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When I was getting ready to leave the hospital with my newborn son, my husband left the room first to bring the car around to the exit doors. He had left with a cart (yes, a cart!) loaded with my birthing ball, my overnight bag and a million other things we thought we needed to have a baby but didn’t, and the only things he had left behind were the car seat and our son.
I vividly remember picking up my tiny, tiny baby, who barely fit in the footed pajamas I had brought as his going home outfit, and just staring at the car seat. I was supposed to put him in the seat before we would be allowed to leave the hospital, but my son was so small and the seat was so big—I had no idea how I was going to get this tiny person in the seat and buckle all the straps securely without hurting him. I just stood there, frozen, for what seemed like 10 minutes. My fear must have shown plainly on my face because when a nurse walked in the room, she asked, “Do you need some help?” I immediately handed over my son and, lickety split, she strapped him in the seat and said, “Don’t say anything. We’re not supposed to do this.” I was so grateful for her help, I promised multiple times to never tell a soul (well, until now).
I barely remember the ride home, but I know that when I walked in the door and had to unbuckle my son from the seat, I stumbled over the straps for a good five minutes. I didn’t remember anything the nurse had shown me and I worried about the next time I would need to put him in the seat—how would I know if he was strapped in safely?
That anxiety about “how do I know?” stuck with me for the first few weeks with just about everything I did to care for my son: When I was nursing —how would I know he was getting enough milk? When I swaddled my son for sleeping—was he wrapped too tight? When I gave him a bath—was he cold? I had no idea if I was doing things the way they should be done. But, honestly, neither did my son. So, I went with the assumption that if he wasn’t crying, I was doing O.K. It also helped that my parents were there for the first two weeks so I got some much needed back up on basic tasks like changing diapers and finger nail cutting (newborn nails are so teeny tiny!)
It eventually got easier. Having to take my son to the pediatrician on a weekly basis forced us to use the car seat and the daily needs of a newborn soon made my husband and I professionals at diaper changes, swaddling and bathing. Now that my son is older, he can tell me if he’s had enough to eat or if he wants to be tucked in at night, and I’ve even figured out the best way to clip his nails—while watching Curious George, of course!