Muscle Memory

Not-so-wee Fresco (12 lbs!) is 5.2 weeks old today. He enjoys sailboats, long strolls in the woods and fine blue cheese paired with very old Port.

When he was 4 days old we had our final appointment with awesome doctor and we met a little girl and her dad in the waiting room. She was toddlering all over the furniture and came screeching over when I sat down and plonked the snoozing baby in his bucket seat next to me on the floor. (parenting tip #1: Bucket infant seats are fabulous. We didn’t have one for Trombone and I can’t imagine how we did it. Well, we had two hands to carry him with, I guess, but still. Bucket seat. Do it.)

“BABY!” she said, peering into the bucket.
“Is your mommy having a baby?” I asked.
“In August,” said Dad. “Bit afraid we won’t remember what to do with a newborn. She’s 2 now,” gesturing at his daughter.
“It’ll come back to you,” I said, all wise at 4 days in, still high on hormones and being out of the house – alone! – with my child, all competent ‘n shit with my sunglasses on my head, buying a cheese croissant at the Tim Hortons in the hospital, toting a silent, sleeping infant with me. Oh yeah. I was awesome.

It’s true. It does come back to you. All of the following comes back to you:

– sleep deprivation – Seriously I am awake every 2 hours all night long? Seriously? This is normal?
– intense nursing hunger – I just ate 2 pieces of pizza and a ham and cheese sandwich and three cookies. Get me that side of beef, STAT.
– intense half-asleep rage – You mean I just got to sleep after 45 minutes of nursing and bouncing and it’s 3 am and now I am awake again because YOU POOPED YOUR DAMN PANTS?
– hormonal night sweats – Much better in May than in July, at least
– baby poop can FLY – And baby penises are like little tiny hoses wielded by drunk frat boys.
– cluster feeding – Hungry again? again again? again again? Is there another side of beef in the kitchen I could gnaw on?
– nipple cracks – Dear Lansinoh: I love you and your nipple grease. (parenting tip #2: the nipple grease works great as a lip balm)

…but not in a nice, organized way. Not like when I went back to work after my year off with Trombone and when I needed a phone number I could look in the drawer where I left my file folder a year earlier and find the file folder with all the phone numbers in it and find, within it, the number I was looking for. Not like that at all.

This just in: parenting has no procedures manual.

I have a favourite uncle who is a psychologist. Because everyone else in the family just happens to be crazier than a bag full of sense-impaired bumblebees, he gets a lot of practise doing his active listening, phone therapy and everyone’s favourite: dream analysis.

He said once, when someone asked him what their dream about XYZ meant, “It doesn’t matter what happened in the dream. It matters how you FELT about it. If you can remember how you felt in the dream, you will be able to figure out what it meant.”

That’s sort of what these 5 weeks have been like. I don’t remember much of the circumstances or their relevance when Trombone was this age – I certainly don’t remember what the hell I did all day – but when I twig to a familiar feeling (“Suddenly I feel desperate and as though the baby might have something wrong with him because he is making the most alarming squealing noises!”) then my brain kicks in and gives me the low down; last time I felt this way I did internet research, found lots of great resources, looked in various books for clues. And by the time I’d figured out what it might have been, [the squealing noises] passed.

“To sum up,” says my brain, clicking to the last slide on the powerpoint presentation, “all is well.”

Lots of things are different about Fresco. He is darker, has a furrowed brow and a much smaller head than his brother did at this age. But lots of things are the same. Despite this being my second child, instinct still tells me to examine the baby closely for any signs of off-book strangeness, but after successfully diagnosing the import of the skin infection and predicting the follow-up crotch yeast infection (gee, post-antibiotics you say?) I’m confident that I can tell the difference between Something’s Wrong and ordinary Infant Insanity. And I’m confident in my own ability to parent; auto-piloting where I’ve been down the road before and figuring out the answers if there are any and accepting that sometimes, there are no answers. Babies do that.

This confidence is nice both for its own sake and because it saves me the time and trouble of the in-between steps, which I don’t have time for anyway – I started this post 2 weeks ago – and go right from, for example:

Step a) feeling overwhelmed and frustrated because every night from 7 – 10 pm Fresco is fussy and only wants to nurse and be bounced on the yoga ball – is it gas? reflux? should I stop eating garlic? eat more garlic? drink more wine? drink less wine? to

Step e) spending every night from 7 – 10 bouncing on the yoga ball and feeding him because in a week I will have forgotten this week even happened.

Our brains really are looking out for us. We just have to let them do their work.

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