Being tired sucks. Being exhausted is worse. And being awake for 36 hours while taking a red-eye flight across the country and going straight to work is just plain hell on earth.
Can anyone sleep on an airplane? Can anyone even take a nap while sitting in a middle seat, sandwiched between a late-boarding meat-head with bruised knuckles who falls asleep to “Born To Run” (really?!) and a crazy sleep-mask-wearing pregnant lady who lays her head on your shoulder the whole seven hours from Seattle to New York?
I was so tired when we landed that I nearly passed out on the subway on the way to work, and I still had nine long hours in front of a computer screen to go! I can hardly describe how tired I was by the end of that two day ordeal.
And yet my friends tell me that that was nothing compared to the level of exhaustion they've faced in raising a newborn baby for the first 3 to 6 to 9 to 240 months. I guess I’m about to find out. That’s right: the crazy pregnant lady drooling on my shoulder all flight long was my wife! TWIST!
As of today, I’m less than 5 months from owning my very own small child. And I’m terrified. Not terrified that I’ll soon be responsible for a defenseless little version of either myself, my wife, a perfectly matched combo of the two of us, or, hope-hope, of Jesus! - but that I’ll be so unbelievably tired all the time.
Too tired to stay awake for Monday Night Football games. Too tired to walk up to my lovely roof deck. Too tired to change diapers. Really. I'm exhausted. You do it, honey.
In the understatement of the millennium, I'll go ahead and say that with a new baby, the potential for disaster is huge. I mean, my style is about to be majorly cramped! I hear these things totally take over your life!
All of a sudden I'll be too busy to escape to the movies once in a while, too busy to drink a twelve-pack by myself on my lovely roof deck, too busy to get up in the middle of the night and feed the baby. Honestly. I'm totally slammed here. You do it, honey.
And then there's the possibility that I screw something up.
I've said it before and it's still true: I know next-to-nothing about babies. And I know even less about raising them. Yeah yeah, we all know they don't come with a manual, but that's not totally true. They actually come with millions of manuals, each one in walking, talking, human form. Should I copy what my parents did when they raised me? My wife's? Your parents? Your real parents? (Yeah, you were adopted.). Dr. Phil? Dr. Spock? Mister Spock?
There are tons of options out there, most of them bad ones, like that woman at Target who yanks her kid around by his arm and swears in his face like she's Bobby Knight. Who knows, maybe I'll be just like her? It's impossible to tell, and I'm certainly no stranger to daydreaming about beating up other people's kids. Especially Justin Bieber.
But I'll figure out my parenting style later. For now, my main issue is coming up with a name, and we can't do that until we have a gender. Before then, how am I supposed to know what kind of inanimate object we should name it after? An effeminate sounding one, like "Cigarette" or "Sconce," or a manly one, like "Machine" or "Headlight"?
I'm not one to get all touchy-feely about much, except maybe kittens, puppies, ferrets, stuffed animals and the occasional barely-legal centerfold. But I suppose I might feel a little something special when the doctor walks out of the delivery room once labor has ended and nobody had to stand anywhere near his wife's legs during any of it and tells me to come in and meet my clean, new, umbilical-cord-free little baby.
After all, everyone says that having a kid is life-changing. And on a practical level, I totally get that. It's obvious. But what I want to know is if it's truly Life-Changing. Like reading "The Celestine Prophecy" or listening to The Shins' "New Slang."
I guess I'll let you know in a few months, and then you can tell me to stop talking about my amazing fucking baby all the goddamn time. Jesus Christ, dude.
But hey, at least you won't have to expect any pictures.
Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".
ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE
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michelle von euw
4.23.10 @ 8:54a
We're there with you.
On the plus side, I hear the first few months of baby-ville are great times to get caught up on TV series. Sleepless nights + late-night feedings = ideal time to pop in a season or two of a show you missed out on.
4.23.10 @ 9:03a
I am surrounded by people having babies. I'm not going near any of you until I'm certain your fertility has ebbed.
4.23.10 @ 10:15a
Mazel Tov! My brother and his wife are due with their second girl in July.
If you wind up having a son, he's not allowed anywhere near my nieces. Nothing personal.
4.23.10 @ 10:17a
On a side note, what was Brother Bear called before the Berenstains had a girl?
4.23.10 @ 11:02a
Word of advice--when people ask what they can do to help: LET THEM. That was the advice given to my friend who had triplets. It will not hurt the baby for Mommy and Daddy to be out for a couple of hours at a movie or dinner, or just in another room catching up on sleep or housework while he or she is cared for by a trusted friend or relative.
Benefits to the parents: a recovery of sanity, couple time, a slight reduction in sleep deficits, someone else to handle the 100th re-reading of "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" following a bath that gets more water on the bather than the bathee.
Benefits to the baby: a wider circle of adults it knows it can depend on, love, and amaze with its incredible talents (starting with rolling over, but eventually progressing to grasping the intricacies of the English language and an understanding of sports rules and skills..and/or the ability to have dolls with scads of clothes everywhere but actually on the doll).
Remember, the exhaustion is relative. Yours will be much less than that experienced by parents of multiples.
Additional words of caution: whatever you do, do NOT tell your wife that you're too tired to change a diaper or feed in the middle of the night...unless of course you relish the thought of sleeping on the couch every night until the child graduates from high school. Caring for an infant all day is more exhausting than the longest day you've ever spent at a computer. Trust me on this. Also--if she begs you not to leave her alone with the child when you are leaving for work, that's a sign that working late is not advisable.
4.23.10 @ 11:05a
@Adam: Brother Bear was originally called Small Bear. I know that from having read the stories to my daughter.
@Mike: did you ever hear of students in college living on beer and cheez-its and getting three hours of sleep a night while trying to rise early for 8 am classes and maintain a GPA that won't screw with their scholarship? Yah, having a baby is like that, only less beer and more dirty diapers. But the feeding hours are about the same.
Here are a couple things that worked well for us (as if you don't have enough advice being thrown at you by now by all your friends and relatives):
1) In the last couple months before the baby is due, start making appointments with pediatricians, and meet with them. Go in with a set of intelligent questions, but what you're really there for is to get a vibe. Try to see it from a kid's point of view. Is the doctor attentive? Does he/she answer your questions in plain English without being condescending? Is he/she scary? Does he/she smile with the whole face? Is the doctor's office environment friendly, clean, and inviting? For the record, we picked the kindly older fellow with the Looney Tunes bowtie who kind of reminded me of C. Everett Koop, and had Duplo blocks in his waiting area.
2) Just because the baby cries in the middle of the night is not a reason for you to jump up out of bed right this minute. You do NOT want to get in that habit, or it will be YEARS before you get a decent night's sleep again. The child will start getting the idea that crying is a good way to get fawned over. Our pediatrician actually told us that, if we knew she was recently fed and changed, and she didn't sound like she was in actual pain or distress, we could (and for our own sanity, should) give her about 30 minutes to cry it out. If at the end of that time she was still going strong, go see what's up. Sounds crazy, but it worked.
Whoops, got long-winded again. That's the second time this morning.
4.23.10 @ 11:12a
Just thought of something else. Don't keep all of the baby's/child's toys available at all times. Keep some stored, and change the ones available on a regular basis. It's easier to keep the baby entertained if they have something "new" appear in the toy box on occasion. It also reduces the baby clutter that WILL take over your family room, living room, kitchen, bath, master bedroom, building, and all city blocks within a 6-mile radius of your home.
4.23.10 @ 12:45p
If you end up having a boy, and you name him Damien...
4.26.10 @ 2:02p
I think that's one name we haven't considered. I'll out in on the table tonight!
4.30.10 @ 5:51a
I'm going to reread your column if I ever get run over by a fertility bus. I'm also surrounded by people having babies, but am not going near that curb unless I'm convinced to. But, just the same, looking forward to seeing just *how* YOU adopt to parenthood. Fingers crossed!