My wife and I looked at each other and then back at the nurse. She was walking us through a checklist of things to watch for with our new baby. She was rattling them off, rapid-fire, faster than I could keep up. We were taking our baby girl home with us from the maternity ward for the first time.
The items included feeding the baby every one to three hours, regularly checking the baby’s stool, making sure we remembered our scheduled well-baby visit, and fitting in rest times. When my wife asked if I remembered everything the nurse said, I swore under my breath.
“Oh, don’t worry about anything honey,” the nurse said. “It’s all in the discharge papers I gave you and if you have any other questions, you can just give the maternity ward a call. There’s always someone here.”
They’re really letting us leave
While we waited under a small roof that hung over the exit, the nurse checked to make sure that I had correctly assembled our baby car seat and carrier. After a couple of minutes, she came back over, and gave us a thumbs up. We were good to go.
I remember asking her, “Are you sure? That’s it, there’s not more?” In my mind, I was begging her to come home with us to make sure we got set up properly.
Instead, she simply looked back and smiled. “Oh, everything is going to be just fine.”
Young and dumb
A few months earlier we were two young kids starting our lives together. We were more worried about where we were picking up dinner on Friday night or how we were going to spend the weekend than taking care of another living, breathing thing.
If we had gone to an animal shelter, the caretaker would have looked at us twice before letting us rescue an abandoned dog or cat. They would have wanted a background check of some kind, they would have wanted proof that we could be responsible adults. And here we were taking home our very own baby daughter.
Where’s the manual?
In the weeks leading up to my wife’s labor, I kept waiting for the hospital to make us take a class or earn some kind of parenting license. Sure, they offered a breathing class to help with labor, but that was the least of my worries. In my mind, no matter what happened, the doctor would still be in the delivery room with us. What about after the labor? You need a license before you can go hunting or get behind the wheel of a car. I wondered why the same requirement didn’t exist for being a parent.
With all that in the back of my mind, I helped my wife into the backseat of our car so that she could sit next to our daughter. She must have been thinking the same thing as me. “They’re really letting us go,” my wife said. “They have to be crazy.”
I drove home at a snails pace, ten to fifteen mph hour lower than the speed limit. I’m lucky I didn’t get a ticket for impeding traffic, but I wasn’t about to get into a wreck three days into my newborn’s life. And yes, don’t ask me how, but we somehow made it through the next several days. (I even learned that baby swings have different settings. You can lean them forward or backward like a car seat and your baby doesn’t have to sit cramped with her neck scrunched into her chest, but that’s an embarrassing story for another day.)
Yes, we somehow survived and shocked ourselves by becoming responsible parents. All these years later, though, I’m still waiting for that $#*@! parenting manual. All three of our kids are adults now, our youngest will soon be heading off to college, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t need the help.
I could have used a manual with the answers, at the very least, my very own cheat sheet, a million times over the years. Unfortunately, the manual never came.
In the end, I guess my wife and I will just have to write our own!