places to stash the baby

parenthood really does change a person. i went to bed last night at 9pm. i did happen to be awake at midnight, because i had to get up to pump milk. jared was still up with ramona, dressing her up in various outfits, so we were able to ring in the new year together. kind of. at the stroke of midnight, i was sitting at my desk pumping & balancing my checkbook, jared was in the kitchen putting a fresh outfit on ramona, & ramona was screaming because she hates being dressed & undressed.

one of the many looks ramona sported last night during her impromptu baby fashion show.
one of the many looks ramona sported last night during her impromptu baby fashion show.

sometimes i feel like we should really have this whole new baby thing down to a science because ramona is already over a month old. but then i remember that she’s only been home with us for like a week. so obviously we’re still figuring things out. she was pretty easy to deal with in the NICU, because the hospital had such a strict schedule, & she was just too tiny to have the energy to go off script. if she woke up during a diaper change, we were lucky. the first night we spent with her was really hard because we discovered that she really did scream sometimes, but we didn’t know her well enough to know what she was screaming about, & we weren’t experienced enough with babies to know that you don’t have to attend to every little squeak or grunt. she would murmur in her sleep & both of us would immediately be cribside, offering her a pacifier, patting her back, fixing her a bottle, wondering what was wrong, when all that was wrong was that babies have no self-awareness & make all kinds of goofy noises that don’t necessarily mean anything.

we are starting to learn though. here are a few valuable lessons i have learned in my first few weeks of new motherhood:

i know i spent a lot of time while i was pregnant reading lists of necessary & unnecessary baby supplies. bouncy chairs were a key item on countless lists of baby necessities, & i remember scoffing at that. i thought a bouncy chair might be an okay auxiliary item, but a necessity? surely not.

i am now here to eat my words. i mean, obviously a bouncy chair isn’t really a “necessity”. plenty of people in developing nations get by without them. but i’m sure they have someplace where they “stash the baby,” as i put it. while ramona was in the NICU, obviously we relished the opportunity to hold her, but sometimes it gets really exhausting to hold a sleeping baby. your arms, shoulders, & back start to ache, especially if you are kind of inexperienced with babies & you’re all tense & hunched up during the holding. the baby falls asleep & in a dim, warm room, you start to fall asleep too, especially if you’re holding a baby & can’t move around too much for fear of jostling it to wakefulness. sometimes it was actually a big relief to put ramona back in her crib & get a break from the constant holding.

so when it was time to bring her home, i told jared that we had to get a bouncy chair. i wanted somewhere to put her down, other than her crib (which is fucking enormous compared to her). & i didn’t want to just lay her on the couch or something. eventually she’ll be rolling over & i wanted a chair i could strap her into. he was really skeptical of this idea. he considered it basically just another form of baby incarceration. but i insisted, & went to the baby consignment store & picked out a pretty basic secondhand bouncy chair. i immediately removed the railing with all the goofy toys hanging from it, & i have yet to use the vibration or music modes. it’s just a place to put her when she’s snoozing & i need to get up & do other stuff–wash some bottles, make a phone call, write a blog post, whatever.

the first time i tried putting her in the chair, she fussed. this was only our first or second day home with her, before we had figured out that she tends to fuss a little when you move her from one place to another–even if you’re just moving her from your shoulder to your lap. jared was all, “see, she hates it! she knows she’s being abandoned!” that really pushed my buttons because i was already feeling all this weird guilt & anxiety about not wanting to hold her all the time (a blog post for another day). i cried. he thought the hammock shape of the chair forced her head on to her chest & compressed her airway & that she would suffocate. he took her out of the chair & carried her around for the rest of the day.

but let’s be serious. that’s just not realistic. eventually i put an infant car seat support in the chair to hold ramona up a little & now she chills in her bouncy chair all the time. & jared has acknowledged that he was wrong & that the chair is a godsend. holding her & carrying her are great–but sometimes you need a break.

on this tip, another great item i bought was the ergo carrier (with an infant insert, because she is such a tiny baby). i had been eying it for a while but didn’t take the plunge because they cost like $150 new. then i found one used at the antique mall for $75. i was still reluctant to drop that much money when i had no proof that the ergo was any better than any other carrier, & especially when i’d heard so many weird stories about babies rejecting their carriers. but it was such a good price, i went for it, & i’m so glad i did. we don’t have an infant car seat & the ergo is great for carrying ramona when we have to go out (like to the pediatrician). it’s also great for toting her around the house but still having both arms free. ramona (& all babies, i guess) has a tendency to be gassy, & it helps her to be laying belly to belly with us. we can pop her into the ergo & ease her gassiness but still put away laundry or whatever. we’re not tethered to the couch while the house becomes a festering craphole around us. & as jared said, “it’s all the awesomeness of kangaroo care, without the indignities of having to take off your shirt!”

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