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‘Okay! Who’s on first?’
The pilot was ushering people on to the helicopter and we’d all been told to pack light. It was 2014 and I was on a work trip in Queensland. We’d all crammed tiny bags full of sunscreen, spare outfits (for Instagram DARLING!), snacks, hats, sunnies, cameras and all other array of crap we thought we needed for a few hours away from civilisation.
My mate Stacey from Veggie Mama had not done this. She had her 6-month-old baby strapped to her chest in a baby wrap and in her hand was a single spare nappy.
That was it. She jumped on the helicopter, baby in tow and off we went. We were gone for several hours and you know what happened? Nothing. Her baby played in the sand, nibbled on bits of food from our lavish lunch, kicked around nude in the water and had the time of her life.
At this stage I wasn’t planning on having children (I hadn’t decided NOT to, it just wasn’t something I was actively pursuing) but her no-fuss approach to parenting impressed me immensely. I’ve had the pleasure of watching both of her kids grow into incredibly cool, very chill little people so I reckon she’s on to something here. And that’s not to say that Stacey doesn’t worry – ALL of us worry and fret about the safety of our children – I just admire the way she never sweats the small stuff and approaches parenting in this beautiful, calm and serene way.
I worry a lot. Not as much as some people but certainly more than I should. So when we decided to have a baby we decided to adopt the mantra ‘What Would Veggie Do?’
That meant when it seemed too hard to pack our girl in the car for an 8 hour round trip for a mate’s party we asked ourselves ‘What Would Veggie Do?’ and the answer was do it! When we wanted to go to a festival in the next town over and knew we’d been gone all day with a kid who is rubbish at napping in the stroller we asked ourselves ‘What Would Veggie Do?’ and bustled her in the car and let her have a few short car naps instead. We ask ourselves ‘What Would Veggie Do?’ a lot and we’ve jumped on a theoretical helicopter with a single nappy in our hands many times and everything just sorts itself out.
Although, it doesn’t matter how many chill pills you gobble from the serene hands of tattoo covered, ripped jeans and chucks wearing Veggie, there are some things that are totally terrifying as a new parent.
I’ve teamed up with Woolies (you can read my other posts I’ve done with them here, here, here and here) to bring you 7 baby firsts that will make you an anxious mess. It’s basically all the stuff I tried to be super chill about but was basically a quivering bowl of jelly over. The good news? The first time is the worst and it only gets easier from there.
So on that note, here are 7 baby firsts that only get easier with time… promise.
1. The first time you put your baby in the carseat
Less than 24 hours after I gave birth we strapped our girl into her little capsule to take her home. Gently pulling her tiny arms through the harness we fussed and fiddled, ensuring every strap was correctly placed, that her head was perfectly nestled in the padded bumpers and that the base of the capsule was firmly attached to the car.
We lived a 20 minute drive from the hospital and I kept my hand on her chest the entire drive to make sure was breathing. When we arrived home, I flung open the door and rushed to get her out. She slept in the entire time and remained asleep as we detached the capsule from the car and gently carried her inside.
It took a good few months for my car terror to subside but now I barely think about it. We chuck her in her car seat and off we go. In fact I kind of miss those silent days. Our little one likes to babble and screech in the car which is lovely, because she’s happy but 45 minutes of ‘Reeeeeeee! Ah bub bub bub! Da da da. Ah ah ah!’ is enough to send you totally batty.
2. The first time you take your baby out in public
We were on a mission to not be housebound once our girl was born and as I was fortunate enough to have an uncomplicated birth there was no reason for us to delay her debut into society. So when she was three days old, we popped her in the car and took her to the Emporium Mall in Melbourne. Go big or go home, right? She was safely tucked in a our Moby wrap the entire time (with me constantly checking to make sure she was still breathing). Every time someone asked us how old she was they were visibly horrified when we said three days old, like we’d snuck out of the hospital or something. Mr Smags actually had a hilarious moment when someone asked Harriet’s name and he flat out forgot. Had to stall and was like ‘Um… her name? Yeah… yep. She DEFINITELY has one of those…’. In his defence, he’d only known her for a few days.
I spent most of my time with my arms held protectively around my tiny baby and staring daggers at anyone who blew smoke or coughed in our direction. I also kept my distance from strangers. For some reason people really want to touch newborns (what is WITH that?) so you have to practice your bugger off vibe.
Now? We’ve got a dead set social butterfly on our hands. Everyone gets a wave, especially dogs and men with beards.
3. The first bath
Caveat: We were SUPER lazy with baths but the midwives encouraged it. They advise not to give a bath until all the vernix (lady garden cheese) has soaked into their skin because it’s good for their immunity. So we waited and then a week passed and we hadn’t bathed her. That sounds gross but newborns get their butts wiped like 12 times a day and they do nothing but sleep so baths seemed pointless. Also we couldn’t quite figure out when we were supposed to do it. Our girl was a very sleepy baby because she had jaundice and was a very leisurely eater so between sleeping, eating and changing her nappy ten times a day (seriously, this kid would poo ten times a day when she was a few weeks old) there wasn’t much time for anything else.
Her first bath happened about two weeks after we got her home. We bathed her in our laundry tub and it was unbelievably slippery and terrifying. Baths were scary right up until she was able to support her own head. Now that she can sit up on her own? Baths are magical. She showers or baths most nights with Mr Smaggle and I can hear them both giggling while I get her pyjamas ready. Melts this stone cold heart of mine, it does.
4. The first time you change a nappy
I use to work in childcare and as a special needs teacher so I was no stranger to changing nappies when we had our girl but I’d never changed a nappy on a newborn before. My main concern was making sure the umbilical cord crusty gunk didn’t snap off too early so I was forever folding her nappies down and making sure they weren’t rubbing on her belly button. I’d also delicately and carefully make sure the leg cuffs were fitted snuggly around her upper thighs and that the velcro waist tabs were firm, but not too tight.
Now? I change her nappy in 2 seconds flat in the boot of the car. No wuckers.
We’ve been using the Little Ones nappies from Woolies from day one and she’s slept through the night (mostly) from when was 4 months old so now I’m terrified to use anything else. That’s some next level absorbency right there, internet fist bump for that moisture wicking core. I keep buying Little Ones because there’s no way I’m messing with a system that works.
Surprisingly our girl has not had nappy rash at all. Both of her parents are basically allergic to life (especially her father) so we were expecting a messy, weepy, rash riddled baby but she’s smoother than a baby’s bottom so to speak.
She’s already in walker size nappies because she has a very thick midsection – I’m not making that up, girl got stuck on the way out of me by her stomach. Midwives were in hysterics. I’ve started ordering them online because we’ve almost run out of them too many times. As I’m writing this I’m literally waiting for the Woolies van to pull up in the driveway. Note to self – always get more nappies than you think you need.
5. The first night at home
We didn’t feel that terror that people talk about taking their baby home. We couldn’t wait to get her home. We got back to our place at around 11am the day after she was born and felt fine. We fed her, stared at her, fed her, stared at her. Put her down for naps. Stared at her some more.
Then night time came and I was suddenly horrified at the thought that I had to sleep. It’s paramount to survival but HOW was I supposed to sleep when I had to take care of this tiny defenceless creature?
With great bloody difficulty it turns out. That first night I stood up every half an hour to gently place my hand on her chest to make sure she was breathing. Literally every half an hour. And every 2 hours she’d cry for a feed anyway.
This unsustainable routine went on for a few weeks and slowly but surely I’ve managed to stop checking her so often. She’s one now and I wake up most mornings at 1am and 4am and take a quick peek at the monitor to make sure she’s okay. I’m sure I’ll be well and truly over it by her 18th birthday… otherwise when she moves out I’m going to have to hide a nanny-cam in her first share house.
6. The first night in their own room
After the initial newborn phase our girl became the loudest sleeper in human existence. Not a bad sleeper, a loud one. She’d stay asleep but she’d snort, snore, sigh, cough, gurgle, smack her lips and suck on her thumb like her life depended on it. I stopped getting up to check her breathing because I could hear her breathing… like a freaking truck on a highway. I got very used to hearing these sounds through the night so when we moved her to her own room the silence nearly tore me apart. We have a baby monitor but if I wasn’t satisfied by what it showed me, I’d tip toe in to make sure she was okay. The first night? I did it like 8 times. Now? I take a super quick peek at the monitor if I wake up in the night and I go straight back to sleep.
7. First time they eat solid food
And I don’t mean puree. I mean the first time you hand them a super soft stick of steamed carrot and somehow they manage to gag on it. Of all the things that have stressed me out about parenting, solid food has been the worst. Our girl is a very enthusiastic eater and loves new foods (for now) but this resulted in her grabbing a massive chunk of omelette, cramming it in her mouth chewing it for dear life, then half swallowing and half spitting it out while making horrendous choking sounds. Not a fan. I’ve been a proper sook about solid food and left the introduction of newer, scarier foods to Mr Smaggle.
Now? My daughter ate a stick today. Parenting gold medal for me right?
BONUS: First time you leave them alone without a parent
The first time we left Hats on her own with my parents was horrific. Not because they’re irresponsible (my mother is a nurse and my father is like some giant teddy bear baby whisperer human) but because I was exclusively breastfeeding at the time I knew exactly how long I had before she would require another feed and we decided we had plenty of time to get to Ikea and back while she napped. The plan would have worked perfectly if everyone and their freaking mother didn’t decide to go to Ikea that very morning. Anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong and we ended up getting home an hour later than we planned.
At one stage, when we were already running at least half an hour late, Mr Smags discovered the chair we bought didn’t fit in the car by about a millimetre. I was freaking out about how long it would take to return the chair and sensing my distress, his daddy bear instincts kicked in and he ripped the cardboard packaging off with his bare hands and crammed that chair in the car and got us home. She was FINE. A little grumpy because the poor thing was hungry but a solid half hour of jiggling from my dad got her through.
Now? I reckon she’s just about ready for a sleep over with her grandparents… and I can have a damn sleep in!
Parenting is scary but the first time is always the scariest. I worry about some things – choking, SIDS, furniture falling on her – and others I’m totally fine with. Germs don’t phase me, she can lick another kids face and I won’t bat an eyelid. I don’t need to be watching her at all times, as long as I know she’s safe playing in her toy corner, I can duck to the bathroom without too much anxiety.
It’s getting easier every day.