To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.
-Elisabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
Calvin: Dad where do babies come from?
Dad: Well Calvin, you simply go to Sears, buy the kit and follow the assembly instructions.
Calvin: I came from Sears?
Dad: No you were a blue-light special at K-Mart – almost as good and a lot cheaper!
-Bill Waterson, Calvin and Hobbes
Maybe you haven’t gone anywhere, or interviewed anyone this week. Maybe you’ve just been meeting your husband at the door when he gets home with a crazed look on your face, demanding an immediate and detailed account of his entire day, starting the moment he walked out the door. Maybe he said, “Oh, nothing much happened,” and then thought better of it, when he noticed your proximity to the knife block, and instead chose to launch into a thorough description of the salad toppings in the work cafeteria.
Why have you stayed at home? Because it’s difficult for a new parent to ruin her child’s life in public. That kind of ruination is an art form, and can only be wrought from years of experience. You, a new parent, have to stay indoors. You have a four-month-old. A-four-month old with a smile that melts your heart anew each morning when you lean over his crib. A four-month-old who is taming his wild hands before your very eyes, learning to grasp and reach for things on purpose, and with some degree of success. A four-month-old who meets your eyes and laughs when you play peekaboo, babbles stories at you from the changing table, and stares intently at the pictures while you read aloud Green Eggs and Ham. Small miracles, these; mere months before, this same baby couldn’t focus on objects more than ten inches from his face. He struggled to lift his head during tummy time, and had yet to discover his feet. But now that he is a four-month-old, he is ready to explore his world. Unfortunately, it’s now your job to take away everything he holds dear.
Once, you started reading a book called Eat Pray Love, in which the protagonist has a dramatic breakdown because her life is too good. She’s too white, too upper-middle-class, too loved. To fix her breakdown, she is forced into exotic travel, taking not one, not two, but three international vacations, all in a row. You could not bring yourself to take her seriously, any more than you could bring yourself to finish the book. However, if a four-month-old wrote a book called Eat Play Sleep, you would most definitely be empathetic. Because when somebody messes with a four-month-old’s three favorite pastimes, the struggle is real.
Now that your child is four months old, and has officially exceeded the maximum allowable daily intake of formula, the pediatrician is going to say: “Start him on food.” You believe this will be a fun new experience for your baby. Your logic: Who doesn’t like food? For some reason, the fact that your baby is perfectly happy taking his five, seven-ounce bottles at exactly the same time each day, does not register with you. By now, you are patting yourself on the back for having a generally good-natured baby, with the occasional fussiness that you know just how to fix. So you run right out to the store and buy all the baby food things to prepare a soupy concoction for his first feeding, at the time indicated on the doctor’s carefully written-out, brand new feeding schedule. When the clock strikes 4, you get your baby and put him in his high chair for the very first time, take a moment to marvel at how well he sits in it, and then begin to lovingly feed him his first bite of pureed bananas.
Rainbows, butterflies, chipmunks. Clouds part, and a ray of sunshine beams down on a grassy knoll somewhere far away from your house, the place where all that can be heard are the piercing screams coming out of your four-month-old, who seems to have suddenly developed an extraordinary lung capacity. Allow me to interpret: This red, angry, wrinkly face is saying, Give me my bottle! This spoon thing isn’t working like my bottle does! I don’t know what to do with my mouth, so I just keep shoving the food back out, and now it’s all over my face and my chins and my bib and NOT IN MY BELLY I’MHUNGRYFIXIT!
Ok, so changing up his feedings isn’t going to be as Leave It To Beaver as you thought. But at least you can still have fun at playtime, right? Think again. Even though this one isn’t technically your fault, Mother Nature is never around to take the blame she deserves. Just last week, your baby loved his kick-n-play piano gym, his tummy time pillow, and wrestling with his giraffe lovie in his Bumbo seat. Now that he is a four-month-old, he still loves these activities, but each one is punctuated with intermittent cries of pain and frustration from the mean little teeth trying to push their way through his tender gums. Not only that, but complete mastery of hand-eye-coordination is still months away, so along with the pain of teething comes the frustration of constantly fumbling the thing he wants to chew on. You may find yourself holding a squeaky giraffe in your baby’s mouth during tummy time, trying to mop up the small ocean of drool pooling on the blanket so that neither of you drowns in it, when your baby suddenly manages to kick and push in exactly the manner necessary to turn himself over. This feat is at once extraordinary, and extraordinarily terrifying for your four-month-old, who is now crying, and flailing like an overturned turtle.
Well, at least all these changes are going to wear him out, and the solid food should afford him—and you—a longer night’s rest. Right? Yes, these things are true. However, now is the time when you will pay for all those good nights of rest you’ve been bragging about since the second week of his birth, thanks to the angelically named HALO SleepSack. You have become so familiar with this product, “sleepsack’ is now a verb in your household. As in, “He’s tired. Sleepsack him.” You’ve been dutifully Velcro-swaddling your baby each night, and for many a nap, just like the nurses showed you in the hospital, because denying him access to his arms calms him down and puts him right into a deep, fairy-tale-like sleep. Sadly, denying him access to his arms is no longer a good thing. Your four-month-old can roll, and rolling over without access to one’s hands can only end in disaster. So it’s time to add sleep training to the list of changes you’ll throw at your baby this month, meaning shorter naps and interrupted sleep that will leave him over-tired and cranky, and ill-equipped to handle an entirely new diet and the painful introduction of teeth.
Nobody told me about this
Yes, they did. Everybody told you about this. Strangers told you at the store. Coworkers told you at work. Friends told you at parties, but you were too busy tuning them out and aggressively overeating from the cheese tray to take note. But it’s ok. As a new parent, you’re allowed to say things like “Nobody told me about this” with a straight face, because the people who told you understand the struggle. So this week, it’s ok to stay home. Try to soak up as many laughs and snuggles as you can, because the milestones are coming fast and furious, and pretty soon your baby will be the master of eating, sleeping, and even smiling with teeth. Don’t blink.