7 Things “They” Won’t Tell You About Having a Newborn

[Even in the Million Other "Things They Don't Tell You" Listicles]

Newborns are terrifying; like baby birds, all gaping mouths and erratic movements and hollow bones. Even as someone who has previously expelled and kept alive past infancy a tiny human being, I find myself continually shocked by all the weird stuff they do, and, perhaps even more so, the utter lack of forewarning we as mothers get about any of it. So you know all those BS articles floating around on the web that “prepare” you for the “quirks” of having a baby, like “spoiler alert: their poop will be black at first, and that’s totally normal!” or “your baby girl will have blood in her diaper; she’s not dying, we promise!” that actually just rehash all the standard “little-known” nuggets of wisdom you can find in pretty much every book about getting ready to be a parent ever? This is not one of those. These are the things we Google, shamefaced and hysterical, at 3am when we’re going on hour 41 of no sleep.

They have frighteningly pokey bones
Seriously, I wasn’t kidding with the baby bird analogy. Twenty-four hours after his birth, as we ran our fingers all over our brand spankin’ new son’s downy little body in awe and wonder [as you do], my husband and I snatched our hands back as we were poked by something weirdly sharp on his chest. I kid you not: this motherlover has the world’s pokiest little sternum. This is the xiphoid process, which you’ll be familiar with and oddly proud of knowing about if you’ve ever taken middle school health, and just so happens to be super in-your-face in newborns. It’s weird, but it’s normal. Just don’t get that crazy little dude close to any balloons and it’ll get less protuber-y with time. 


Just because their eyes are open doesn’t mean they’re awake
Pax has had super high bilirubin levels since he was born as a side effect of the vacuum extractor that was used to help get him out, and as a result, is the Snorlax of our family: hardly ever awake, and when he is, it’s just long enough to eat. So you can imagine our delight anytime we start to see those dark blue little eyes peep open. Except! Half of the time, he’s still asleep; newborns are just the creepiest sleepers of all time. They smile, laugh, open their eyes, look around, and otherwise behave like possessed Furbies all from the comfort of Dreamland. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Not only do they have pokey little cactus bones, they’re also misshapen
The day my husband returned to work after our oldest was born, I frantically texted him that I thought she had rickets and that he needed to come home rightnowpleaseOMGwhatdoIdo. Seriously though: both of this kid’s fibulas curved in like a damn banana and the Google monster is not your friend. It’s called genu varum and results from the fetal position your tiny person was in for those 40 long weeks of gestation. Even better? It goes away, so your babe won’t be bow-legged forever! [Probably.]

Milk is suddenly going to come out of…everywhere
You thought this was just about baby and you were going to get off easy, huh? If you’re a mom, you should know by now that those days are over. So, you’ve decided to breastfeed? Cool. Your milk finally came in, the babester has figured out their latch, and things are going swimmingly? Perfect. Now get ready, because Mother Nature is a weirdo. You’ve got milk coming out of the places it’s supposed to, but also…elsewhere. Your nipples are working fine…but so are your areolas, and you notice milk seeping out of all those little boobie bumps you’ve just tried to ignore your whole life. They’re just misdirected ducts, and they’re disconcerting, but nothing to worry about. The mammary magic is strong with this one.

They’re mobile straight outta the womb
On the whole, newborns are lumpen little potatoes who pretty much stay wherever you put them, so that’s what you’re expecting when the OB first dumps them on your chest. That’s why it can be pretty terrifying when your bloody, cheesy little angel gift starts army crawling their way up your torso in hot pursuit of the boob. Theory legitimately crawled about 8 inches and freaking echo-located [or something equally creepy] the nipple no less than five minutes after she was born. It was like the scene from The Ring when the wet, angry antagonist crawls out of the TV on all fours, but, you know…real.

Stuff gets in their eyes
This is, believe it or not, the thing I most clearly remember being upset about when Theory was an infant. These fresh nuggets are new to just about everything, including blinking, and they don’t do it nearly fast enough. So pretty much every piece of lint, dog hair, and eyelash in your home will end up floating around on the surface of their eye. I used to work myself into a panicked frenzy, begging my husband to flush out whatever detritus had worked its way onto her damn eyeball, absolutely sure that it would scratch her cornea to hell and permanently blind her. The good news? Eventually they learn a little bit of self-preservation [although Theory still regularly pokes herself in the eye with various household objects, intentionally, because she hates me and wants me to need therapy].

You won’t remember anything but you’ll “know” everything
If this is your second kid: congratulations! You’re supposed to feel like to old pro- you’ve been around the block and lived to tell the tale. This is when you make patronizing comments about “first time parents” and laugh at how anxious they are. Except when the time comes, there are all these weird things happening that you either didn’t notice or don’t remember about the first time around, and you’ll feel completely robbed: what is the point in being a veteran parent if you get none of the confidence or experience to make the whole shebang seem a little less daunting? In fact, I’d argue that it’s almost worse the second time around: you have deep, percolating knowledge of all the things that could go wrong you didn’t have before. Before, you had to seek out WebMD or all those mommy discussion boards to figure out what could be causing your infant’s persistent and aggressive hangnails. But now? Now you know about and have had occasion to research things like HFM, febrile seizures, thrush, Fifth’s Disease, Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome; the works. You know how deep the rabbit hole goes now, and the black void of what ifs is way, way darker and scarier than it was the first time around. So not only do you still not have any clue what you’re doing, you are too well-versed in all the stuff you’re doing wrong to revel in the victory that is keeping multiple humans alive day in and day out. Congrats.

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