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March 3, 2012

Newborn phase would be much better if there were deadlines

Friends of mine just had their first baby.

And, yes, a very small part of me envies them, just a tiny, tiny bit. I miss those days when I had a sub-10 pound human to snuggle with, one who would look at me with nothing but pools of love in her eyes.

I'm going to pretend it was love. In all likelihood, it was probably gas.

But I don't miss any of the rest of it.

You can keep the explosive diapers, the endless feedings. I'm not sure I could go back to sleeping four hours each night, none of them consecutive. Every ounce of me wants to lay a gentle hand on each of these new parent's shoulders and say, simply, "you poor people."

It's hard to have an infant in your house.

The work never does end and sleep is always in short supply. Yes, it all pays off eventually _ but it's really hard to keep that in mind when you haven't even gone to the bathroom by yourself for weeks.

Which brings me to Facebook.

Back in the dark ages, when I had my first baby, there was no Facebook. We still had dial-up access and we were lucky to have that. And, yes, we also walked uphill to school. Both ways. In four-feet of snow. Even in May.

Thanks to Facebook, however, I've been reliving the process of adjusting to parenthood through the new parents' status updates. And lately the new baby in question is going through a common new baby stage where she wants to be held and walked around every blessed minute of every blessed day.

I offered what advice I could, which involves buying one of those inflatable exercise balls so that you can bounce the baby and sit down at the same time. But after that, I had nothing to offer other than completely unhelpful reminders that some parts of life simply need to be endured.

What struck a chord, however, were some of the other comments encouraging the new parents that they will miss this part of the process when it ends so they should enjoy it while it lasts.

There is truth in that, maybe, but it is the sort of well-meaning statement that used to make me want to chew off the fingers of the person making it. My immediate impulse was to grab the advice-offerer by the shirt and shout the word "when" into their well-rested faces.

Yes, sleep deprivation makes me a smidge grouchy.

The only piece of information I wanted during those days when the baby was cranky or restless or bored or simply trying to cope with being 2 months old was when exactly this part of the process would end. I wanted a deadline, in other words.

At what exact time will I get to stop bouncing on this exercise ball? On what date will I get to enjoy my own bed? Precisely how long will this part last?

I felt the same during labor, too. I could have swung the whole thing without drugs, I think, if someone could have guaranteed that the worst of the pain would be done in two hours and 16 minutes exactly. I can work with defined parameters.

In hindsight, yes, these first few months are short and, at times, precious. But in the moment of them, they feel like an eternity.

Personally, I never did find statements like "enjoy this while you can" or "this passes so quickly" anything but irritating when my kids were babies, as if my failure to enjoy mopping up regurgitated milk for the 10th time that day was a sign of not loving my child enough.

Frankly, those sorts of phrases made me want to hand the baby off and walk away until the phase passed.

Now, of course, there are moments when I long for the simplicity of life with a newborn.

My kids are old enough now that our days aren't a test of physical endurance.

It's now about emotional and mental fortitude, which is a change, at least, and one easier to tackle after a good night's sleep.

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest." Her columns can be found at parentingimperfect.

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