Saturday, January 15, 2011

Crash course

Our eleven-week crash course in parenting is, like pretty much any intense and intensive course of training, both a) taking its toll on our physical well-being and b) producing some results. Ben and I are red-eyed and achy-backed, and I've got a list of trivial but annoying infections a mile long, which is what happens when you've already got a shitty immune system and then you stop ever sleeping.*

The phrase crash course is such a good one, evoking a violence utterly suitable for describing what happens when one undertakes to learn something quickly and through total, nearly-unbearable immersion. No matter how much we love and adore our sweet baby, as new parents our expectations of parenthood are in near-constant collision with the reality of mothering or fathering. Our ability to prioritize any of our own personal needs is being crushed to smithereens around us.** Basically, our old life is dashed against our new life. We crash and fall down. The imagery is brutal and apt.

But when I consider all that we've learned about our kid and ourselves in the last eleven weeks, I start to feel like kind of a star pupil. No, wait, that's not even close to right. Star pupil? More like the "most improved" student (for overachievers like Ben and me, that's a painful thing to admit). Does every new parent feel that way? We go from knowing nothing about babies to knowing quite a lot about one particular baby.*** I don't know how transferable to other kids our newly acquired knowledge is (including any future additional kid we might have), but here are some things we know about our own baby right now (all subject to change):

  1. Bee will fall asleep and stay asleep**** if allowed to nurse until she opens her cute, squishy baby mouf and smiles a particular grimace-like smile.

  2. She does in fact prefer a dry diaper. (I know, who wouldn't? But I'm told some babies don't care much one way or the other.)

  3. A certain unsustainable positioning of the papa's arms is required when Ben rocks Bee to sleep.

  4. Sometimes Bee thinks she is hungry, but does this back-arching thing that tells us that she actually wants to sleep, not eat.

  5. Only bouncing will soothe her when the crying climbs to an "I'm being murdered right now"-like crescendo.

  6. When partnered with bouncing, staccato chanting works better than singing.

  7. Mama can take a shower for 7-10 minutes with Bee in the nearby bassinet, but for absolutely no longer than 10 minutes.*****

  8. If there is any chance in hell of Bee sleeping by herself in the crib for more than 0-5 minutes, she must be compactly swaddled in one of three blankets purchased by Ben for this purpose.

  9. NEW THING! She likes having lotion rubbed on her little face.

There. Nine things. We know at least nine somewhat important things pertaining to our baby. That's almost a thing for each week Bee has been with us, which, considering how hard-earned many of those realizations have been, seems, at this point, not half freaking bad.

* Not really a complaint, but a statement of sad fact.
** No more movies, grown-up conversations, free time, sleep, letter-writing, vacuuming, acts of basic hygiene, facile errand-running, or eating hot dinner (only cold dinner eaten with your non-dominant hand). At least not for a long time.
*** We're not optimistic enough to believe that knowing anything about one baby means you know much about other babies.
**** In our arms, of course. Not alone in her crib. Of course not.
***** Bassinet parked about ten inches from the shower curtain, with mama peeking out every 40 seconds.


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