When last we left, Max, Jack, and I were speeding off into the sunset. Figuratively speaking.
Jack’s little head looked like a balloon without any air as it drooped directly onto his chest, due to the angle of the car seat. I was sure that we were causing him brain damage with each passing minute. I was sitting in the back with him, which I would be doing anyway, even if both Max and S hadn’t each asked me to do so.
I feel like I should remember the specifics. All I know is, I was excited to really, legally be Jack’s mom, and I was worried about getting started. When we got to the room, Max put the car seat (with Jack in it) on a chair, and I restrained myself from yelling, “You can’t do that!” and simply said, “We shouldn’t put the car seat on furniture.”
Max gave Jack to me to hold, while I ate a tasty cranberry orange muffin from the bakery at SuperTarget. Crumbs kept dropping everywhere, and I was convinced he was going to inhale one and begin choking.
The first diaper change went badly. The couch was a sofa bed, and the bed didn’t completely close underneath, so the seat was angled. Besides being extremely uncomfortable, this meant that when we tried to put Jack there for changing, he slid back into the cushions. While trying to think of something else, he peed on the couch. We decided to put him on the chair, got the diaper on, and Max cleaned the couch. The diapers seemed to be really big on him. It wasn’t until the following Thursday that we found out we were using size 1 diapers, when we should have been using size N diapers. I don’t remember the math behind N 1 2 3… I always thought that 0 preceded 1, and that N was only used in algebra.
Feeding Jack was difficult for me. I saw the bottle in his mouth, he was sucking on it, I didn’t want to stop him from eating. When I burped him, I had to change positions throughout to find what worked the best. His head was flopping everywhere, it seemed. During that first night, I fed him too many ounces of formula. He spit up all over himself, the bassinet, and Max.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we did this tag team parenting. We would take turns caring for Jack. At night, Max would go out into the dining/living/kitchen/office and work while Jack slept. At some point, he would hand Jack back to me, usually between 3 and 5 in the morning. I’d wake up, do what Jack wanted to do, then fall asleep on the couch with him on my chest. That Sunday, I hardly got any sleep at all. Jack has a really big startle reflex, so, every time I moved a little, he startled, and I’d wake up. I ended up having a dream about someone kidnapping Jack in front of a house that was supposed to be my parents’ but wasn’t.
Sunday, I went to Big K-Mart and the Burlington Coat Factory to buy premie clothes for Jack. All newborn and 0–3 labels lie. Oh, they promise that they’ll fit a kid from 7 to 13 pounds, but, tell me, how is the same piece of clothing going to fit a 7 pound newborn and a 13 pound 3 month old? So, I bought premie gowns and undershirts, all of which could snap up the whole way. Just lie him in the fabric, fold up, and snap. Brilliant!
Also occurring on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Denver Broncos in the play-offs. Max’s parents had sent ahead a baby-sized Steelers outfit. It’s for an 18 month old. The idea is that Jack will grow into it for next season. But Jack did watch the game(when he was awake) while wrapped in his Steelers jacket and lying on Daddy’s chest. Oh, and the Steelers won, so there was much rejoicing.
A lot of those first few days was just about getting used to Jack and the schedule he demanded. Each day, I hated the hotel more and more. I felt like Jack was being short-changed. If we were at home, we would know where individual household items were, where to buy baby stuff for a good price, and how to get to places we could eat. We would also have had a support system. Say what you want about parents interfering with baby-raising, I wanted my mom to hold Jack for an hour so I could just do something I wanted to do, like eat. These feelings were compounded by the fact that we were still learning Jack’s language. We figured out the hungry cry within a few days. Other cries eluded us until we got home. Anyway, this meant that Jack spent his fussy time being extremely frustrated. This led me to remark: “Oh, you’re a baby, your life is so hard.” Max responded with something like: “Well, if you were being subjected to completely new stimuli every minute, when everything is a surprise so you can’t relax…” I got the point. And it’s true. Jack had been a baby only slightly longer than we had been parents.
Here’s an excerpt from my paper journal: “I’m feeling ill-prepared and doubting my mothering skills. So, when I saw Jack all covered in spit up, I felt like a bad mother. I’m all keyed up tonight. Maybe it’s due to not really knowing what time it is, or I haven’t taken my Xyrem, or I haven’t gotten more than an hour or two of uninterrupted sleep. I was more prepared for babies when I was baby-sitting. But being in unfamiliar territory, and having no live support… It’s rough. This isn’t two weeks to bond. It’s two weeks to do the best you can in a two room suite with a couch, 4 chairs, 1 bed, and 8 drawers. We don’t know where anything is. I’m scared that I’m hurting Jack, not supporting his head. He shivers. I don’t know why. I want to go home and see my cat and put Jack in his nursery and complete this part of life. It’s hard to feel yourself when everything around you is wrong or different, and no one knows who you are. I feel like I’m in a movie about my life.”