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I was not the little girl who dreamed of one day being a mommy. I did have a Barbie doll, but all she inspired in me was the urge to take off her clothes and put her in a doll-sized sleeping bag with Ken to see what happened.
So the day I was presented with my first live, mewling, squishy baby that had allegedly come out of my own body was the day of reckoning. That day was followed by many more frightening and challenging days of reckoning. Despite my apparent lack of natural maternal instinct I handled new motherhood with some semblance of competence. But new motherhood definitely presented me with some firsts that initially had me shaking in my slippers.
Here are just a few of those moments -- sometimes recurrent terrifying moments -- that I can recall:
The first fingernail trim: I did it once, made my baby bleed and howl in pain, started crying myself, and this task instantly became "Daddy's job."
The first real nursing session: I'm referring to that one where the militant morning nurse is standing there watching to see if your baby is latching properly, and you go from Badass to incompetent child in an instant.
Hearing the first full-throated cry: I still remember that sound. It came from the back of the car on a cold winter's night. She was in her car seat. It sounded like a car alarm or a red fox after midnight. "What is that? Oh my God. Is she dying? Is she in pain? What do we do? Make it stop. Do something, quick!"
The first bath at home: Little babies are slippery and droppable enough when they're bone dry. Try getting them wet, then adding soap. Enough said.
Using a bulb syringe nose aspirator thingy for the first time: Are you sure this thing won't suck my baby's brains right out through their her nostrils?
Putting on a snap body suit, every time: How do you do this without breaking their pliable little arms? It was so much easier getting Barbie in and out of her clothes.
The drive home from the hospital: I have never been more aware of the arrogant presumption that moving faster than a walk in a tin can on rubber wheels is somehow safe.
Driving alone with your infant, every time: How are you supposed to keep your eyes on the road when your eyes are obsessively checking the rearview mirror? And, when your baby starts making that shrieking noise and you are in heavy traffic? What then?
The first shopping trip with a breastfeeding baby: When you are in the supermarket checkout line with a full cart and your baby starts wailing inconsolably. Is there a escape hatch nearby? Do you ditch the cart and flee, or do you whip out the boob? And how do you do that in public, exactly?
Putting your baby into the baby carrier: This is most definitely a fraught, two-person job for at least the first two dozen times.
First time finding "cheese" in your baby's neck folds: Imagine you are in the pediatrician's office for a well-baby visit -- you are holding your baby, and you smell something foul but cannot figure out where it's coming from. Then you find it. Oh my God, they are going to take my baby away from me on the grounds of neglect.
If you need some actual helpful advice about what to do when you are home alone with a baby who is awake, check out How to care for a newborn baby.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.