The pregnant stranger getting a pedicure next to me at the nail salon, my new neighbor who is due in three weeks, Alyssa Milano: I want to tell you everything I know.
Don’t bother learning how to swaddle. Just get one of those Velcro things.
There’s something called gripe water that you have walked by at the pharmacy for the past 20 years but have never noticed on your way to the light bulbs or astringent. No, gripe water doesn’t prevent complaining. It’s a natural gas remedy for babies. I have no idea if it works, but it’s been around forever, and when you’re bouncing on a giant plastic yoga ball hour after hour in the middle of the night with a crying baby, it will have a placebo effect. Not on the baby, on you.
When I see you, I want to get right in your face and warn you that if you will need a sitter or day care, don’t wait until the baby comes, because you will be tired and confused and lugging around something called a Snap 'n Go and worrying about things like “nipple confusion” and “tummy time.” Just ask every parent in your orbit if they know a good sitter or day care center, and waddle in there now, before it’s too late.
Babies choke a lot on stuff when they first start eating solids. It will freak you out, but it’s normal. You’ll feel better if you take a baby CPR class. But do it now, before it involves a sitter and three long hours on a Tuesday night in the musty meeting room of the public library when you’re sleep-deprived.
This sounds lame, but you might try practicing opening and closing your stroller and shoving it in your trunk. Get used to it so you can do it under pressure, with a baby staring at you, like, “Gee, Mom, press the red lever on the left, and how about we get out of the street? I’m 4 days old, and I know this is idiotic.”
Don’t be lured into buying a baby wrap that is just a long piece of fabric. Unless you have experience with origami or wearing a sari, this will be an aggravating exercise that will leave you sweaty and feeling like a failure, which you may already be feeling for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is because it’s normal for a new mom. Someone should tell you that, too, and it might as well be me.
There is a baby garment for boys that we refer to as a “man gown.” Buy them in packs of three at Target. They eliminate the need to do lots of unsnapping in the night. And retain your boy’s dignity by not calling it a dress. Man gowns. Take note. This is critical information that will be of value for maybe three months of your life, but for those three months, you will need the heck out of some man gowns.
No matter how fast you lose the weight, there will be a mom in baby music class wearing cutoffs who will depress you more than if The Cure covered “Wheels on the Bus.”
There is no such thing as a diaper bag that doesn’t feel cumbersome and look hideous to you after a few weeks.
Find a pediatrician with a free parking lot. You will be there more than you think.
If I had larger, more philosophical truths, I would share them. I just know that once you cross over, you can’t believe no one explained to you about gripe water. Now that I’m here, I wish I could meet up with the pregnant me and tell her to practice refilling the humidifier in the dark.
It’s only been a year and a half, so maybe I’m too close to the dividing line to know much of real value. Maybe that’s why I cling to the tidbits of practical knowledge I’ve collected. The truth is, in your first hour of motherhood, you might feel more adept, more deserving, more centered and wiser than I do now. You might start off with an immediate and mystical understanding of parenthood. So, before you lap me, I just want you to check for free parking and think of me when you do.
Teresa Strasser is an Emmy-winning television writer, a two-time Los Angeles Press Club Columnist of the Year and a multimedia personality. She is the author of a new book, "Exploiting My Baby," the rights to which have been optioned by Sony Pictures.