Six Lessons in Three Weeks

Today Thea is three weeks old! These three weeks have seemed both fleeting and eternal. I’ve learned a lot.

1. Not all babies like all bottles. I thought: babies like food, some food comes in bottles, babies will eat food from bottles. NOT TRUE! Nick has been trying to give Thea a bottle of breastmilk for the past three nights. Last night, after Nick’s ingenious idea to cut a hole in one of the nipple shields I use to nurse her and put it around the bottle, we progressed to Thea being willing to put the bottle in her mouth without screaming for up to 20 seconds at a time.

2. Last night, our hot water heater and heat went out for approximately an hour. During this time, I called our builder, ready to make his life miserable should he have ignored my call (he was actually quite responsive and prompt), wrapped Thea in the warmest things she owns (even though it had not even started to cool off in the house) and began packing our bags for our life on the run from our cold house. Despite the fact that I knew we could drive to my parents’ warm house and stay the night (or even several nights) there, I felt like I used to when I played imaginary games of Soviet refugees on the run (late Cold War childhood).

3. There are a lot of things I’d never be bothered to do for myself–fix the hot water heater in a timely manner, for instance (I’d be likely to think “eh, I can take a cold shower if I need to, I’ll call someone in the morning if it hasn’t fixed itself), exercise extreme caution when walking down the street, wash my hands 800 times a day–that I’ve been doing compulsively for Thea. This has even extended to taking better care of myself. Yesterday I ran a bit, which was absolutely as wonderful as I could have ever dreamed, but I, for probably the first time in my life, stopped before I needed to so that I’d be sure I felt up to whatever today brings rather than depleted from doing too much too soon. I’ve even made phone calls to strangers on Thea’s behalf.

4. Even though before, during, and after my own wedding, I felt strongly that gratuitous wedding/engagement posting on social media is annoying at best, some weird combination of narcissistic/insecure/gloating at worst, I have been completely unable to restrain myself from posting pictures of Thea. Then, when people respond, as no doubt they feel they have no choice but to do, with something about her being cute or sweet, I realize that before I had a baby, I really wasn’t interested in vague acquaintances’ baby updates and I feel a little narcissistic and annoying myself. But then I post more pictures of Thea.

5. On a more serious note, having a baby has made me more aware of mortality than I ever wished to be. I’m already very emotional about the possibility of anyone I care about aging, so I wouldn’t have imagined it was possible to feel more acutely aware of life being short. I worry about Thea a lot–a little less than in those first days where I couldn’t even close my eyes without wondering if she was still breathing–but, I also want to keep myself safe for her. I’ll find myself thinking things like “if I get hit by a car, how will Thea eat? She hates bottles!” Just before Thea was born, I started to hear a promo for a new NPR podcast called The Longest Shortest Time. One of the pull quotes in the promo was from a woman talking about how having a baby made her newly aware of death. Yeah, I get it. And am trying not to let “awareness” become “paranoia” or “obsession”–what kind of way to raise a child would that be?

6. I never could have imagined how stupid things that aren’t tending to Thea’s immediate health would seem. She had a frenectomy for her tongue-tie on Tuesday, and until the procedure was over and I saw that she was eating well afterwards, even major things like wrapping up the sale of our old house or finalizing details for insurance on the new house seemed so beyond stupid that I was miffed to be even asked to consider them. Luckily, Nick responded to the stress of the frenectomy in the exact opposite way, by trying to control everything he could around the house instead of thinking about the procedure until we were about to leave for the doctor’s office, and so we do seem to have insurance on our house.