I tried to recycle some of my personal experience into copy. Plus, I learned a lot of information as a new parent that I never knew before, or perhaps thought about things I never thought about before I had a baby.
Breastfeeding was one of these topics. I felt like no one really talked about it. I was born premature and didn’t come out of the hospital for three months so my mother never breastfed. I felt lost and figured if I felt lost, so did others.
My editor allowed me to do a lengthy two-part series on breastfeeding. This is part one.
A humorous list of survival techniques for parents welcoming their first child.
Surviving Life with Baby
You may think you have no idea what you’re doing. You don’t, but neither does baby. Baby is just as new at this as you are.
The “book” may say not to put baby in the swing for more than 30 minutes at a time, twice a day. Other moms say: If it saves your sanity, do it.
It’s normal to consider selling the baby on eBay. (As my husband says, “SIDS is just an excuse for parents who smother their infants.”)
Rock, swing, swaddle, sing, feed, diaper. Repeat.
Week four is easier than week three, and so on.
For the firsts few weeks, make lists of everything. A “to do” list may include your own basic hygiene. (Hint: conveniently leave list of chores where friends or relatives, who “want to help” will see it.)
There will be days when you don’t brush your teeth until two in the afternoon.
Sometimes, running the dishwasher makes it a good day. Sometimes, running and emptying the dishwasher constitutes a good week.
Make your own rules, then decide which ones to break. (I said no pacifiers, but rescinded for nap time when my mother-in-law babysat, but I insist on the No TV rule. I like putting the baby to bed at a set time every night, but sometimes my friend keeps her baby up if her husband works late so they can have family time.)
Listen to your heart, not your neighbor’s advice. Same goes for mothers and other relatives. If it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it.
You will understand Baby’s cries. Suddenly, around eight weeks, you just know what the baby wants. And you’re not sure when it happened.
Your life will start to return to normal—in about six months.
If breastfeeding, remember: It can be uncomfortable for the first four to six weeks. Then, it’s the easiest thing in the world. Even in public. As my friend and peer mom says, “it’s not a breast anymore, it’s like whipping out a bag of potato chips.”
It’s not just poop. It’s a major event. After a while, it requires a Richter scale. “That’s the biggest 10 I’ve ever seen!”
Call your friends. Have a friend or relative who you can call at any hour. Or make sure your spouse has a cell phone on. There will be days when you feel like you’re going crazy and you need someone who has had a baby and understands. These days get fewer as baby grows, but they still happen.
Sleep when the baby is sleeping sounds good but it doesn’t always work. I recommend going to bed at night when the baby goes to bed, even if it is 6:30 or seven o’clock. You may need to do this for a couple months to prevent utter and sheer exhaustion.
If you cook, double the recipe and freeze some. Label well.
Prioritize. I do dishes and laundry every other day. But the toilets—I try to do them once a week. If I make every other week, that’s more realistic. Until baby moves, vacuuming is a low priority. (But a good one if visitors want to be helpful. Just leave the vacuum where friends and family will see it.)
Pace yourself. Even if you feel great, don’t overdo it. Take it as easy as you can until that post-partum check-up. And if your guests/relatives/visitors annoy you—ask for some space or hide. You can take the baby with you or not. Hormones do go crazy. Blame them.
If baby is inconsolable, go for a ride in the car, a walk around the block or try the swing. Motion works wonders. Sometimes, you need fresh air, too.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: On the very worst days, the baby will do something really cute to remind you why you’re doing this. Don’t forget to watch for it.
My life is usually funny. When things go wrong, they don’t go average wrong. They go Charlie Chaplin style wrong. I did an entry on my writing blog about this tendency of my life because my friends are always pushing me to be the Erma Bombeck of my age. And I do love the classic Erma!
Here’s a newspaper clipping about my daughter that I think falls under humor.