What Raising a Baby Is Really Like

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You’ve seen them on television shows and in movies. You know what babies are all about. They’re boundless buckets of sunshine and rainbows, their every breath a tidal wave of joy. They transform even the most mundane moments into magical explorations filled with wonderment and laughter. Each time a baby is born, the stars shine a little brighter, and the world becomes a sweeter place to live in. Babies are always a delight!

Yeah, no. Movies are lying to you. This is a myth.

In reality, babies can be…challenging. Don’t get us wrong. They’re enchanting beings of pure love, but they’re also screaming, irrational poop factories that don’t care if you never sleep again.

They build you up to the highest heights, making you feel like you can accomplish anything, and then lay you low when they throw pureed bananas all over the house and laugh in your face about it. They are the only creatures on the planet that can’t do anything for themselves and yet hold all of the cards. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll go out of your mind, and then loop back around to unbridled joy. Babies are a rollercoaster. You’ll love every minute (except for the ones you don’t), but you’ll never regret a second.

When it comes to development, baby is predictable and also chaos incarnate. So what is baby’s first year really like? Buckle up and find out.

What Do You Mean You Don’t Know How to Sleep?!

You’ve done it! You’ve birthed your first child. Excitement builds as you drive home with baby in tow for the first time. Later that day, though, the terror sets in as you sit, unable to pacify your crying child. You left the helpful nurses at the hospital, and now it’s just you. But your baby isn’t concerned and goes right on being a baby, so you adapt.

Babies know how to breathe, poop, and pee, and that’s about it. You have to teach them everything else, including how to sleep. During the day for the first month or two, they’ll be unconscious far more often than awake, but the reverse is true at night. Expect to be up every hour or two to feed them, soothe them, or change their diaper. Sleep will be a thing you remember being good at, but you won’t get much chance to practice.

Guess What? Eating’s a Challenge, Too

Breastfeeding can also be tricky. Sometimes babies latch right away, while others require coaxing. In some cases, it never happens, so don’t let yourself feel like a failure if success is fleeting. Some mothers and babies simply don’t like it, but babies do just fine on formula (if you can find it on the shelves). Breastfeeding popularity plummeted in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Only 25% of babies ate breastmilk at the time, yet the same percentage went to Harvard that do today. They’ll be fine and so will you.

Once they move into baby food, you’ll discover that they prefer most of it on the floor, your shirt, and pretty much every square inch of themselves. If some small percentage makes it into their mouth, you’re winning at parenting. Slowly you’ll come to know which foods they like, and which they’ll throw at the cat. Parenting is a process of teaching and learning simultaneously.

Prepare to Get Intimately Familiar With Your Child’s…Expulsions

You will get peed on, particularly with boys. This is unavoidable. You may also find yourself pooped on once or twice. You’ll certainly have it smeared all over your hands. And you’re not truly living until you joyfully hoist baby up over your head only to get a shower of baby puke raining down on your head.

Babies are beautiful little miracles, but they’re also super gross. Just wait until you’re taking pictures of their dirty diapers to send to your pediatrician. Bet you never thought your phone would be full of poop pictures, did you?

They Get Sick a Lot, and It Can Be Scary

It’s no wonder that your baby is continually cycling through an illness du jour. They inherit a semblance of an immune system from their days in utero, but it’s not adequate against a world full of pathogens they’ve never encountered.

Particularly if your baby goes into daycare, you’ll find yourself contending with frequent high fevers, snotty noses, sleepless nights, and projectile vomiting straight out of The Exorcist. Since it’s as much your first time going through these illnesses as theirs, your emotions will run wildly between fear, sadness, and unbridled empathy. You’ll have your pediatrician on speed dial and continually ping Google with searches of the type “what does it mean when baby does X?”

You’ll do well to listen to your pediatrician, not Dr. Google.

Babies Are Wonderful Terror/Joy Machines

Babies are a delight, just not all the time. They’ll fill your world with more love than you ever thought possible and let you see even simple experiences from a whole new perspective. But they’re also a lot of work, and it’s important to prepare yourself for the mental exhaustion and emotional battlefield you’re about to walk into.

Kids are the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life, but also the most rewarding, so do what you can to enjoy the ride!

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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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