Coming home from the hospital wasn't nearly as scary this time. This wasn't my first rodeo. This was my second rodeo. Newborns aren't scary. Compared to a 2-year-old, a newborn is just a cute paperweight with adorable tiny poops and a tendency to fart and smile at the same time. If I can handle carrying a bowl of Cheerios and a screaming, back-arching, 30-pound daughter down two flights of stairs without killing us both, an eight-pound toothless meatball should be a breeze. Or so I thought.
I suspect it was the sleep deprivation that occurred during the first week home with our first child, but somehow my brain selectively forgot (or downplayed) these five things about having a newborn in the house:
1. He pooped again?!
We're going through 10-20 diapers a day. Why, you say? Every diaper change entails the use of three diapers: the dirty diaper, the new diaper that ends up getting peed on and the third diaper that actually ends up on the kid. Other things that end up getting peed on: me, the couch, the wall, my iPad and anything else within a six-foot radius. It's like a freaking Blue Man Group show in my living room. I should give the first three rows ponchos. (No, Blue Man Group does not pee on the first three rows at their show. Those audience members just get wet.)
Instead, when his little baby fire hose starts going off, my strategy is similar to BP's with Deepwater Horizon. I just start throwing things on top of it to stop the spill from spreading. Clothes, diapers, burp rags, anything to quell the whipping arch of urine that is soaking my living room.
My wife thinks this is hilarious when it happens to me. HILARIOUS! So I showed her. This morning when she laughed at our son pooping on me, I picked him up and chased her around the room pumping his legs like a Super Soaker trying to shoot him at my wife. It didn't work, but she got the point.
2. Who needs sleep?
I was ready to wake up every couple hours. I wasn't ready to wake up every hour and then spend 45 minutes getting the kid back to sleep. This has resulted in two to three hours of sleep every night for the last couple of weeks. My wife and I were taking it in stride for the first few days, but the lack of REM sleep is starting to creep into our daily lives in some very awkward ways.
Example 1: We went to Walmart the other day to get Christmas decorations. My wife wanted me to lift her up to grab some ornaments on the top shelf (we're both short). I then loudly told her, in a crowded aisle, that it was a bad idea for me to lift her up due to her recent and unhealed circumcision. Circumcision. Of course, I meant "cesarean." We got some strange looks.
Example 2: Last night I wanted a glass of water. We keep cold water in a dispenser in the refrigerator. I opened the refrigerator, pushed on the nozzle and began to fill my glass. Water started hitting my feet and as I looked down to see what was the matter, I realized that I was not filling a glass with water. I was filling our garlic salt with water. Somehow, I had opened the spice cabinet, removed the cap from the garlic salt and started filling it with water. This actually happened. No, I didn't drink it.
3. "Does this look normal to you?"
"Does what look normal?"
"His belly button. It's a little red."
"Oh, you're right. It is a little red. I'd better Google it."
(Consults Doctor Google) "Does it stink?"
"Does what stink?"
"What do you mean 'does what stink'... his arm pit."
"Why would it matter if his arm pit stinks?"
"His belly button! Does his belly button stink?"
"I don't know. Should I check?"
"I think you already know the answer to that question."
(Smells belly button) "I guess. I guess it kind of smells. What should a belly button smell like?"
"I don't know what the baseline for belly button smells is. This just says to check if it smells. Yes or no, does his belly button smell?"
"If I had to choose one, I would choose yes."
4. OH MY GOD! HE'S DYING!!
I'm pretty sure my boy has belly button cancer. Also, every time he grunts at night he is choking to death. I jump out of bed, turn the light on and make sure he isn't asphyxiating on his spit-up. Then, when he is finally quiet, I assume that I've missed something and that he actually did choke and that is why he is not making any noise. I turn the lights on and go to make sure he's breathing. Sometimes he's breathing too fast. Sometimes he's breathing too slow. Every little cough is THE cough. Every little gasp is THE gasp. Eventually, he wakes up hungry and my anxiety fades until my wife is done feeding him and we put him back in his bassinet and the cycle starts over again.
The logical part of me knows that I am being silly. The "facts" part of my brain registers that he is fine, even if he does grunt all night like a goat. The problem is, the facts part of my brain stopped working right around the time I tried to pour myself an ice cold glass of garlic salt.
5. "I hate your video game!" "Well I hate your stupid home decorating show!"
It's safe to say, the wife and I have been a little on edge. I ran a comic a couple weeks ago about how every conversation, no matter how menial, is a fight when a baby is screaming. Well, every conversation that takes place during a sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden haze also has the potential to be a fight. That said, I think despite a couple bumps, we've done remarkably well. I may have made some unnecessary remarks about why I shouldn't have to watch a show about Canadians redecorating their living rooms, and last night my wife was ready to take a hammer to my PlayStation 3, but other than that, we've been as good as can be expected.
To cope we've been giving each other a little extra space and naps as often as possible. The unfortunate side effect of this is that I miss my wife. Everything is about the kids right now, which it should be. I am, however, looking forward to getting into a little more of a rhythm -- as much as two kids will allow.
Bonus:Those five things are some of the difficult parts of having an infant that I had forgotten about. There are just as many wonderful things that I had misplaced in my memories of our daughter as an infant. Here is a sampling to take us out on a positive note:
- My son calms immediately when he lays his head on my chest and hears my heart beat.
- The smell of his head (much better than his belly button -- which is fine now, by the way).
- When I kiss his feet, his tiny toes curl around my upper lip.
- Slate-gray baby eyes.
- Triangle toenails.
- The sound of breastfeeding. (You may think it's weird, but I think it is amazing.)
- The look on my wife's face when she looks at my son.
Anyway, I wouldn't trade these days for the world. Good times... very good times.
An earlier version of this piece appeared on John Kinnear's personal blog, Ask Your Dad.