by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O'Neill and Julia Stone
Do you have a new baby? Congratulations! Do you have one or more small people running amuck in your home? How wonderful. Does that home now more closely resemble a bomb crater than it does a dwelling place fit for human beings? Are you picking your way through the debris -- the rubble of strollers, bottles, dirty clothes, and talking plastic gizmos -- that now litters your domestic landscape?
We know the feeling. The three (make that six) of us have endured seven major diaper-bomb assaults in the last five years and lived to tell the tale. Parenthood changed us, and our relationships, in the most unexpected ways. This is what they meant with the whole for better or for worse business at our weddings. Parenthood fills us with awe and humility and gratitude. It is also a soggy, uncomfortable, life-altering trial by fire. Babies are the great levelers. Like a drill sergeant who tears down his weak new recruits so he can rebuild them into soldiers, babies break us down and rebuild us into parents. They flatten everything in sight, and then make us better, stronger, and hopefully, wiser than we were before.
The newborn stage is precious, but it's also tough. The name of the game is survival. When you are going through it, it seems like it will never end. But it lasts just a few short months -- less time than a semester in college -- and things do get better. You won't have to get by on four hours of sleep for the rest of your life. Here are a few things we, and others, have learned the hard way that might help you ride out the storm together.
It's the first thing to go when we're stretched to the limit. But it is pretty funny -- or at least it will be when it's all over. We have two choices when the baby pukes on our last clean T-shirt -- laugh or cry. Given how much crying has likely taken place already, why not give laughter a shot? Some favorite funny moments people shared with us:
It's not the time for a Relationship 101! Don't underestimate the potential for hormones, sleep deprivation, and general baby shock to trigger an argument or two. Some people panic during this period. We have a friend who, when their first child was five weeks old, told her husband that they needed counseling.
What they needed was a good night's sleep! You are not a couple at this time. You are two people treading water. Until you're getting an eight-hour block of shuteye for two consecutive months, you shouldn't even think of analyzing your relationship. Neither of you are capable of coherent thought. By all means shout, tell each other how you feel, and/or hurl bottles at each other, but remember that the way you feel now will likely pass.
Call a time-out. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. One of the great advantages of having more than one child is that we can avoid some of the minefields we stepped in the first time around. On the eve of the arrival of their third child, Stacie and Ross called a time-out on their relationship for three months. They told each other, "OK, let's get our game faces on. Let's apologize in advance for all the crazy things we're going to say to each other. We'll take a time-out and know that our true selves will resurface soon enough."
Bring on the village! Or dial 1-800-GRANDMA. Hired or otherwise, help is essential. Sure, the two of you can do this on your own, but why risk insanity or divorce if you have other options?