When new parents ask for advice – which they seldom ever do – I offer that they should expect and accept that for the first few months, everything is wet. They look at me like, wtf is she talking about? And then they have a kid and get it in their heads to breastfeed and woah… then the WhatsApp messages commence! There are just so many liquids. Viscous. Oily. Watery. Dripping. Soaking. Clear. Milky. Yellowish. Red is the bad kind. I mean, and there’s the process of identifying the source, is it #1 or #2? Are you wet or did something (or someone) make you wet? How long will it take to dry? Do you have to put it in the washer OR will fresh air do the trick? Seriously. I never got so acquainted with the sensation of feeling wet as in those post-partum months, but it is a good lesson for parenthood.
I am no expert, but neither was Ali Wong or Jessica Grouse until the sh!t got real. And things got real for me when I had to call a lactation consultant a day after my son was born, because frankly, my boobs weren’t getting wet enough! And then I learned about nipple guards and skin-to-skin and La Leche League. All of which made it their primary focus to get my body to give this stranger, who had been kicking me from the inside, all the liquids he needed to live. And once they worked their magic, everything was wet. I was leaking. Bottles spilled. I cried when I spilled bottles of pumped milk (liquid gold!) all over the kitchen floor. He peed more. I was wet. He was wet. And we really didn’t take enough baths and showers to warrant how wet we were. But, somehow being wet was a sign that we were doing something right – maybe a lot of somethings. Parenting is really effing counterintuitive like that. The rules of adulting that you’ve been learning since you were a teenager go out the window when you become an adult newly responsible for a child.
For example, screaming is bad right? No. Actually, it means your kid is breathing. And if they’re screaming, it’s better than their silence, which could be an indication that they aren’t breathing or just deeply engrossed in coloring themselves red with a fresh new stick of “Lady Danger.” So, screaming is good. Screaming is very good.
Likewise, crying is also very good. You will cry. The baby will cry. There will be tears. And tears are good. You’re hydrated and signaling to the world that you need help – you probably need sleep, the baby maybe just needs a diaper change. And crying is your bodies’ way of ensuring that you both get that help, in spite of yourselves. Someone will hear you – a grandparent, a friend, someone who has a propensity to pick up a crying parent (I mean baby) and pitch in. Either way, liquids are our lizard brain’s way of saying things are working, maybe not smoothly, but they are working.
There’s no science behind any of this. But two years of field experience has shown that if things are dry, sh!t is going downhill. There’s too much powdered formula and no one has added the water to make the bottles. Dry hands have dirt, peanut butter, and unknown “outside” residue on them. Wet hands, my friend, are freshly washed. Frequently wet diapers are not nearly as scary as ones that have been dry for too long. And if you haven’t cried yet, new parent, trust me… you will…
So get used to all this backward thinking, because being a parent is like a really wet game of opposites. Go with the flow.