Every parent says this about time, but it’s hard to believe two months have passed since The Baby transformed from a very squirmy and heartburn-inducing idea to a very squirmy and happy-tears inducing real live person.
In some ways it feels as though all that happened yesterday, and in other ways it’s hard to remember life before him, and it feels as though he has always been here.
Two months into motherhood, here are 20 things I’ve learned:
- There will always be laundry to do, but the sound of the washer and dryer running make for excellent white noise, especially in late afternoon when the baby is fussiest.
- If you moved a lot during pregnancy, the baby will expect the same level of motion to fall asleep once he’s out. Though I credit the 4-miles a day walk to work and back with my surprisingly short for a first-timer labor.
- Crying, asleep or quietly alert, your baby will seem out of place in anyone’s arms but yours, even if you welcome guests and can’t wait for your grandmother to meet the baby. It’s okay to insist on taking your baby back if you miss him. He’s only this small once, and it’s your body he knows. Put yourself and the baby first. Your relatives will get over it.
- Don’t change your baby’s clothes unless they’re dirty or there has been a temperature change and he’s going to be hot or cold if you don’t. It’s only a matter of time before he takes a seam-splitting dump our your nursing pads fail or you accidentally drop mushy soup carrots on his onesie while you’re both eating lunch. (See #1)
- Cloth diapers are possible and not that hard, at least for an exclusively breastfed baby born to people with easy access to a washer and dryer. Unless, of course, your baby cries in a wet diaper as though it were filled with fire ants. You can keep experimenting and be gentle with yourself if anything gets too rough (this applies to far more than cloth diapers.)
- I read this elsewhere, so I can’t take credit for it, but it’s very true — things seem to get easier in two-week increments. My six-week-old baby was a fussy guy who ONLY napped in a baby wrap. My eight-week-old baby fell asleep ON HIS OWN a few times this week and is smiling pretty much constantly.
- Similarly, babies change their minds about things as they grow, so keep trying things every once in awhile even if they didn’t work before. Won’t take a pacifier? Put it away and try again, or try a different brand. Did you drop $150 on a bouncer/swing combo in hopes your baby would let you put him down for 2 minutes so you could pee but he screamed like it also was filled with fire ants? Maybe try again in a few weeks.
- Go ahead and embrace that weird parental pride in things you have no control over (my baby has a great–though thinning–head of hair, a super strong neck and has been rolling over since 7 weeks. Booyah.) but don’t be smug. (Booyah retracted.) All babies are different and develop at their own pace. And if your friend’s baby is outpacing yours on the growth charts and capable of sleeping on his own, don’t be jealous.
- Watching your child get vaccinations will make you feel like a conniving asshole. If sawing off my own arm could keep my kid from getting tetanus, I would have gladly done it instead of watching the look on his face go from contentment to shock and betrayal to inconsolable agony while the nurse poked him. (He’s fine. I’m fine. But dear lord, that was rough.)
- It’s weird how breastfeeding isn’t weird once you’re doing it. I fully expected to be a little grossed out or hyper-embarrassed by the whole thing (not going to lie, though I have always supported the idea of breastfeeding, I have also always felt faintly grossed out/embarrassed seeing others doing it.) But it’s really amazing and I’m grateful it worked out for us.
- Breastfeeding is super tough to get right at first. Or it was for me. This came as a surprise. While I was determined to keep at it as long as I could, there isn’t much to look forward to when your two-week-old is fussing to be fed and trying to latch on through the fists in front of his mouth and when he finally sort of does, you’re hissing “fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck” and stomping your foot from the pain and you know you didn’t get the latch right and you have to get him to let go so you can try again. Get help from a good lactation consultant and envision a time in a few weeks when it is truly 100% painless, even if you can’t believe it’s possible. It is.
- The first date night away from baby will be hard but is so worth it, as long as you trust your babysitter (in our case, my parents) and keep it short/don’t go far (your boobs won’t let you, if you’re breastfeeding.) Also, you WILL get pretty buzzed off one beer, so keep a good stock of pumped milk for someone else to feed the baby until you’re sober!
- Long, hot showers when your partner gets home from work and takes the baby are like little tropical vacations that can almost make you forget that you didn’t get to take that nap you were so desperate for.
- The best gift you can give yourself as new parents is Amazon Prime. (Maybe not the best gift, but that two-day free shipping when you can’t leave the house can make you feel a lot less trapped.)
- You will be completely unable to bear the thought of misfortune befalling any babies anywhere. I’ve been listening to audiobooks of the Harry Potter series and full-on sobbed imagining the depths to which one-year-old Harry was unloved and neglected by his aunt and uncle. Real life issues affecting real babies, like poverty, abuse, etc. will also hit you a thousand times harder than they did before.
- Being a new parent takes courage. I was terrified to drive around with the baby in the car knowing I couldn’t reach him to console him, and I couldn’t imagine taking him into a store and dealing with a meltdown. It’s still not super easy, but the more I do it the easier it gets.
- It is *really really important* to let dads figure things out. If he’s not doing something actually dangerous, and isn’t asking for your help, let him work it out. It’s his kid too, and he deserves every opportunity to bond and feel like a capable parent (see #16.) Your way isn’t the only right way. Repeat this to yourself as often as necessary, and apply #13, if you can’t stop yourself.
- Trust your instincts and do what feels right. For us, right now, that means cosleeping. Yes, I know that flies in the face of current public health campaigns, but we’ve done our research and have done our best to do it safely (pillows and blankets clear, baby close to me on his back, no alcohol/drugs) and are happy with this arrangement. The Baby wouldn’t sleep at all if I put him down for the first few weeks, and I literally was fighting falling asleep upright on the couch with him in my arms through the first few nights (NOT safe).
- If you make yourself three dozen lactation cookies and try to freeze two dozen to slow yourself down from eating them, know that they DO work and freezing them may not stop you from eating them by the handful. Oh, and this is the most delicious cookie recipe, lactation or otherwise, in the known universe.
- The first week back from the hospital you’ll continue to lose weight effortlessly. This will cease, especially if you are eating handfuls of cookie dough. Don’t worry about it.
Wishing all moms-to-be and new moms the wisdom and energy to power through the first two months! If I can do it, you can do it.
Coming up (fair warning): My birth story, in three parts.