We were a good couple. Long before we got married, we agreed completely on important things…foreign policy, religion, life plans. Then we got married. Life was idyllic. We were both in college, working student jobs. Bud had saved over $500 and student loans covered my tuition.
Budgeting was easy. At the first of the month we paid our rent, utilities, bought some dried beans, rice, flour, meal, spaghetti, and coffee. If we had a couple of dollars left, we could buy a little gasoline for Bud’s old truck. We walked to class, work, and the grocery store. Carrying home our four bags of groceries (once a month) was not a struggle. Sometimes we fished in the afternoons. This doubled as a budget assist. If we caught fish, we ate them as soon as we got home. No luck…we had grits. Our social life was relaxed. We visited other impoverished students for entertainment and had a wonderful time, cherishing this poverty since we wouldn’t always be this poor and carefree.
A couple of years later, we started noticing other people’s kids, and decided to see what we could cook up. We were out of college, both working, and having a hard time figuring how to spend all that money after the poverty of college. Unconcerned that we were just starting out, I knew we could handle a baby just fine. I imagined a little guy with dark, curly hair, smart, sweet, and adorable. As smart as we both were, our child was sure to be a genius. It never crossed my mind that our kid was free to exercise the options of our genetic pools, with all their messy subsets. With all the sisters and brothers between us, we knew all about kids. Since we already agreed on everything, and got along great, what could go wrong? Our main goal was not to mess up like our parents had. We’d cooperate, back each other up, and never, never speak or act without thinking of the effect on a tender child.
Sure enough, before too long, that tender child was on the way. Pregnancy wasn’t too bad, but finding out we had to pay the doctor ourselves when Bud’s insurance didn’t cover was startling, but good practice for the many surprises to follow. Every one of our dollars had a place to go now. At a hundred dollars per pound, John was a quality baby.
I couldn’t wait to get home from the hospital and get the baby to myself. The new grandparents were waiting at the house, just dying to get their hands on him. I was miffed when they grabbed him up before I even got him settled in, passing him from hand to hand, just like I wasn’t there. Mother rushed to change his first diaper at home and he washed her face for her. I thought that was just right. They finally put him down after his first feeding. He looked so sweet in his crib. Eventually everyone left and Bud and I had him alone. I was exhausted and settled in for a nap.
Twenty minutes in, I heard the rustling of sheets and some grunting. It didn’t disturb me much. Bud knew what to do. I was right. In a minute and a half Bud and the baby came calling. It seemed the baby’s pooper had kicked into overdrive and overwhelmed his diaper, clothes, crib, and Bud’s clothes. Bud was literally in over his head, sliding the slimy, malodorous baby in bed with me and was racing for the shower. Stripping and gagging, he left a trail of dirty clothes and baby poop splatters locked outside the bathroom door. I was right behind him, trying to get the baby’s bath stuff.
It was hopeless, so John’s first bath was in the cold kitchen – not the relaxing, calm bath I had planned for tomorrow morning. No rubber ducky, no velvety baby bath cloths, hooded towels, or gentle baby soap. I dangled him awkwardly over the kitchen sink, bathing him with dish detergent and rinsing him with the pull out sprayer, running mustard-colored baby poop down the drain. I dried him with dishtowels, the only thing handy. Between the three of us, we managed to mess up all our bedding, our clothes, the crib sheets and blankets, six towels, a throw rug, and several dishtowels. I think that’s probably the first time I called Bud a Stupid A**hole.
By the time the baby was bathed, fed, and settled back in his nice clean crib, we had piled up two full loads of laundry. We were all exhausted and starving. Bud hadn’t gotten to the grocery store while I was in the hospital, so we had grits, fish sticks, and orange juice for supper, before passing out at 8:30, too tired to even put sheets back on our bed. Uttering “Please, God let this baby sleep till at least 08:00 in the morning,” I wonder, “What in the world have I done?”
Well, I won’t say God wasn’t listening, but if he was, the answer was , “Hah!” John was not concerned about stereotypes and didn’t care that babies could sleep for twenty-two hours a day. At 10:00 P.M. he howled, furious at our neglect. I was in another world and took a minute or two to realize what was going on. I grabbed him up and changed him while Bud fumbled to heat a bottle. He took about an ounce and a half, produced another impressive mustard poop, and was ready to go back to bed, totally unappreciative of his second cleanup of the night. Not knowing if refrigerating and giving him the rest of that bottle later would kill him, I pitched it.
The hospital had sent six four-ounce bottles of formula home with us. We hadn’t bought formula ahead of time, since we didn’t know exactly what to buy. One down, five to go. Bud was going to make a supply run in the morning, so we’d be fine. We settled in for the rest of the night. Short night! At 11:30, John was ready to go again. I had already noticed that he was moody when he first woke up.
Since the literature said babies only cried when they were hungry or wet, I changed him while Bud went for the bottle, even though it had only been an hour and a half. He took another ounce and a half, pooped, and nodded off. I was starting to notice a pattern. Next time we’d feed, then change. It didn’t occur to me that it might be a good idea to jostle him awake to feed a little better. Another bottle gone. We shared quality time again at 01:30 and 03:30. Two more bottles gone.
He was up for the day by 05:00…wide-eyed! I fed him, bathed him, in the nice warm bathroom with all the proper accessories this time. I rocked him again, and waited for him to start on that twenty-two hour nap I was promised. Bud was whipped and slipped back to bed while I waited. I thought about putting him in his crib, but thought he might die, so I rocked. By this time, the formula situation was getting serious, so I woke Bud to go find a store that opened early.
While living in a tiny town can have its advantages, access to well-stocked stores is not one of them. After checking three local stores, Bud drove eleven miles into the next town for formula. He bought one big can of Ready to Feed, and a case of the kind you mix at home, squeaking back in just before John was due a feeding.
Satisfied that he had the day going his way, John knocked back four ounces of formula and slept six hours. He woke up just long enough to feed and slept another six hours. Bud settled on the sofa and got a nice nap, too. Not understanding the situation I had gotten myself into, I cleaned up the bathroom, kitchen, remade our bed, and did three loads of laundry. I was exhausted, but got a nap mid-afternoon. Bud was a fast learner. He assumed I didn’t want to miss anything, and made sure to rouse me as soon as John woke in the early evening.
For the next three months, John and I spent a lot of time together at night. I had to entertain myself during the day while he rested up. I learned a lot about babies, Bud, and myself in the next few days.
- John’s agenda did not include sleeping twenty-two hours a day.
- Bud was a better critic, than provider of baby care and always knew just what I was doing wrong. He couldn’t stay up at night because he had to work.
- I was in way over my head.
- The person you married may bear little resemblance to the person with whom you share responsibility of an infant, deteriorating rapidly from “My Love” to “You Stupid %$#&^” in a few hours.
- It doesn’t take long to get over wanting the baby “all to myself” once it actually happens.
- I was in way over my head.
Eventually, things settled down and we figured it all out. John is sleeping all night now. We’re hoping to get him out of our bed soon. He will be forty-one his next birthday!