About six months ago, my wife and I discovered “we” were pregnant.
We were ecstatic. We had been married about four months at the time, and we both knew we wanted kids pretty early in our marriage.
So once we found out we had a baby on the way, we immediately picked a name, started talking about the parents we wanted to be, and tried to figure out if college would be affordable in 18 years.
(Spoiler alert: It won’t.)
But we didn’t think of a lot of other things — little detailed things that parenting books, podcasts, and websites don’t tell you about.
- Babies need socks / mittens on their hands after they’re born
- Labor can be long, so bring a book
- Some inoculations must be administered to the mother
- Babies can scare themselves
- Moms can discern their baby’s specific cry
- Babies understand vocal tone…
- …and love when you talk to them
I don’t have a lot of detail about this list — it’s honestly just surprising stuff I’m learning as I crawl closer to paternity.
1. Babies Need Socks
Baby skin is soft.
So soft, in fact, that a neonate (or “newborn” for the peasants) can actually wound themselves with their fingernails.
Because babies are always scramblin’ around with their little flailing sausage limbs, they’ll inevitably scratch themselves if their hands aren’t covered.
That’s why a lot of parents get mittens for their babies.
But if you’re not into cutesy-wootsy mittens with screenprinted bears on the palms, the alternative is socks.
Socks are made first and foremost for comfort. They have great air ventilation compared to conventional mittens, and they’re soft to the touch unless they get wet or dirty.
In other words, they’re the superior hand coverings for newborns on their way home.
Plus, it looks cute.
2. Labor Can Be Long
I knew this before. I’ve heard stories from family and friends about how long labor can be.
But I never considered what you do during that time.
Childbirth is obviously an intense and emotional time (to say it lightly). But there’s time where you’re going to be just…
Not like let’s-watch-a-season-of-The-Office waiting, but maybe I’ve-seen-this-post-on-reddit-already waiting.
So bring a book or a Rubix cube or a word puzzle or something.
You’ll probably need it.
3. Baby’s First Immunization Goes to Mom
Doctors are clever.
(That’s part of the requirement to be a doctor.)
They’ve discovered that some of the vaccinations that babies get are best administered at different times.
Some are given in the first few weeks.
Others are given in the first few months.
And at least a handful are administered when the baby isn’t even here yet.
This is the case for the Whooping Cough vaccine.
Whooping Cough is a pain-in-the-ass of a disease that can cut a baby’s life tragically short.
That’s why medical practitioners give it to the mother so that the baby can absorb it in-utero.
The baby comes out with a stronger immune system and a stabler lease on life.
You’re basically giving your baby a superpower.
4. Babies Can Scare Themselves
Have you ever seen a dog chase its tail?
Apparently, babies do the same thing — but in reverse.
Because the human condition requires a certain degree of perspective and experience-based understanding of the world around you, babies don’t understand much of anything about… anything.
As a result, babies can scare themselves by looking at their reflections or even hearing themselves.
Cats, bugs, awkward stuffed animals, TV shows that they’re seeing too soon, a relative’s ugly face — they can all contribute to the fear too.
But that’s understandable.
Also, your newborn can wait to watch Stranger Things, so knock that shit off.
5. Moms Can Discern Their Baby’s Cry
Expectant moms will tell you that they notice a lot of changes happening in their body in addition to the literal human being growing underneath their lungs.
(And holy shit, seriously, women can grow people. Just. Wow. Right? Good lord.)
Super smell, morning sickness, migraines, “mom reflexes,” and amplified snarkiness are just a handful of side effects that soon-to-be-moms can experience.
But once the baby comes, the new things don’t stop.
One of these “new things” is a mom’s literal ability to discern her own child’s cry, even among a cacophony of other noises like trucks, dogs, and other parents momsplaining why what you’re doing is wrong because of something they saw on The View.
So my wife is going to be able to identify her child from across a field.
6. Babies Understand Vocal Tone…
Newsflash: Babies don’t know words.
But they totally understand vocal tone.
Much the same way that you can scare a dog by yelling at it and inspire a cat to finally get their floofy pudge off your kitchen table, babies understand what you’re saying by the tone that you use.
There’s a lot of nature-vs-nurture ideology that a ninth-grade health class would probably love to debate, but it’s a startling idea.
You know the last time you got mad at someone in traffic and vocalized it in the safety of your car? Can’t do that with a newborn — they’ll think you’re directing it at them.
Remember when you had a fake fight with a friend because you’re both sarcastitastic and it was really funny? Can’t do that with a newborn — they’ll only feel the aggression.
Language gives all of us the shared benefit of clarity in communication. Vocal tone helps convey ideas through social idioms that we all recognize, like sarcasm or ending questions on an upward voice inflection.
But if you don’t have language yet, you’re relying on vocal tone exclusively to understand your linguistic surroundings.
It’s made even worse because, hey, babies don’t know what sarcasm is either.
In other words, you have to be crazy-careful about not just what you say, but the manner in which you say it.
So forget how you used to talk around your friends in high school and start thinking about how you used to talk around your youth pastor.
It’s time to clean it up.
7. …and Love When You Talk to Them
So we just laid out that babies can’t understand language.
But it turns out that doesn’t really matter when it comes to them bonding with you.
Babies love when parents talk to them.
I think there’s a lot of fun parents can have with this. As long as you say something with a loving vocal tone, you can bond with your child saying anything from The Giving Tree to a tight five of Bill Hicks.
(Important note: I’m not a doctor and don’t actually try this because oh my god I’m not a doctor.)
So what do you say to a child who unconditionally loves you but lacks the social graces not to poop on you?
I don’t know.
But say it with love.
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