My son sure does know how to make an entrance! 2/5/15… Is it a coincidence or is he just that clever?! Either way I’m ecstatic
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) February 5, 2015
Dear Mr. Sherman.
It’s been a little over five weeks since you became a father. Warmest congratulations to you and Ashley! The world already knows what a clever boy he is to make his entrance on the date that echoes your jersey number, but as an old veteran of parenthood, I wanted to speed up your learning curve as you navigate the first year of Rayden’s life.
My husband and I are raising two girls, 11 and 17. We didn’t have family around us as we struggled through those first weeks of babyhood. Eyes wide in shock, two days after our first baby was born the nurse nudged us out the door with a smile and a wave, “You’re ready to go home,” and I really wondered if we were.
Lord have mercy! That ten minute drive home was our first endurance test. The other cars sped and juked around us like they were playing MarioKart. With our new baby tucked into the backseat, we’d never felt more vulnerable. I don’t think we went over twenty miles per hour on that drive. Holding my hand over the baby’s chest, I remember asking God to forgive me for all the times I mocked drivers that hung a “Baby on Board!” sign in their rearview window.
Lesson Two: Three Really is the Magic Number
In the days that followed we learned the ugly truth no one tells you about newborns. Their internal clocks are flipped. Nights are days and days are nights. In a coherent moment one of us, probably my husband, remembered our pediatrician telling us that newborns can learn any new routine in three days. Dr. Eichner told us that if we kept our baby up for 30 minutes before the last feeding of the night and repeated this for three nights in a row, the baby’s internal clock would switch. As you know by now, a half hour of wakefulness for newborns is code for crying. Reluctantly, we obeyed. We played Chopin and walked with the baby, jiggling her when she nodded off. She cried. And we cried. But on that third night the magic happened. She slept. Yes, Chopin is ruined forever for me, but she slept.
**Note: This works for changes in sleeping arrangements, feeding routines, etc.
Lesson Three: You and Ashley Came First
The other piece of advice Dr. Eichner gave us was this, “Your baby joined your family. The two of you came first. Don’t forget that” He reminded us to keep doing what we loved and bring the baby along. Well, we loved hiking, traveling and eating at restaurants – all cringe-worthy activities to attempt with a newborn and we did them. Yes, some of our adventures had to be cut short because of a diaper blow out, but most were wildly successful. Dr. Eichner was right. The babies joined our family and made delightful additions.
So, in the weeks to come when you feel like your house has become a bunker, remind yourself to get out with baby and breathe the fresh air.
Lesson Four: Don’t Wait to Travel with Rayden
Back to the travel, Mr. Sherman. Travel with Rayden now, next month and throughout next year’s football season. Don’t wait to introduce him to planes, trains and cars. I’ve seen the parents that waited until their child was a year old, they’ve been seated next to me struggling to keep their child seated, belted and content. Our kids have been traveling on planes since they were five months old. To this day they are complimented by the flight attendants for their exceptional behavior. They grew up learning how to travel and it shows.
Lesson Five: Start Reading to Rayden Today
Don’t wait to share books with your son. Make reading a daily habit and have fun with it for heaven’s sake. Find books that are colorful and rhyme. Do your craziest, funniest voices and make grand facial expressions as you read to Rayden because you’ll bring language to life for your son. The result? You are raising a boy that will love reading his whole life.
Two of my favorites are Ezra Jack Keats’, A Snowy Day and Sandra Boyton’s, Barnyard Dance. To this day, I can still repeat them by heart.
You are a cerebral man. Stanford doesn’t abide anything but brilliance. So, I’m pretty sure you’ve purchased your fair share of books about raising babies, you’ve maybe even bought that minefield of self-diagnosis, The Mayo Clinic Handbook, but I’m here to tell you, your instincts are perfect. The instruction books, online sites and even the Mayo Clinic Handbook have a place, they do. But, your gut knows when something’s not quite right. Listen to it. Check your resources only to give weight to your hunch, that’s fine. But, we all we need. Yes, the Seahawks’ saying even applies to parenthood.
Lesson Six: When You’ve Made it Six Weeks, Things Get Exponentially Easier
Six weeks is a miracle in the development of babies. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing. At six weeks new parents have a handle on the everyday routine. That leads to feeling confident and relaxed. Then maybe, baby responds, becoming more relaxed himself. I’m not sure. But I do know that at six weeks, babies smile. They giggle. They explore the world with hungry eyes. It makes us fall in love with them all over again.
So, in closing, enjoy this time. I’m sure tells you this, but the years fly by. I can’t believe my first-born will be going off to college next year when I can still remember the milky smell of her onesie like it was only yesterday. Embrace each day and savor the blessing of your new, bigger, family.
Jennifer L. Hotes is a Seattle author and illustrator. Mother to two daughters, she is the surrogate mother to the four teens in her first mystery novel, Four Rubbings. Jennifer volunteers time with Providence Hospice of Seattle to raise money for grieving and bereaved children. Even though her sixth grader squirms, she hugs and kisses her everyday.