…When I say ‘ladies’, of course, I mean my Mom and Mom-in-law. And when I say ‘move aside’, I mean ‘uhm, just change his diaper the first few times for us, so that we can watch and learn… from over here’.
Hubby and I were very fortunate to have had both our sets of parents present when we brought our first adoptive son home from the hospital. Despite the bravado and coolness I was attempting to display on the outside, I did not have one sweet clue as to what to do with this new little human. When the social workers had ‘passed’ him over to us at the hospital, he was already fastened in his car seat; I had yet to even hold him in my arms.
So, yes – if you are about to bring home a baby for the first time, do your best to surround yourself with as many experienced hands as you can – friends, family, neighbours or whom so ever you can find (within reason, of course). Our Moms ever so gently took charge for the first few hours, while our Dads sat around talking about sports (ugh, yes, I know – how disgustingly stereotypical – it’s a wonder hubby and I managed to turn out as gay and well-adjusted as we did, despite the hotbeds of heterosexism and outdated gender roles that we were exposed to in our youth). In any case, for the first few hours after son #1 came home, we were witness to the subtle art of ‘managing a baby’. Oh, and the not-so-subtle art of ‘Mom & Mom-in-Law one upmanship’. Or is that one upwomanship?
My Mom got to take him out of the car seat and hold him first; hubby’s Mom changed his first diaper; my Mom fed him for a few minutes, then they switched, etc, etc.
And that’s it.
Yep – that’s what you do with babies for the first little bit: hold them, feed them, change them, and repeat.
And then guess what? My Dad held him… and then hubby’s Dad – and the baby was still fine; no dropping, no shrieking, no disaster.
I might say that I had an epiphany at that moment, but honestly, I already knew it – men can hold a baby without the sky falling. Womankind is not a magical species, specifically designed to raise babykind. Humankind is all alike, differentiated largely by social norms shoved down our throats from infancy (thou shalt wear blue; thou shalt play with trucks, thou shalt only play with barbies if your intent is to rip off their heads to piss off your sister, etc., etc.).
In any case, both hubby and I are capable of holding eight pounds gently in our arms. We both have at least as much dexterity and hand-eye coordination as our Moms do. Between us, we have 13 years of post-secondary education, and aren’t so old that we can’t pick up new tricks. “So,” we asked ourselves, after having observed the process for a few hours, “…can we do it?” We shared a collective intake of breath, then chanted: “Yes! We! Can!” (ok, so maybe it didn’t go exactly like that, but after you start watching hours and hours of Bob-the-Builder, you’ll be quoting him too).
I graciously thanked my Mom and Dad for sharing the afternoon with us and with their new grandson, then sent them on their way. They live 1/2 hour away, which is nice. Not too far, but not too close, either. My in-laws are a different matter. I graciously thanked them as well, but they just stood there, having nowhere to go but our guest bedroom. There are benefits and drawbacks to having your in-laws live many hours away.
Ok – so you’ve both watched the women in your lives do the heavy lifting with your newborn and silently catalogued all their moves and tricks. You’ve watched the men in your lives sit on their asses, letting the womanfolk do the heavy lifting, and silently chided them while acknowledging their dated worldview. Now it’s time for YOU to get your hands (literally) dirty.
Dive in! You have to. Either you’ve sent everybody home, and there is nobody left to save you, or you have to show those who remain that you’re capable, so that they’ll eventually LEAVE, comforted knowing that the newest member of your household is in safe hands.
Sit down beside that little human and pick him up. Cradle him in one arm, then the other – figure out which side is more comfortable for you… and him. Yeah yeah yeah, and ‘watch his head’ (that’s my Mom’s favourite warning for my Dad whenever he picks up a tiny human). Put him back down. Pick him up again. Kiss him gently. Look at his funny little fingers, at his tiny toes. Look at yourself in the mirror with him. Pass him to your significant-other. Take their picture. Actually, take 10, cuz the first nine will not flatter either of them.
Warm up his little bottle (get a pack or two of the instant-serve formula bottles, as well as some disposable nipples – that’ll make your life a bit easier before you have to start making your own formula). Get him set up in your arms, with whatever arrangement of blankets and towels that those lady-folk used while you were watching from the sidelines (eventually, you’ll come up with your own routine; I’ve actually mastered the art of no-handed infant feeding… what do you think I’m doing right now? 😉 ). Now stick that nipple into his little mouth and watch him suck. Both our boys drank anywhere from 15mL – 30mL per feeding during their first 24 hours at home. Don’t worry: he will let you know when he’s done (he’ll either fall asleep in your arms, or fidget and spit the nipple out). For the first little bit (I hesitate to use ‘days’ or ‘week’, because each baby will be different), your joy-bundle will be feeding every two hours. In fact, your whole life will be reset to a two-hour cycle. An endless two-hour cycle.
Oh, and don’t forget to burp him while feeding, or he’ll be puking all over you in one minute from now. Burp him often the first few times you feed him. You’ll eventually establish a routine with burping too – it’ll be obvious (puking-ly obvious) how much formula you should let him drink between burps. Oh, and hey: the more burps you do early on, the more practice you’ll get transferring him from a feeding position to a burping position! I started burping my first boy on my shoulder, but found that it caused him to bring up all his formula rather than just the gas in his belly, so I switched to sitting-up-burps, where he sits on one of your legs, facing the other. You support him by cupping his chin and cheeks with one hand (yes, it looks like you’re choking him; no, you’re not), and tap/rub his back with the other. Since you’ll need to master burping right away, I’ve embedded this video (thank you Howcast!). Take what you need from it and disregard the rest (I cringed when I saw the on-his-belly burp method):
So everybody’s gone home, he’s done feeding (and burping) for now, and you’re both sitting there wondering: what next? Yep. Unfortunately, it’s that time. You must now Change His Diaper.
Again, do yourself a favour and DIVE IN (yuck, yep – literally). Hopefully you’ve set up a changing station somewhere. Either you’ve succumbed to the consumer urge and bought a frighteningly stylish change table complete with side cabinets and hutch, five shelves, five drawers, detailed beveled edges, curved side & inset panels, exclusive finishes and optional wood swatches. Or you’ve just put a towel down on your bed. We do the latter, and it works just fine. End result = diaper changed.
So, set the small human down on the towel/whatever and unbutton his onesie. Up until the point where we brought our first son home, ‘onesie’ for me meant the oddly attractive one-piece triathlon suits that hubby wears to his races.
Anyways, moving on. You’ve got the little guy laying on a flat surface. Next, you unbutton the onesie, slide it off and/or push it up, undo the diaper tabs, pull the diaper front down and…
…OH MY GOD – What. Is. That?!?!?!
No – you don’t need to call in a favour from Sigourney Weaver; it’s just the umbilical cord. And don’t worry – I won’t post an actual picture of it. Sufficed to say, you’re going to have this little bit of vileness coming along for the ride for roughly a week, before it gets bored and drops off of its own accord. In the meantime, whenever you change your little guy, make sure his diaper doesn’t overlap the cord (you can fold the top of the diaper down). Also, keep an eye on his belly button – take note of what it looked like the first time you saw it – if it starts to get (more) red and puffy looking, you could be dealing with an infection, which needs to be dealt with ASAP (ie: by a medical professional).
So, you’re both cool with how the umbilical cord looks (well, after getting over the initial shock). Next, grab your little tyke’s ankles with one hand, lift up his bum and slide that diaper out from underneath him…
… ARGH!!!!! WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS THAT!?!?!?!?
Yeah, you’re in for shock number two. What you guys are probably looking at is a diaper full of what can only be described as syrupy crude oil. Amazingly, this is completely normal. It’s called meconium, which means ‘fecal discharge from a newborn infant’, or, alternatively ‘poppy juice’. Don’t get any ideas.
So anyways, just clean it up – it’s a bit sticky, but has no odour that I can remember, and only lasts for a few poops, before you move onto poo-phase-two (chunky yellow-green purée). Cleaning can be accomplished in any number of ways. Disposable wet wipes are quick and convenient and mean that you are a SWORN ENEMY TO THE ENVIRONMENT. Alternatively, just wet one of the myriad little baby face cloths* that everybody and their dog will be giving you as soon as they hear that ‘you two wonderful boys are bringing home a little one’ (*Be warned – you will get told off by the little guy in one of two ways if the cloth is too cold: 1) shrieking; or 2) pissing all over you). Later on, once the umbilical cord has fallen off, you can do a proper job of cleaning him over the sink. I much prefer this method, rather than just spreading feces around his crotch until you can’t see it anymore, then putting another diaper on him. No wonder so many babies get diaper rashes all the time. But I digress.
He’s all clean? Good. Now slip a new diaper on, fasten it. Put the onesie back on and presto. Just like that. Easy, eh? Yeah, of course it’s not. The good news, is that practice makes perfect and that’s something that you guys are going to have (heh heh ) lots of. Lots of. LOTS OF.
- Got the diaper on backwards? Well, one of you will figure it out and (gently) chide the other.
- Diaper not fastened quite snuggly enough? Well, leaking poo is a strong motivator.
- Little legs flailing about ceaselessly, while his penis is squirting you purely out of spite? You’ll develop methods of single-hand multi-tasking like you never thought possible.
Ok! Well, you’ve done it. You both got your mini human being home in one piece, got a glimpse of how the basics are accomplished, and had a hand in trying them all yourselves. Your little sleeping angel is well-fed, has a nice clean diaper on, and is snuggling contentedly in your arms as your significant-other looks over your shoulder lovingly. All three of you have survived the first few hours at home together.
Whew! (wiping brow).
Now, go and have a nice long, hot shower and jump into bed for a deep and peaceful sleep.