The first two weeks at home with a newborn baby are equal parts euphoria and terror. In this it is very much like being on a combination of ecstasy and ketamine. The simultaneous sleeplessness also duplicates the conditions in which those drugs are usually taken. It is a long, high, ride.
Let’s begin with the terror. A newborn baby seems to be about to stop breathing all the time. In fact they often do stop breathing for a few seconds, which causes the hovering parent to stop breathing also, and then start breathing again when the baby does. This is a kind of joint breathing exercise that someone should market as a diet, as Adrenaline Breathing or something. It’s a great way to lose weight.
In our particular case, we were worried about the baby’s breathing because he didn’t breathe very well when first born. They told us this was possibly because he was born by C-section. Vaginal birth tends to squeeze all the fluid out of the lungs and airways; C-sections don’t. So they need to cough it all out for the first few days.
Newborn babies make a great many frightening noises: they seem to be wheezing and choking all the time. An experienced ear can tell you those noises are not real wheezing or choking: real wheezing or choking sound different. I do not, however, own an experienced ear, so I was constantly convinced that my baby was in respiratory distress. So even when the baby is not screaming that ear-knifing, wince-inducing scream – which is also apparently normal, although it too sounds very much like distress – I could not sleep because I was listening with panic to the extremely quiet and irregular sounds of his sleeping breathing. So I couldn’t sleep even when I was allowed to by silence.
And then there’s all the choking and difficult burping and puking that comes with feeding. To a newbie like me, babies just seem to be always dying. It does not seem like very intelligent design.
And overlaying all of this is the most bizarre euphoria. One is irrationally proud of this thing one has produced, even though one’s part in the production – well, my part in particular – amounted to a few seconds of intense pleasure. Nothing to be proud of, really.
More on the euphoria next week.