It was about 8 p.m. on Saturday night. Two hours prior, my son, Joey Jr., reached the six-week mark. He was celebrating at Grandma's house so that my husband and I could celebrate our six-month anniversary early (it was on Valentine's Day!).
Our heads spun all day with possibilities—a dinner out, a friend's end-of-job celebration and a birthday party topped the list. We even had a gift certificate for the movies.
Too bad we had just then left the couch for the first time that day. I had to swindle and beg with everything in me to get Joe to go grab us a $5 pizza. I did manage to drag myself to the computer to write this blog, but I was still in my pajamas.
Last year, nothing short of a giant elephant sitting on our chests could keep Joe and me in one place. Welcome to parenthood. “It's a life-changer,” throngs told us. "Cliché!" I'd think when I heard it. But, if I had to give just one tip to a new parent, it'd be this: All the clichés are true. So pay attention.
“It's a life changer!”
Saturday night was a perfect example. Free time, but we had no idea what to do. A free pass to the movies and we didn't know what to see.
We don't mind the uncertainty. The last thing we wanted tonight was a plan. Why? Because with a baby, even running up to Kroger or Westborn requires a plan. We were two free birds that flew as we liked. Now, we must plan everything. Even our trips to the restroom.
There I waddled, big as five houses, uncomfortable as a Florida afternoon in summer. Every mother I bumped into told me to sleep, sleep, sleep.
“Sleep now, before the baby comes,” they'd say.
And I'd think, “These women don't know me. I worked three jobs and went to college and I never slept. Now is when I can't sleep–when it feels like I have 179 bulky pillows stuffed into my stomach! I'll be fine once the baby comes.”
Well, they were right. I am lucky to get two hours of straight sleep a day now. I am certain that Joey and I would score high on any temporary insanity test.
Just the other day I missed my Michigan left on Michigan Avenue, which I blamed on exhaustion. Minutes later, I blamed exhaustion again when I crashed into the sliding door at Kroger. I'm so tired that the crack-like 19-ounce can of Red Bull no longer fazes me. The caffeine thing is getting so bad that Joey did a mini-intervention on my behalf. I've been ordered to quit the Bull within a week or two. Wish me luck!
“You'll be amazed at how such little things requires such big amounts of attention!”
Again, when I heard this, I blew it off. People in our lives said it and I read it in books. But I didn't believe it. I'd had puppies before, after all. "Sure, he will be time-consuming," I thought, "for some of the day." I figured he'd mostly sleep, at least until he learned to walk.
Wrong again. So far, he doesn't sleep for more than three hours straight. The rest of the time he requires feeding, changing or holding. C-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y. If I'm able to put him down for a rest or a nap, uncertainty storms my mind. Do I nap? Do I clean? Shower? Read a brainless magazine? No matter what I decide, I spend the time wondering when he'll wake up again.
“Once it's your kid...”
I have a friend who speaks 90 percent in baby talk. Before Joey II came, I teased her for it. She said, “You'll see. Once it's your kid...”
I have another friend who might as well super-glue her camera to her hand. If the kid blinks, a photo gets snapped. I teased her too. She said the same thing to me.
Another pal told me she only trusts family to keep the baby. I called her over-protective. You know what she said...
They, too, were right. Not only have I reverted to speaking in baby tongues, Joey and I only speak baby talk to each other too. We're all about dipeys, poopies, passeys and Captain Fussy Pants stories. I also snap a photo every two seconds and so far, there is only one non-family member I'd trust with the baby. Every stranger is now a baby-snatcher and even a neighbor seemed to like him “a little too much.”
Therefore, the best advice that this novice mommy can give is to listen to these clichés. Instinct will take over for the technical stuff like diaper changes.
Oops. I forgot the truest cliché of all: It's all worth it. I know I wouldn't change a thing.
Julie Walker Altesleben is a freelance writer living in Dearborn. Joseph Charles Altesleben II came into the world by C-section at 6:02 p.m. on Jan. 1.