1. “Where is the pacifier?”
No matter how many pacifiers you buy, sterilize and keep in a certain spot, you can never find one when you need it. And if you find one, there is no way to determine that it’s actually suitable to stick into your baby’s mouth. I hear that the more kids you have, the less paranoid you become about the cleanliness of the pacifier. Or maybe it depends on the volume of the baby’s cry and if you’re in public or not. Depending on the level of fussiness the baby has, you may choose to take a pacifier that’s suddenly discovered on the floor, dust it off on your knee, inspect it for random hairs and dirt particles and then shove it into your baby’s mouth. I’ve never done this, of course, but I’m just saying some other people in certain situations may weigh the consequences of a slightly soiled pacifier versus a screaming baby. Slightly soiled conditions win out every time. Aren’t the germs good for them anyway?
2. “Is there a burp cloth around here?”
Burp cloths and bibs have flooded our home since this baby checked in. I rarely enter a room without seeing a burp cloth shoved into a couch cushion from the last time the baby ate. Sometimes I wake up in bed and find random burp cloths and bibs mixed in with our bed sheets and I regularly find a burp cloth inside the leg of one of my jeans. This overflowing bib and burp cloth situation may make it seem like such items are easily accessible when a big spit up happens or teething drool leaks constantly, but it is not the case. I can NEVER find a burp cloth when I need one — and when I find one, I can’t be sure it’s actually clean.
3. “Did I shower today?”
This may seem like a ridiculous question, but when the days blur together and there is no actual separation between day and night during those first few weeks, one’s memory becomes cloudy. You may also start to count things like washing your hands and changing your clothes as showering. Which, by the way, is NOT an actual shower. Your new parent friends will understand but people in the real world like at work or friends without kids that come to visit will judge you. If you’ve been spit up on in the previous 24 hours, your clothes stink as well as your body and if you have to question it, go shower. A good way to judge is if you have any wet towels lying around.
4. “Did the baby poop today?”
Poop and wet diapers are serious business in new babyhood. They tell you to write down everything in those first couple of months — how much the baby ate, when they ate, and whether they peed or pooped. The poop rate will be a much discussed conversation topic as the absence of poop can make that baby quite uncomfortable and too much poop may decorate the nursery in an unflattering, smelly splattering.
5. “When is the last time the baby ate?”
When the baby is eating around the clock, it’s easy to forget the last time she ate. Even if you provided that last feeding. You think it would be easy to remember that you gave the baby a bottle at 7 AM, but if you finished at 7:45 AM and the baby is hungry again at 9 something — do you wait? Then you take the baby somewhere during the day and by the time you’re back, you’ve completely forgotten the last couple of feeding times and have no idea how much the baby ate. There are little gadgets you can buy and smartphone apps that clock the feeding times and store them for you but I can never find the phone to log them (it’s hiding with the pacifiers and burp cloths). A new baby brings a large wave of paranoia and amnesia on a daily basis. So don’t feel crazy when you’ve been feeding the baby all day and for the life of you, can’t specifically remember the last time the baby ate.
6. “I’m so tired. More tired than you.”
Sleep deprivation is a running complaint in our household. Even if that baby naps and sleeps fairly well, it’s still getting up between 5 and 7 AM most days, including those wonderful weekend days that we used to sleep in on. Our woes have become competitive lately. My husband will say he’s exhausted even though he CHOSE to stay up until 1 AM doing a fantasy football mock draft and despite his exercise walk and hour-long nap with the dog. That’s when I become combative and list the 700 things that I did for the baby that day which started at 3 AM, with a zombie walk into her nursery, soothing her with a pacifier that it took me 20 minutes to find in the dark and then getting a bottle ready at 6 AM, when the baby was ready to start the day. By noon, it feels like the middle of the night. My eyelids grow heavy and I realize that I haven’t eaten or brushed my teeth that day. I always win this debate, but truthfully, it leaves me more exhausted.
7. “We need to do laundry.”
Having a baby means a steady flow of dirty everything. Keeping the things clean, folded and put away is a never-ending battle. There have been weeks when the laundry gets done and sits unfolded in large bags. When things really get hectic, we send out the laundry (we live in an apartment that does not have a washer / dryer and we compete with our neighbors for the six washers in the building’s laundry room). I’ve found, however, that sending out the laundry doesn’t necessarily mean that the clean laundry coming back will find a home in our drawers again. It sometimes means we’re scrounging for clean underwear and socks by digging through the clean clothes, which are folded quite perfectly and smell great. Our dog loves to nap on clean laundry, and often, I’d like to join him. Sometimes we pile already clean laundry on our bed in the hope that this will motivate us to fold and put it away before bedtime. But more often than not, this means I just push the clean laundry off the bed or stack it really really high. On more than one occasion, I’ve actually just pushed the clean laundry to the end of the bed, thinking that I will “just rest my eyes” before putting everything away. That never happens, however, and I wake up with some clean laundry in the bed, some on the ground and some that goes missing forever.
There’s always a pile of “recently spit up on” tops in the laundry basket. I’m embarrassed to say that there are only 2-3 pairs of bottoms that I can fit into post-pregnancy. This means that when the bottom part of my wardrobe gets hit with a milk product, I don’t think to change pants, but rather, to spray it with some sort of cleaning product. By the time we’re ready to do laundry, my bottoms have taken a severe beating. We accumulate so much laundry that I now prepare for it like going to the gym. Sports bra on, sweatband in place and running sneakers ready to go. Hand me the Dreft, that laundry basket, and a few quarters — I’ll show you the world!
8. “I need a vacation.”
The thought of lying on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails and alternating between swimming in an ocean and a pool seems like an impossible mirage. Having a glass of wine is the closest you’ve come to an escape in what seems like ages. The sad thing is that unless you can find someone to watch the baby and you’re willing to part with her, any “vacation” will still involve those early morning wake ups followed by a day of amusing an infant. I may have nostalgia for leisurely vacation days where the only decision to make is where we will go for dinner but having a baby means those days are few and far between. I’ll settle for a nap and a manicure in the meantime.
9. “Is the baby alive?”
When she sleeps too long or a relative / nanny is babysitting, I’m in a constant panic that something terrible has happened to the baby. Did they place a blanket with her in the crib and she’s suffocating? Has she picked her bib up over her nose for the 1000th time and breathed in too much carbon dioxide? Did she manage to get ahold of a small object that she tried to swallow and choked to death? At least once a night, I sneak into her nursery and place a hand on her chest to see if she’s breathing. She normally starts shaking her head back and forth in her sleep as if to incredulously indicate that I’m being an idiot for worrying so much. Being a new parent means never feeling quite calm or carefree again. One part of your brain is always thinking about that baby while the other part pretends to be a normal human being. That constant worry becomes a part of you, like an extra limb that you can’t quite shake. It’ll make you do foolish things like try to Scotch tape your baby’s sleep sack at 3 AM when the zipper breaks and you’re worried that they may try to pull the sleep sack over their heads. It’ll force you to go back into that nursery at 4 AM and remove the Scotch tape for fear that the baby will pick it off and try to eat it. When you imagine picked off Scotch tape getting stuck to the back of your baby’s throat at 4 AM, you know you’re a new parent.
10. “What did you say?”
There is an 80% chance that if we’re having a conversation, I’ll need you to repeat what you said at a later time. I’m not disinterested or trying to be rude, it’s just that I haven’t slept and I’m trying to keep this tiny person alive (see above). Becoming a new parent means a lot of half conversations and starts of stories that never get finished and questions that don’t get answered. When I do have some downtime, it’s usually spent on the phone or computer or zoning out in front of a television. And yes, zoning out is a necessary part of my day. Don’t ask me important questions or tell me important things during this time. Your best bet is to send me an email or text message at 4 AM, which is when I do my best thinking. Don’t even think about trying to speak to me when the baby is crying. Even if we’re letting the baby “cry it out,” which is a horrible, but sometimes necessary tool of allowing a baby to cry until she soothes herself or falls asleep. I’ll still be listening to see if the baby ends up choking, vomiting or screaming at us to come get her (even if she hasn’t learned to speak yet).
Eventually, these questions will form a sort of rhythmic, patterned cycle starting with the constant hunt for baby equipment (pacifiers, burp cloths, bibs), then working into baby habits (Did she poop? When did she eat? Is she alive?) and then finally into larger than life statements (I’m f-in tired. I need a vacation. Did I shower? We need to do laundry and what did you say?). You hope that at some point in the near future, you can start having actual conversations outside of baby-mania, though it will seem like a foreign language at first.
Until then, the hunt for a pair of clean socks, a somewhat clean pacifier and a solid night’s sleep continues.