In the first hours since his birth, the baby had been cuddled and examined endlessly by the cadre of hospital nurses. Marie, one of the nursing staff, was particularly talented at swaddling the baby like a compact burrito. She seemed to have baby whisperer powers that we had no training in.
Now it was nearly midnight, and the flurry of staff coming and going through our room had ceased. It was just us - a brand new mom and dad with their infant. Before this moment, I had assumed that once I became a parent, I would know instinctively what to do. In reality, I was in a panic. Who was this tiny person, and why had someone in charge deemed me responsible enough to take care of another human being? Clearly some grave mistake had been made. The only thing comforting to me was that my husband seemed as petrified as I was. We looked at each other, and one of us said, “What do we do?!” I vaguely recall us semi-jokingly saying, “Is it too late to send the baby back?” We had read parenting books, and talked with older friends about their transition to parenting. Yet we felt completely unprepared for the reality.
In the face of much uncertainty, we made a decision that first night to take things one day at a time. That seemed like the best course of action. Our motto was, "If no one dies, we're doing okay." The next morning, though more tired than we’d ever been, we took joy and pride in successfully surviving our first parenting rite of passage.
As we eased into our role as parents, we eventually figured out a few things. We learned the importance of tag-teaming as spouses; when one of us was delirious from lack of sleep, the other one would take charge. We also mastered the art of the baby swaddle, which would have made nurse Marie proud. But the real lesson was that parenthood is full of transition. There would be many days when we truly had no idea what to do, and that was alright. Once we gave ourselves permission to learn and make mistakes, the journey was a lot more pleasant for all of us.