By Alex Hill
Babies don’t come with instruction manuals—at least mine didn’t. This past April, I gave birth to a healthy nine pound baby girl. Prior to this, my experiences with babies were few and far between, whereas my husband has two older children and is often referred to as “the baby whisperer.” I had never held a newborn, nor had I changed a diaper. To say I was terrified those first couple of weeks would be an understatement.
I downloaded the e-book of the classic What to Expect When You’re Expecting when I found out I was pregnant. If you’ve ever read this book, you know it contains a multitude of things to worry about and detailed descriptions of what can possibly go wrong. I spent several hours a day reading this book until my husband deleted it from my smartphone. I remember thinking, Worst case scenario: my child will be born with flippers and a tail. We’ll need to find onesies to accommodate these eccentricities.
I worked until a week before I was to be induced. As my due date approached, the daily greetings turned incredulous, “Are you still here?” Mothers, of all ages, would hold me hostage at the desk to give me unsolicited advice and share their “war stories” of pained labor and delivery.
As my own “war story” unraveled, I realized: No one can accurately prepare you for what your birth experience will be like. I had to be induced. My labor progressed very slowly and lasted for approximately 26 hours. Did I mention that my daughter weighed in at a hearty nine pounds and five ounces (9 lb. 5 oz.)? At the end of my delivery, the doctor turned to me and said “Congratulations. You just gave birth to a toddler.” Despite all my worrying, my daughter was born completely healthy and flipper-free.
When we brought my daughter home from the hospital, I purchased What to Expect: The First Year. I studied it. I took notes, jotted down points to remember, and nearly every other paragraph was highlighted. During those first couple of weeks, I was terrified to pick her up. I was afraid I’d hurt her or break her neck. I was petrified to change her clothes without my husband’s supervision, fearing I’d accidentally snap off one of her tiny limbs like a twig. I can safely say I haven’t broken her yet, and surprisingly, newborns are not as fragile as you’d think.
The best thing in the world is seeing my daughter smile at me when I come home from work. I am amazed at how much she has changed in such a short period of time. I decided to take the time to enjoy my baby; to hold her for the sake of holding her. She will only be this little once, and it seems like she is already growing up too fast.