Some things you can only learn by doing. And parenting is definitely one of those things. Sure, you can research parenting skills, what you need for the baby, all that good stuff. And, yeah, people will give you baby facts by the buckets. But, most of those googled facts go out the window as soon as that tiny human gets put in your arms.
That’s also when things get real.
At around four days old, I was changing my daughter’s wet diaper before bedtime when I noticed a couple drops of blood in the diaper. BLOOD. Blood when wiping my baby girl!
My heart started pounding as I felt my anxiety immediately sky rocket. Did she have internal bleeding?! Did we do something wrong?! I told myself maybe it wasn’t blood and my anxiety brain was just doing its anxiety-brain thing by immediately resorting to panic. But then I called my husband into the room and he confirmed. Yes, it was in fact blood.
Should we rush her to the hospital? Do we call 911? Does the ER accept newborns? WHAT DO WE DO?!?!?! In my head I’ve already entered a rabbit hole:
“Hold on, let’s just take a second and try to think clearly and not totally overreact. I’m not overreacting, Am I overreacting? It’s my baby I can overreact if I want to overreact. How dare you insinuate I’m not allowed to overreact. Why am I having a full conversation with myself in my head right now, should I be concerned about this? Wait—why am I still talking in circles in my head. Pick up the phone and just call the pediatrician. OMG the pediatrician, that’s brilliant! I totally have this under control.”
Luckily, our pediatrician’s office has a 24/7 hotline, so I decided this would be my first step. When she answered I tried to collect myself and not sound like the frantic, first time mother that I was. I’m pretty sure I even said something along the lines of “How are you tonight? Oh, great, yes we are fine, I just have a little question.”
Then I dug down and told her the horror that I had discovered.
“Oh, yeah, that happens. It’s like a mini-period.”
Now, I’m a rational person—despite that brief tangent I shared earlier. There is no way to know every baby fact as a first time parent but, HELLO don’t you think that somewhere along the line one of the million medical professionals I interacted with leading up to and immediately following her birth could have mentioned this?! I mean, blood is a GIANT red flag in the rational world and just a small expectation of it could have saved me going into cardiac arrest!
The nurse assured me that little girl babies can get this and it typically only lasts for a day or so as a result of being surrounded by mama’s intense hormones. It usually shows up as just a few drops here and there.
This incident was when the realization set in that there were SO many baby facts I didn’t know!
Wish I could tell you that feeling goes away. It doesn’t. New milestones, ages, and stages bring with them an entirely new landscape of unknowns.
Like when to begin brushing her teeth (she had one tooth and my pediatrician asked if she had a dentist. Uuuuh… no? Should she?), when to start using sippy cups instead of bottles (does everyone else know the answer to this? It seems like it should be an easy one) and that potty training can begin at 18 months. These things are so day-to-day for pediatricians, but for first time parents every new experience can be a stumble in the dark. Like, give me a freaking flashlight!
During these moments I often wonder why my girlfriends who have daughters older than mine never mentioned some of these things. Like, oh, by the way, your newborn will have a short menstrual cycle after you have her. Good luck! WE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT THIS STUFF!
Before becoming pregnant I would ask my girlfriends with infants “How are you? How’s baby?” No one EVER responded with I had a minor heart attack today, but it turned out Jessica was just getting her baby period. No. It was always We are so tired, but wouldn’t change a thing!
I suppose in some ways it’s because they know that I need to find my own way through the unknown. So, I accept that learning by doing is just another part of my new normal (and getting a little help from my friends at the 24/7 nurse hotline never hurts, either).