No amount of Baby 101 classes can prepare you for the “Oh crap” moment when you bring a newborn home. Then, sometime between night one and week six, you become an expert. Here are some lessons you only learn from being in the trenches:
1. Be Your Own Bouncer
As soon as you leave the hospital, your home becomes the newest local hotspot. It’s flattering to get texts and gifts from people you forgot you knew, but for the first few weeks, keep the visitors to a minimum. Thank them graciously and then explain that currently you are a puddle of breastmilk and tears and that you would love to invite them over when you have solidified into a gelatin mold of a human again. The Visitor Rule is: If you need to clean for them or they’re uncomfortable with mommy nipples, they’re not on the guest list.
2. Baby Stockholm Syndrome Is a Thing
There’s a reason combatants use sleep torture to weaken their enemies. Every night of the first six weeks, your baby breaks you. But then you wake up, broken from sleep deprivation, and fall deeper and deeper in love.
From now on, you will forever see new mothers as hostages ruled by baby sleep thieves. But you will also know the wonder and absolute love that they find with their sweet-smelling newborn in the quiet of the morning.
3. Become a Sleep Miser
Take all the naps and go to sleep early. Protect your own sleep like you are Scrooge McDuck. When the kid goes down for their first nap at 7 a.m., take a nap. When your coffee has worn off at 11 a.m., take a nap. Take a nap at 7 p.m. before bedtime. Take a nap when daddy is home. Take a nap when you have company. Do it.
4. Burn the Books
The books give you the schedule for the perfect baby but not the perfect schedule for your baby. They lead to self-doubt and really mess up your baby game (“Why won’t my baby go to sleep every 87 minutes? Why?!”).
Here are some ideas of what to do with those baby books:
1) Donate them to high school sex-ed classes to encourage abstinence.
2) Create a huge bonfire and offer it up to the sleep gods.
3) Shoot them into space and stress out some Martian mommies.
Any of these ideas are better than reading them.
5. Let the Baby Sleep
If the baby wants to sleep in the car seat, let them. If they sleep in the Rock ‘n Play, let them. If they sleep too long, let them. If they sleep after they eat, let them. If they sleep in the swing, let them. If they fall asleep in the stroller, you channel Keanu Reeves from the movie Speed, don’t stop, and let the baby sleep!
6. Go Somewhere—Anywhere
Walk to the park. Go to a Mommy and Me class. Drive past the beach. Mall walk. Get a coffee—you effing need one.
That first trip will be difficult. You will stare at your drawers wondering what pants to wear. You will put the car seat in wrong. You will fold your stroller up to go in your car trunk and then realize, once you’ve gotten to your destination, you don’t know how to unfold it. You will sweat. Your baby will cry. You will put the baby carrier on backwards. You will breastfeed in public with an awkward boob cover that your baby will hate. You will swear you will never leave the house again until you realize that your baby is way happier outside in the real world and you wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
Pro-tip: Prepare for this first trip as early as possible. For an afternoon trip, start planning and organizing your stuff the night before. For a morning trip: Who are you kidding? You aren’t going anywhere before 1 p.m.
The first six weeks are all about survival—for you and for that little lump of human. Luckily, mother nature has built in a reward—the first smile. After weeks with no recognition, the smile will be the first glimmer of the little person your newborn will become. It’s like a shining pot of gold at the end of a shit-stained rainbow. And with that, you’ve made it to the other side.