This Sunday my baby will be twelve weeks old. Which sounds like 3 months to me but is not 3 months because like everything related to children their age is a fucking clusterfuck to figure out. The past
three months 12 weeks has been a blur. The lack of sleep and constant nature of the job of “mom” makes every day and night seem unbearably long and terrifyingly short. Despite my years of experience with children, this has been an insane learning experience for me and every day has been an adventure in “trying all the things,” over and over again. Since babies are basically different from one day to the next something will not work on Monday but instantly work on Tuesday. It’s a lesson in patience and insanity. Here are some other things I’ve learned thus far that have been surprising:
- Babies Explode: I knew that babies shit outside of their diapers from time to time going into this. However, replace time to time with ALL THE TIME. It’s made me worship our wipable changing table to the point that I call all of my pregnant friends and demand they buy it. Pregnant ladies, NEVER BUY A CLOTH CHANGING TABLE. Your kid will destroy it every other day and you’ll have to do even more wash than you’re already doing.
- Laundry is a Daily Thing: I have to do laundry nonstop because as I explained above, babies explode. My kid has somehow shit up to his own head more than once. How is this scientifically possible? I don’t know. Baby crap defies gravity.
- Try, Fail, Repeat: Like I said in the intro paragraph, Leo will literally hate something on one day and like it on the next. For example, last week he didn’t like his adorable wood activity bar that I paid seven million dollars for. Then, like five minutes later, he was super into it. Just because your baby hates XYZ on Monday doesn’t mean they’ll still hate it on Tuesday and vice versa. Leo might love something one day and hate it the next. So every day I try all of the things and some days they work and others they don’t. It’s a crapshoot.
- Babies Know What They Hate: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge baby person. I like kids the most when they’re like, interactive. Or so I thought. Turns out that when it’s YOUR baby and you spend a lot of time with them they manage to communicate pretty well. Leo will coo and smile and flap his arms when he’s happy. He’ll try to swallow his entire hand when he’s hungry or tired. And he will LOSE HIS GODDAMN MIND if he is disturbed when falling asleep or gets a tad too hungry. He makes little dinosaur noises when he pees and looks like a 900-year-old relic statue when he poops.
- It’s WILD Being Someone’s Mom: I’ve taken care of kids my entire life starting at age five because I grew up in the ’80s where my mom would be like, “I’m going to the store, watch your 6-month-old brother,” when I was a kindergartner. And my younger siblings loved me. But it’s a totally different thing to be someone’s everything. Like my kid will be hysterically upset and I’ll take him from the nanny and he’ll instantly stop crying when he smells me. He’s like, “oh, it’s you, lady milk bags and womb haver.” And it’s weird. And powerful. It’s like having a soothing superpower and since my kid is half Italian it should work until he’s 50 and still living in my basement with his wife/husband and pets/offspring.
- It’s Hard to Break Societal Habits: My husband and I talked a lot about our parental style before I got pregnant. One thing that is important to me is to avoid complimenting Leo on things that are superficial or out of his control. I don’t want to tell him he’s smart and cute. He’s both of those things already (my sister and friend is convinced he’s a genius) but I’d rather compliment him on being kind, tenacious, fair, loyal, and his creative choices. Like I want us to say, “I love the outfit you picked out,” over “You look so cute.” The reason? We can get into that in another post but to summarize: Kids become who they’re told they are and I’ve seen too many kids who were told they were “smart” have a mental breakdown when they get an A- instead of an A because like WHO ARE THEY NOW THEY’RE IDENTITY IS SHAKEN. Kids can always TRY HARD. They can always be KIND. They can always make interesting or cool clothing choices. They cannot always be smart, athletic, or beautiful. Ya feel me? Disagree? Cool. Parent however you want. What I’ve realized so far is how hard it is to break societal habits. I try REALLY hard to do this now before he really understands what’s happening so I can get used to it but around every turn I catch myself saying how beautiful, smart, and strong he is.
- Everyone Wants Your Infant to Date: I’ve said this once and I’ll say it a million times. IT IS WEIRD TO TALK ABOUT GIRLFRIENDS AND BOYFRIENDS TO A CHILD (for me). I cannot count how many people have said, “keep him away from my daughter…har har,” or “that’s his little girlfriend!” And I’m like, why can’t we work on fostering caring friendships between little boys and girls instead of pairing them up in some weird infant/toddler relationship they’re not even aware of. Look, I get that it’s “adorable” and funny. When I was 9 I tried to marry my little brother to the neighbor girl. I used to be guilty of this too but after much diliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s weird. I just think it can make children think of the opposite sex in a weird way, WAY too young AND it makes a huge assumption about the sexual preferences of my kid. MAYBE MY KID WILL BE GAY, DUDES, AND HE WON’T LIKE YOUR DAUGHTER. Can we just put tired old jokes about toddler nuptials to rest, please?
- Sleep is but a Distant Memory: I like to avoid saying that anything I’ve experienced will be that way for anyone else who has a baby. Every person and baby is so different. But in my case, I haven’t slept great in
3 months12 weeks. My baby has acid reflux something fierce and prefers to be held 24/7. Laying him flat on his back to sleep gives him heartburn so he wakes up constantly. Therefore, I typically only get 3 hours of sleep per night. Once in a while I’ll get to sleep for 6 hours and it’s a miracle and I wake up like, HAVE I JUST BEEN TO THE SPA BECAUSE I FEEL LUXURIOUS?
- Breastfeeding is Hard (and for some impossible): I have never produced what my baby needs. For the first week, I’d cry and cry because he was hungry and my milk wouldn’t come in. My pediatrician told me to supplement with formula and so I did and always have. I breastfeed, but he’s always hungry after so I top him off with formula. I LOVE the back to the breast campaigns. Breastfeeding IS ideal for your baby, however, I think groups like Le Leche League take it way too far. They can make it sound like if you don’t breastfeed your baby will turn into a hopelessly at-risk shitlog human, ridden with disease and virus and incapable of love. Seriously, if you can breastfeed, DO IT, but if you can’t, your baby will be fine.
- Old White Men Have So Much Advice: It seems like everywhere you go with an infant there’s an elderly white man lying in wait to offer you parenting advice YOU DO NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT. My baby was like 7 weeks old and I was in a coffee shop where two dusty relics stooped over me to tell me to not hold my baby so much because I was spoiling him. A newborn. I’m like, “yeah, no, you’re right. I should shut him into a cave alone where he can become A REAL MAN and grow up subtly racist and misogynistic like your generation of war-mongers. Note: My grandfather is amazing, I love him, and he was a marine who served in the Korean War. I respect him. But like my goal is not for my kid to be just like him. He still refers to Japanese women as “the jap ladies” and calls black men “colored,” and cat-calls elderly women at the store and told a nurse that she had a nice rear once while I watched in horror as she blushed and shrank into herself. Thanks but no thanks.
- My Poodle Is Okay: We were SUPER worried about my dog, Oliver. He’s an attention-seeking, needy, neurotic mess who we love but we couldn’t imagine a world where he’d be good with a baby. The first few days he wasn’t. When Leo cried, Oliver would bark incessantly. He would jump up and try to grab the swaddle blanket when we cuddled the baby. He was jealous and confused and anxious. But ever since that first week he’s been great. He’s not best friends with the baby but he knows he has to be gentle with him which is more than we could ask for.
- People will Help: When we brought our baby home people came out of the woodwork to offer help. Neighbors brought food and walked the dog. Family dropped off 1,000 burritos. Friends offered to babysit. I’ve always been really independent but in the last few years, I’ve realized how much dignity is in LETTING PEOPLE TAKE CARE OF YOU. It makes you a better friend, parent, and partner. So I let people run to the store for formula or hold Leo while I napped, and make me food, or clean my house. It’s no joke that it takes a village to raise a baby and community, friends and family are more crucial during this time in my life than I ever thought possible. I could do it all alone, but I would suffer and severe anxiety has never made anyone a better mom or dad (trust me, I know, both of my parents are lunatics).
- I’m Still Exactly Me, But Also a Mom: I heard a lot about how I’d never be the same again after having a baby but honestly I’m still completely me. I still want the same things, love the same things, but now I love a little potato more than myself and have to get a lot of stuff done on my phone while he’s napping on my chest. I feel the same, only a better, more organized version who can’t be as impulsive as I want to be but it’s good because my 20’s were a nightmare and I was a party goblin full of bad ideas making terrible decisions.
Every day we’re learning more about our baby and ourselves. It’s both fun and scary but I’m honestly looking forward to what’s to come. What have you learned from parenthood that’s surprised you?