You watch your social media feed get cluttered with other people’s baby pictures and you say to yourself, “That won’t be me.” Then the big day arrives, you take one look at your newborn child, and you fall so instantaneously and completely in love that your brain gets warped a little. You find yourself skipping meals, ignoring your body’s feeble pleas for sleep, and losing track of time, holding — or just simply looking at — this tiny person who is so beautifully fragile and so completely dependent on you. You can’t be blamed for knowing in your heart that yours is the most adorable baby ever to be born.
Being born is a traumatic experience, especially when one is relentlessly squeezed for days before being forced out into the cold, cruel world. At first, our little munchkin was too exhausted to even want nourishment, falling asleep at the breast. A few of our friends had advised us to use this time before he became alert and started fussing to catch up on sleep, but we found it impossible to simply hand him over to a nurse and go to bed, especially after S labored so hard to bring him into this world.
Instead we took turns hanging out with our little man, letting him slumber peacefully on our chests. Our hospital is a big proponent of skin-to-skin contact for both parents. Newborns who are placed directly on their mother’s skin without being wrapped stay warmer, feel more secure, feed better, and are generally healthier than babies who do not experience this so-called “Nature’s hug.” Skin-to-skin with fathers is also beneficial, allowing newborns to acquire additional bacterial immunity and bond with their parents.
This is one hospital policy we did not need convincing to embrace. In fact, had D’s parents and S’s mom not been waiting for our phone call, we might have simply spent all day taking turns hugging him. Because they had spent the previous night on pins and needles at our apartment they were at the hospital as soon as we left the delivery room. It is hard to quantify joy, but judging by their beaming smiles our parents’ elation was at least equal to our own.
We would have loved it if Munchkin had remained longer in his sleepy, blissful state, but by the end of the second day it was nearly impossible to hold him skin-to-skin. For one, his tiny arms and legs are a lot stronger than we had anticipated, and if he was awake he no longer wanted to be held down. Also, if S attempted to hug him, he would immediately want to feed. The same impulse took over if D held him close, though obviously with much more frustrating results, leading to irate bouts of crying. One time, not finding the nourishment he sought in vain, Munchkin crawled up D’s chest and launched his gaping mouth at a shock of D’s beard.
Parents frequently say that kids grow up too fast, but never is this more true than with a newborn, where literally each hour of wakefulness brings with it new discoveries and attendant challenges. We watched him grow more and more alert, and by his third day Munchkin was wide awake, making clear in no uncertain terms that he would need us to do some serious parenting to keep up with him.