Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Advice to Pre-Mothers

At least two people I know who vowed never to procreate, or claimed a lifelong aversion to the idea have recently announced that they are expecting. Just when I had come to terms with respecting Unburdened as a Lifestyle, too.

Congratulations on your pregnancy. I'm no expert, having not had one in me, but I've learned a lot from the blood spawn I am raising, and watched closely the tiny lives of several others as they grew.

There is good news and bad:

Ladies, a squalling, snot and poop dispenser is growing in you, with amazing mind-control powers.  
It will change your appetites and direct you when and what to eat. You will grow huge and ungainly, and complete strangers will offer you stupid advice constantly and touch your stomach, where It lies in wait to push Its way out of you one random day and feed.

"Sleep lightly, Old Man."

Parents, when It emerges, It will eat your future and you won't sleep properly or finish a thought for the next ten years. You won't wear clean clothing for the first four. 

You will focus on this creature with a mindless intensity beyond any religious vow, and well beyond the demands of insanity. You will listen for Its every breath, wipe the thing as often as it needs, feedIt from your body. After It is born, much of your hair will fall out, and your skin will change drastically.
That's the bad news. The good is this: 

It needs you alive.  

You'll live. Count your blessings as many times as you need to to imagine more.

Eventually, if you reserve enough energy, you will try to tame and civilize It. You will fail in that. 
It will never be you, or your spouse. You might keep It from destroying society utterly, but not from making a huge ass of Itself in the meantime. 

Love him or hate him, you probably don't want to raise him.
In the rare case that It exceeds your expectations and lives your dream life It may cease to recognize you. Insecurity deeply separates people into the self-aware and the complete assholes. Let Them fail once in a while. Dry Their tears but don't fix everything. 

Don't bail them out if they drew on their faces with markers instead of getting hold-up masks. 
Fair is fair.

You will always have better children than someone.
I have a ton of Great Advice, but it doesn't matter.  You'll do what you'll do, and then you'll know.

However, there are some technical notes that really helped me:
  1. Cloth diapers: DON'T! Just don't. They are a wonderful, noble idea, and I was born before there was an alternative. My brother, just three years later had the benefit of disposables. He might have used them longer than I, or not, I don't know. I also don't know if he avoided the stress of serious diaper rash and grew up less stressed than I. 
    Too many other factors were involved in that. 

    BUT the second time you neglect to check your baby for 20 minutes and his ass is a mass of welts (because shit and piss together will melt skin) and you cannot stop him from screaming: a) whenever you get near the area, AND b) when he wets again, and you have to take him to a clinic to get prescription antibiotic salve--that is when you will gratefully change over to disposable diapers.

    They absolutely prevent those screams, and that horrible, horrible sight. I say you will change over the second time, because you didn't believe it the first time. It was a fluke. You could not have caused that. Could you?

    I apologize to the planet for the mountain of diapers my son leaves behind. 
    Pretty sure they were biodegradable like they said, so maybe I apologize mostly to the trash collectors. We all should, anyway. Sorry.
  2. Food: Infants eat every two hours. They will do this forever, day and night. One of the techniques taught to interrogators is sleep deprivation. You can let a person sleep for eight hours a night, but if you constantly wake them before their dream cycle begins, they will eventually undergo a psychotic break. It is extremely cruel, but better than water-boarding. 

    Your baby does not care about this--she is growing as quickly as nature and available biomass will allow. An empty stomach will be announced as long as food will come to fill it. When they reach 11 lbs they have the physical reserves to sleep through the night, for at least six hours. 

    They will lie to you about this. They will indicate that death is imminent if food is not provided.
    When they give up yelling for food at night they will sleep a long time. 

    11 lbs. Remember the number, it's when you get to sleep a substantial part of the night again. 
  3. Burping: People used to talk about burping their babies all the time. They don't seem to any more. This was not a joke. They only drink fluids, but they get burps stuck in their tiny stomachs that hurt like rocks trying to come up. Luckily you can fix that. 

    When we first brought our child home a community nurse visited us. We did not want someone checking up on us, in our home, the first week we were on our own. We had read many books and had prepared thoroughly. We were not going to make our parents' mistakes. We did not want to be judged before we had even started. 

    When she visited she mentioned a few things, and asked a few general questions, and mentioned burping. When we hesitated, she snatched up our baby and pounded him on the back loudly. I just about tackled her to get him back, but he seemed OK, and we let it go. 

    Every two hours our baby ate, but he cried for an hour afterwards, more in a grumpy than desperate way. Patting him on the back did nothing. Gripe water did nothing but make him smell like a pickle. 

    One late night, after feeding him, I thumped his back quite a bit harder than I meant to, and a burp popped out and he cooed at me. Went right to sleep. His mother never got the hang of it, but I was the go-to guy after his meals, and he reached for me every time. 

    We hear that some children have terrible trouble with gas, and there are many reasons why, but very few solutions, other than this: burp them firmly. Hug them facing you, with their little heads supported against your shoulder, on a towel, and thump their backs a couple of times with your open hand.  Go for it.
  4. Fevers: Your child will have fevers. Maybe lots of them, if you count low-grade ones. It's normal. Almost all of them will mean nothing. There will be two times in their childhood, particularly if they are exposed to more than a few other children, when they will spike serious fevers, probably throw up, and maybe even have little baby seizures. You do have to take them in to a doctor about this, because there are other, rarer things that also present that way. 


    Don't think "meningitis, leukemia, lyme disease, lupus, Wegner's, Kawasakis, Porphyria," or ANYTHING ELSE you saw on HOUSE. 

    RELAX and find a doctor.

    99.999% of the time it's one of two diseases: Fifth, and Hand, Foot and Mouth. 

    They will get both, and they both start with scary fevers, and only end with the tell-tale rashes that you hope to see, or maybe even without them. They are almost always harmless diseases and we have almost all of us had them. Nevertheless, treat these situations seriously as hell. 

    I am only telling you to not be terrorized by them. Even my doctor fell for it. We all do. 
 There is more, and in a few years, even more than that. For now, assure yourself that you are doing the best you can, taking whatever time for yourself that you can get (about 10% of what you thought you absolutely needed) and remember this:

You are now part of the Club that provides new peons and bosses, misanthropes and philodendrons, Archies and Meatheads. If not for us: nothing would happen. The Earth would cool. Cockroaches and feral pets would rule this continent. 

Think about that, when you realize that your life won't be about you very much for a long, long time.

Because you'll forget everything else when they look at you and smile. 

Please smile. Please? OK, fine.


  1. I'd like to perform an experiment. Pick 100 couples and tell them to just drink a lot once the kid has been born. Not constantly, but enough to chill out and not worry too much about the baby.

    Then take a control group of 100 parents who obsess over baby as is their custom.

    In 20 years, I bet there is no discernible difference between the kids in both groups.

    1. Probably true. They have better data on the difference between the firstborns, who are raised in a panic, and their siblings, who tend to be raised like the expendable spares they often are.

      Firstborns are more likely to be described as "highly strung", and I bet they pass that on to their firsts. I know I did.

      None of my siblings died or lost limbs, or became drug addicts. Permanently. It may have been pretty close, though.

      But they are more relaxed, in general.

    2. I'd like to volunteer for this experiment. I want to be part of the drinking group. Only, I'd like to raise a monkey.

    3. The drinking I can see, but with monkeys the poop never ends.
      Plus they throw it at you.

      A bit more often.

  2. This post should be sent out to all the parents featured in ;)

  3. I was always one of those that said, 'Never EVER!' about kids. Now I say maybe never. Who knows?

  4. The thing that scares me away from the whole baby business is that you can’t give them back. They are yours for LIFE!

    When I was a nanny, no matter how challenging it would get and how exhausted I may have become, I knew it would end eventually and I could give them back to the parents. Also, I WAS GETTING PAID. Parents-to-be WARNING: YOU do not get paid for all that hard work!!

    Don’t get me wrong. I love kids, dearly. But they are soooooooooo challenging at times. Many, many, many times.

    For LIFE people!

    Also, if they fuck up, YOU are responsible. If they become losers in life, you feel like you failed. If they are born with schizophrenia, you are kind of fucked. You catch my drift.

    Okay, all that and I love my alone time. Once you have kids you say good-bye to your precious, peaceful, tranquil, heavenly alone time (and spouse time). And say goodbye to your precious savings account, and your (soon to be coated in baby-vomit and teenaged-drunken vomit) furniture, and your stuff in general. Vomit-coated house and cars!

    There must be trade-off, because people keep having kids. It’s just that I do not know what that trade-off would be for me…maybe, maybe slaves for life? No. That would make me really lazy if I had my own little people waiting on me hand and foot.

    No kids for me. I’m going to grow old ALONE (with spouse).
    There must be something wrong with me. Thank God.

  5. Totally sensible. However, there is a lot less vomit than that, and they make you laugh, and then they make you proud.

    Then they give a wedgie when you are on the phone, and you wish you could sell them to a coal-mine.

  6. True. I've seen that and experienced that. I guess I'm just not built for *that* kind of challenge. Or maybe I don't give 'my kids' enough credit.

  7. What a creepy picture at the beginning of your post. They are little life suckers for sure, but they make up fo it in cuteness and adoration...I suppose until they become teenages...gulp...

    1. That thing at the bottom is really mine, and sometimes I fear he's about to skip from 7 to 14 without warning. Light of my life, though.