Shani’s cousin, Leah, and her husband, Dan, just had a baby. Hannah. Leah is universally adored by the NJ Nuckols and she is one of the most important people in Shani’s life. A few years ago, I wrote about Leah and Dan’s Jewish Hippie Wedding.
Well, it is with great love that I send this post. It is a list of some of the things we learned when Jack and Alex were newborns.
I learned about “The Aligator Effect.”
If you were in your living room, looked over, and saw an alligator sitting there – you’d freak out, right? “Holy shit! What’s a alligator doing in my living room?!”
After Jack was born, every couple of hours I’d look over and there was a baby sitting there.
“Holy shit! What’s that baby doing there? Whose baby is this?!?”
It’s nuts. It’s hard to believe it’s real. It’s the Alligator Effect.
I learned that breastfeeding is a bitch.
We had no clue. I thought you just stick a kid on there and they nurse. Well it’s not like that at all. We were struggling to get it working and we finally broke down and called in a “lactation consultant.” An hour later, this hippie-dippie lady shows up at our apartment and tells us we’ll be working in the bedroom. So the 3 of us go in there.
“Now, Daddy, I’m going to ask you sit there at the foot of the bed. Mommy, you go there and hold Baby with you. That’s right.”
Then this creepy hippie climbs right into the bed with us.
“Now, usually before we start, Mommy needs to have a good cry.”
This lady was nuts! I rolled the hell out of my eyes and started to shoot Shani a look of disdain – but then I notice: Shani is bawling! What the hell?
But in all seriousness, the hippie dippie lady was a huge help and a great call to bring her in. Totally got us in good shape.
Oh – sidenote about breastfeeding for Dad – don’t try out the breast pump. You will be tempted.
I tried it once when Shani was in the shower. She was always complaining about how it hurt, so I figured I’d see if it was really all that bad. I stuck the plastic cone over my nipple and flipped the switch.
It was like a badger was locked onto my chest. This contraption had me in its vile clutches and was distorting my nipple to unthinkable proportions. I screamed in agony.
“Get it off! Get it off!”
I tumbled off the bed, wildly flapping my arms in panic trying to flip the switch to off.
I learned to get sleep any way you can.
I work in healthcare advertising. In fact, I worked at the agencies that coined the terms “GERD” and “erectile dysfunction.” But no one has ever come up with a better name for a medical condition that SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
With Jack I lived in mortal terror. Nothing was allowed in the crib that could smother him. And he had to be on his back. Whenever I got him to sleep in my arms, I’d carefully lay him down in the crib on his back.
And he’d wake up. Every time. But that’s what I had to do to keep the SIDS from getting him.
With Alex, we were way smarter. We were getting sleep any way we could. The boy would fall asleep on my chest and I’d build a throne of pillows to support me. I’d sleep sitting up with the boy right on me. That’s how we both slept for the first 6 weeks of his life.
I learned you’ve gotta forgive each other quick.
You’re stressed out and so sleep deprived and at 3:45 AM when the baby wakes up you lash out.
“Goddammit! You did it wrong and now the baby’s awake!”
Making up from a fight for Shani and I used to be a long process. We’d talk it out and apologize and make concessions and agree to be friends again.
But with a baby, you don’t have time for all that crap. Then next morning, after we’d been unreasonable assholes to each other, we’d basically go:
“Hey, last night…”
“It’s fine. I get it.”
“Good. Thanks. Sorry.”
Not enough energy to hold a grudge, I guess.
I learned that Jack would stop crying if I went down the hall doing deep knee bends.
I learned how to avoid getting peed on.
I learned how awful and ragged that first three months can be from Jack.
I learned how to cherish those awful 3 months from Alex.
Maybe, above all, I learned that I could do it. And I have to believe that you guys will hit moments of hellish despair when you think there’s no way you can handle this. But you can and you will.
It is the most profound change you will ever go through. It is bigger that moving out of your parents’ house, bigger than leaving college, bigger than getting married. You are no longer Leah and Dan. Not anymore. First and foremost, you’re Hannah’s mom and dad. Your identity is fundamentally changed.
So it is with a heart full of love that I share this with the two of you. Welcome to parenthood. It has inflated my life with a dimension of joy I never imagined possible. I wish all of that and more for you and your newly-formed family.