Monday, April 13, 2015

Letter to My Brother or any New Parent to Be

Dear Brother,

I have to start this letter by saying how happy I am for you and your wife!  You are expecting a baby, a little blue bundle of bouncing joy!  How wonderful life is!  

Though the love is unbelievably incredible, that’s not what this letter is about… I’m not raining on the parade, but honestly, I wish someone shared what I’m going to share with you.  Now, keep in mind, this is based on my experience with my son.  I’m not you and your son isn’t my son.  It’s going to be different, naturally.  But as you read this, maybe some of it will stick, so that if it should happen, you will find it easier to deal with it.  You know, the knowledge is power kind of thing.

First off, it’s a good thing you have some grey hairs, because if you didn’t, once you get to toddler stage and the child toddles back and forth and over, you will shed a few more silver strands.  (Our cousin, Holly, shared this, “When you have a boy, if you can keep him from killing himself, you’re doing great!”  She understands how rough and tumble and adventurous and curious little boys are.. puppy dog tails, snails and all that stuff.)

Let’s start from the beginning….. ah the joys of new parents.  If your wife says she is going through the “baby blues” – don’t think that’s a cute, adorable term.  It’s hell.  Hormones were high during the pregnancy and then they drop and go a little nuts right after birth.  Expect tears.

The unexpected tears can be bad, but what I wasn’t expecting was the sleepless nights.  Sure anyone can go two maybe three, possibly four nights without sleep.  But when your child’s pediatrician says your baby needs to feed every three hours and your son takes an hour just to finish the tiniest amount of milk…. Every three hours equates to no sleep for mommy.  Whoever came up with, “sleep when the baby sleeps” needs to be slapped.  Hard.  It can be virtually impossible depending upon your child’s feeding abilities.

You know how you feel without a couple nights of no sleep…. Try a couple of months of no sleep.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  You don’t feel human.  (I PROMISE it gets better!)

Here’s the thing…. You are doing your best to give the baby all that he needs; changing, burping, feeding.. and the baby is… well, let’s be honest.  A lump.  A chubby little lump of spit, pee, poo, milk and sleep… but he will make up for it for the sweet, warm cuddles… and the occasional smile (people will say “it’s gas” but who cares when you see that smile, just tell your baby boy to fart away).  As you are doing this, society comes rushing in, offering help.  Help to hold the baby, to change the baby, to take a night shift.  TAKE THE HELP!  Don’t worry, your bundle will know who you are by sound, by smell, by your love.  Nothing can change this.  By all means, take the help.

This is the time when all parents will give you total understanding and looks of absolute compassion.  Soak it up for the taking, because believe me, this doesn’t last (more on this later).

Here’s some realities for you….  Things I wish I had known prior to being a first time mommy:

Your baby is going to have part of the cord where the belly button will be.  Get the newborn diapers – you don’t need to buy many, but get the ones with the dip.  The newbie diapers have a slight dip, that’s so the diaper doesn’t touch the cord.  My pediatrician said, “Don’t put anything on the cord, keep the area around it clean, but let it dry up.  Eventually it will just fall off.  You’ll probably find it in the baby’s cloths.”  Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.  But the cord, looks a little… gross.  Meh, small stuff though.  Some people save the cord, but okay, EWW.

Next up… Spit Happens.  Find a way that is best to burp your baby.  One thing that helped me on how to hold a baby (yes, newbie parents need this info!) is you hold the baby in your lap, right?  Then you lean YOUR body into the baby and when you lift back up, you lift your body along with the baby.  This way it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to shift a lump of potatoes that moves on your shoulder.

And the burp.. things we take for granted as adults.  We know how to burp, but babies do not.  Sometimes you pat up, sometimes soft or harder.  Our Aunt Vera got Gregory to burp by facing him down on her lap and patting him on his back.  That was a new one for me.  Trust me, you WANT the baby to burp, even if the spit happens.  Because otherwise, a gas pain in a tiny tummy will give you migranes.

Oh, and spit…. Sometimes if a gas bubble is trapped and you think you got it out.  Ha…. It won’t go down south to a fart.  Oh no, that gas bubbles is gonna work back up and not care that you just gave your baby a bottle.  And allllll that milk comes up with the gas bubble.  Like a fountain.  Sometimes projectile.  Seriously, Gregory did projectile vomit and it went over his body and over the sofa.  I was impressed.  Until the smell hit me.  Nothing like curdled milk on cloths and furniture.  Joy, joy!

Quick thing to note, since you have new furniture… find some old, funky sheets.  Cover the sofa or bed wherever you’re going to feed/burp the baby.  You’ll thank me later.  Oh and if you have cloths that you would say… “paint” or “garden” in – that will be your daddy cloths for spit up and stuff. 

Ah, you’re having a boy.  I had to laugh to myself for just a second.  Changing diapers.  Hehe.  When I went to a friend’s home to a lady who had a baby boy (this happened when I first found out I was pregnant, she gave me lots of good advise), she showed me how to change a diaper for a boy.  Yes, it’s different for a boy and girl.  See, a boy, even when he’s not trying, can really aim. 

My friend showed me how you set up a new diaper under the baby – BEFORE you take the wet/dirty diaper off.  You want that new diaper underneath so you can QUICKLY cover any forthcoming pee during the change.  Did Oma tell you when she was changing Gregory’s diaper, how she likes to kiss his belly… and how one time she leaned over to kiss Gregory’s belly and he pee’d in her mouth?  Yeah, that happened.  It sounds funny, but when your son pees on you and on his cloths and in his hair – just keep laughing.  It will keep you sane.

Let’s talk about poo.  It’s the topic of parenthood.  You might think you can get away with never bringing it up, but you will eventually give in to the dark side and participate in the conversation.

Words of warning from our cousin, Michelle, “You will see things in a your child’s diaper that will scar you for life!” 

Your baby’s first poo might be tar like, totally normal.  Then you get a bunch of pee/wet diapers.  The first normal poo/dirty diaper, you think is “cute” – yeah, weird, I know.  But hey, it’s a bodily function that your child is able to do; this is big and rather important too, right?

You get used to the wet versus dirty diapers and think you have the hang of it until… the explosion!  BOMBBBBBBB…. You are never prepared for it and it’s guaranteed to happen right before you get ready to leave and have just packed everything to head out the door.  Poo in the likes as you have never seen before, EVERYWHERE.  Spread from the back to the front, going up his back, out of the diaper, on the cloths.  All you want to do is what Greg has said, “Take the child outside and hose him off.”  You don’t of course…  lol.   Just the other day, Greg lost the “rock, paper, scissors” and had to change a really bad poo diaper.  Greg came back and said, “I’m trying to picture your brother doing this.”  Hehe.

Oh, while I’m thinking of it, when Black Friday comes around, stock up on Baby Wipes – get as many as the sale permits.  That’s what we do and they last for the majority of the year.  It will NOT be a waste of money.  Well, it will go to waste, but you know what I mean.

Back to poo… once your son starts into the baby food, don’t freak about the color change.  I called the pediatrician and he said, “No worries.  I’ve seen green, orange, brown.  Those are normal.  If there is blood or the poo is black, then call me.”  And it will turn green and orange.  

The worst poo we have seen to date is… (cue scary music) – the Corn Diaper!  You know the saying, “Corn in, Corn out.”  Yeah, only it does not stay that pretty bright yellow corn color coming out and oh my gosh, the SMELL.  It will make you want to ban corn from your house completely!  

I’m being silly, well, honest and silly, but the real scary happens when your baby gets sick.  We were very fortunate in that for the first year of Gregory’s birth, we only had to bring him in for wellness visits and routine shots.  But after a year old… because he was experiencing the world in all kinds of ways (picking up things, putting them in his mouth, walking, playing with other kids toys and on jungle gyms)… germs galore.

Gregory had croup; it’s a horrible wheezing sound.  That lead to mommy having sleepless nights again.  The doctor explained it this way, “When adults get sick, our throats hurt, because the throat gets inflamed. When a child gets sick, the same thing happens, only a child has a small throat and the inflammation can lead to the child not being able to breath.”  Let that sink in for a minute.  The doctor advised not to allow our son to sleep alone.  He advised to alternate between steam baths (running hot water in the shower and closing the bathroom door to gather up steam) and standing in front of the open refrigerator door.  It lasts for about 3-4 days.  I’m glad my son is getting bigger, because damn, that was scary.

Here’s another “c” word.. Colic.  What is it?  Heck if I know.  Believe me, Greg and I researched it enough.  People will tell you, “It’s when the baby has gas and can’t get it out and cries.”  We did switch to Dr. Brown Bottles – I do recommend them. Our parents should be bringing Gregory’s bottles to you, in fact.  The design decreases the amount of air that gets sucked in through feeding.

But Colic… my take… when the baby cries and the parent has gone through the “what can it be” – the feeding, the burping, the changing of the diaper.. and you resort to walking around the house, holding your crying baby…  Colic is when the parent is at a loss for why the baby is crying and the parent wants to cry too.

All that I have mentioned so far, has been about your baby, but remember earlier when I mentioned about society?  How people are so compassionate and understanding when you are a sleep-walking zombie?  As quickly as your son grows, society changes just as fast too.

The lady who gave me pointers on changing a boy’s diaper when I was pregnant, also warned me about the “Nazi Moms”  - oh my gosh, even typing it feels wrong.  Yuck.  I don’t like that word.  I didn’t coin it and she didn’t either.  Apparently it’s a term that’s been around for generations. 

Nazi Moms… These mommies truly have your son’s best interest in mind, but they are so passionate about their views that they cannot think beyond their own opinion.  Everyone is wrong, other than them.  They come off strong, like a bully.  Now, don’t get me wrong, some of these Nazi Moms have many good, valid, helpful points, but it all comes down to YOU.  Trust your instincts, read up on what the other people are saying and talk to your pediatrician (make sure you interview a couple of doctors before picking one, we found a great doctor and I’m pleased with our choice).  Our doctor has been a great source of support and information and guidance.  But if I disagreed with him, I still followed my gut.  That’s what a parent does.

So, keep ears and eyes open to opinions, even to the Nazi Moms, but ultimately, it’s between you and your wife.  Topics that Nazi Moms tend to get aggressive on are “hot topics” such as…

Breast Feeding – they will say only use breast milk and not formula.  (I liked how the nurse at the birth classes explained, “Breast milk is NOT better than formula, it’s just natural.”) 

Pacifiers – should you use them and for how long.  Nazi Moms will say NO, never.  Gregory used them from the time he was an infant until August of last year.  We didn’t have to take them away.  He just started chewing on them instead of sucking and then didn’t want them.  He resolved the problem; no tears were involved.

Baby Food – at what age do you give this.  You’ll get grief for trying to feed your baby soon, but we followed our doctor’s plan.  The doctor did also mention that if a baby is formula feed, the baby can go to baby food sooner.  Whereas, it’s more of a transition between breast milk to formula to baby food.  I’m not sure about the breast milk transition to food, if ya’ll go that route, do some reading.  Gregory took to baby food very well.  But the meat, yuck, even I wouldn’t want to try that!

(Side note – you see a lot of cute messy baby faces when feeding, but it’s not all easy.  Sometimes you feel like you are scooping the food off the baby’s face and praying it goes in the mouth.  Lol.  And just when you think, “Yeah, my baby has the hang of it…” your baby realizes that he can say “uh uh” (meaning no), shakes his head and refuses to eat.  There you start the frustrations of a picky eater, if your child is so inclined.  Lots of fun!  I published an article not long ago on picky eaters.  When you get to this point with your little boy, check it out.)

Car Seats – there’s a lot of “new and the latest recommendations” of when to change a baby from facing backwards to facing forwards.  Every time we went to the doctor’s wellness visits, he had a form for us to fill out.  The form had questions about what your baby is doing and always asked about the car seat, which way it was facing.  Once Gregory reached a certain weight and length and age, the doctor said, “It’s okay to face him forward if you want.”  I was nervous about doing so, because it was 6 months before Gregory turned 2, but we did so; you would be amazed at how some people came off as the car seat police!  Sure, it’s good to be informed but there’s a line that a Nazi parent crosses; you’ll know it when it happens.  Look, fact of the matter, it’s your choice.  We decided to trust our doctor.  Face back for as long as you want, I won’t criticize you for one or the other, but don’t internalize crap from other people. 

That’s the thing… you would think that other parents would be more supportive and you will find some that are just incredibly helpful.  The other ones just come off too strong, too unbendable in their views .  It can get ugly, some will tell you they know more because they have raised more children, been a parent longer, been through more than you (the really laughable ones are the people who aren’t parents and think they are better qualified than anyone).

Nobody is you.  Nobody has raised YOUR child.  There’s no such thing as a perfect child or a perfect parent.  You have to follow your heart, your gut, your mind and believe me, when it comes to your baby, you’re going to research and make the decision.  Whatever I share, it’s about my son; it won’t be the same for you.. some will and some won’t and it’s perfectly okay!

As for what I’ve written so far, it’s just what we have been through.  Take it with a grain of salt and file it away with baby stuff in your mind.  If it comes in helpful, Great!  We’ll be parents in training until the day we die, because there’s always something to learn.  Right now, we’re going through the toddler phase.  Gregory has walking down pat (he didn’t like crawling – didn’t like the tile on his knees… and when he could walk, he ran.  Lol).  Soon we will face the nightmare of potty training and praying he learns more words.  We did get Gregory evaluated and the therapist said he scored average to above average on everything except speech; no disabilities seen at his age and no sensory issues.  We were thankful for the good news but disappointed that we couldn't get him into the Early Steps program.

Gregory has taught us so much in the past 2 years and sometimes I wonder, “Why didn’t anybody warn us of the things I mentioned in this letter to you?”  I used to think, people didn’t warn new parents about all this stuff because if someone had told the truth prior to pregnancy, you’d be “vasectomy STAT!”  I thought people didn’t warn, to keep the human race alive.  Lol.

But the real truth is something amazing.  When I sat down to write this letter, I was stumped.  I could write a book on things going on at this toddler stage, but infancy… I drew a blank.  What the heck?  It started coming back in pieces.  You see, all the difficult parts, the sleepless nights, the wondering why your baby is crying, the explosive diapers, the picky eating, the worrying about your baby being on track with growth and changes, the opinions of other people… it all melts away, because of this unbelievable, awesome, powerful, freaking beautiful thing called Love.

Love is the secret of life.  It makes the world a better place.  Having children is a blessing, because they teach us about this unconditional, beautiful love, in the likes that you have never known before.  I’m so happy for you and your wife, that you will soon know this.  God bless.

Love ya,
Your Sister 

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