Owner’s Manual

Zoe’s sick, I’m sick, and Daddy is scared. Generally not a happy home when Mommy and baby are sick; sick Zoe has a tendency to do things like wake up at 3AM and scream for a half hour– just for good measure. Gotta keep the neighbors on their toes. No, I didn’t build the thin walls in this apartment building, but I did move into them with one very loud baby. We make our friends outside of the building.

Interestingly, no one is really able to convey the weight of the responsibility bestowed upon you when you bring a child into the world. I mean, gosh, our new stock pot came with an owner’s manual and very clear instructions (dishwasher safe, best used with heat-resistant rubber utensils), but bring a squirming, pink, tiny human home from the hospital and what do they give you? A single folder of information.

Not even very helpful information at that. Certainly no instructions on what to do when your baby starts screaming at 3AM and won’t stop. Those are the moments when I stop and think, “Oh God, I have calculus and quantum mechanics rotting in my head and taking up valuable brain space. WHY in all my education was I not able to learn something useful?”

No, the most the folder said on crying was: don’t shake your baby. It starts innocently enough in a moment of frustration, but thousands of babies die each year from spinal injuries after being shaken.

As if being in complete charge of a little person’s well-being wasn’t enough to scare the daylights out of you.

They may as well hand you a flash card that says, “Don’t kill her! Good luck!” and send you home from the hospital with that.

I remember when I first started driving it was the first time I realized that your car didn’t automatically keep you in your lane on the highway. What? I actually have to steer this thing?? People could die!!

That is how I felt taking Zoe home for the first time. No, no– that is how I STILL feel. You mean I have to decide when she eats, when she sleeps and when to suck the snot out of her nose? Well, who died and made me god! Heck, I didn’t even order her birth certificate until after the first three months of her life (you mean we have to order these things?).

There are decisions to be made and Oliver and I have to make them. Life becomes so much simpler when we make each decision once. Because I don’t do my best thinking at 3AM with a screaming baby for background noise. Otherwise every time she wakes up at night, I get frantic. What do I do? The pacifier? Feed her? Diaper? Swaddle her? Turn off the heat? Let her be??

It’s nuts. I can’t make decisions then. I wouldn’t be able to keep any kind of schedule or sleep train her at all– good for exactly zero members of the family. Every time she cried it would be back to square one. We need consistency.

The same holds true for the rest of life. We don’t think well under the line of fire. Life gets a whole lot simpler if we make decisions once and only revisit the ones that aren’t working for us.

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