If you’re ever lacking in the advice department, just announce you’re having a baby. Expecting a child equates to stamping your forehead with, “Please, give me a rundown on all the things you did to raise your child.” Grocery store clerks, people on the street, the mailman, the telemarketer – they’ll all have something to say in the ways of advice.
The thing is, most of that advice goes out the window when your baby arrives. Each day is an exercise in adaptability. I’ve learned that as parents, the worst thing we can say is, “We got this.” The minute you think you have the schedule and routine down, your baby will mix it up. It’s like a website that forces a password change every 90 days for security reasons.
Reflecting back to my more innocent, pre-baby days, I thought about the advice I received. As with everything, it was a mixed bag of useful and worthless. Here are the eight things no one ever told me, and even if they did, there’s no way I’d believe.
1. Pampers commercials will make you a blubbering mess.
Childbirth is a miracle. I don’t need to tell you that. You’ve heard the stories, you’ve watched the gross movies in school and you faintly remember that reality show on TLC. We know how babies are born, and we can visualize – in explicit detail – the ways the female body transforms to pass a human being through a smaller-than-regulation exit door. What you don’t know is that, when it’s your child being born, the emotions are more than you’ll be able to handle. It’s like the Cat’s in the Cradle song, the Field of Dreams movie and Catcher in the Rye coalesced together and punched me in the face.
I think childbirth broke me, emotionally. There’s a commercial for Pampers diapers that takes place in the moments after a baby is born. It’s not even emotional – it’s just about how hospitals have Pampers – but when it comes on, I have to leave the room or else I’ll cry through my new Banana Republic polo.
2. There will come a time that you’re excited to see poop.
You’re warned that poop smells bad, and that as a dad, you won’t be able to take it. That’s completely true, but what I didn’t know is that pooping is a huge milestone. Our baby had a health concern at birth, so we waited two days for that #2 to prove her digestive system worked properly. My wife and I were crouched on the floor, watching our daughter lay on a blanket (that’s what new parents do). Suddenly, a fart burst forth. She was a cannon at a Civil War reenactment. The walls reverberated with the crushing sound.
We stood up and cheered, celebrating this new frontier. We were so proud, so happy. We hugged and kissed. We renewed our vows. We gazed into each others’ eyes for an eternity and silently meditated on the wonders of our creation. Poop brings you closer as a couple.
Then we opened her diaper, which brings me to number 3.
3. You will, at some point, see poop at the origin point.
I took the heroic role, volunteering to handle our first toxic waste cleanup. When I opened her diaper, it was just a little wet, but not poopy. False alarm. Geez, girly, I wish I could fart like you without staining my underpants.
As I readied the new diaper, I saw a small brown spot bubble from her, um, nether region. Confused at first, I soon realized I was watching her poop before my eyes. I watched as it grew from a small bubble to what looked like brown Play-Doh being squeezed from a Fun Factory. Unable to look away, I stared with my mouth agape. When it plopped into the diaper, I had witnessed the life cycle of feces.
4. You’ll have to make the decision to hold your baby or eat.
I remember hearing my parent friends complaining about things that would wake their kids right after they fell asleep. “What’s the big deal?” I’d think. “They’ll fall back asleep. That’s what kids do: they sleep.” What I failed to understand is that sometimes the process involved in getting a child to fall asleep may last hours. It’s God’s joke on mankind. Babies are sleepy, they want to sleep, but they just can’t settle down enough to do it. So you rock them back and forth, you bounce with them, you sing to them. After many moons, they’ll finally settle down in your arms so you sit back in your recliner to let them rest.
In moments, your stomach will growl. It’s dinnertime. You’ll look down at your baby, sound asleep, a reminder of your vigilant effort in nocturnal coaxing. It’s at that moment, you’ll decide something you never before thought possible: that it’s not worth the effort to eat.
5. The human body really can survive on one-hour sleep cycles.
There will be nights that you’ll be up every hour then report to work that next morning. You’ll do it the next night as well. Soon, you won’t remember the last time you slept completely through the night. The amazing thing is that you’ll still function. Sure, you’ll hallucinate, but that’s a small price to pay.
6. Any weather is hat weather.
When my daughter was born, my wife told me that we had to put a hat on her when we went outside because it was cold. Then it got warmer and my wife said we had to put a hat on her because it would keep the sun out of her face. Then when we keep her in the shade, my wife still makes me put a hat on her. All weather is hat weather.
7. Your marriage fights are about how much you love your baby.
We used to fight about typical marriage things. How much money was too much to spend on the new PlayStation. Which weddings we had to attend. How many slices of pizza I should eat. These were all on the table, usually resulting in a heated discussion.
Now that we have a baby, our arguments are completely about her. Not just that, they’re about how we both love her so much that we want what’s best for her. That sounds ridiculous until you consider that what we consider to be “best for her” are sometimes different things. Sometimes I have to take a step back to appreciate that we literally raise our voices over how to love her best.
8. You can’t imagine your life without a baby.
Yes, having a baby really does change your life in all the ways they say it does. About a week before our little one arrived, we celebrated the perfect week. We stayed up late, took midnight walks, ate out every evening, traveled out of town, we got massages, had a shopping spree. It was awesome.
If someone gave me the opportunity to relive that amazing week, I would absolutely do it…but I’d want to bring our baby with us. No one can ever really explain how much you’ll love your child. Yes, it was awesome being married without children. Yes, it’s hard sometimes. But, now that I’m a parent, I’ll never want to live life without our daughter. She is everything to me, and that is in no way hyperbole.