For eight months I traveled in Asia—climbing waterfalls and trying not to be kidnapped while Shleisel grew a human being inside of her. People dream of being able to do both of these things, but we were too out of control to fully appreciate most of it. Moving into The Hovel turned out to be a greater gamble than we’d realized, leaving us to play out the hands we’d been dealt—I was the escapist adventurer and she was the reluctant mother.
We kept in touch over email.
Shleisel: “I ate Taco Bell today. It’s the only thing that makes me happy.”
Me: “I ate noodles today. It’s the only thing I know how to order.”
Quite conveniently, I ran out of money just three weeks before Shleisel’s due date. Taking the backdoor out of Asia, I arrived back in The States with $60 to my name and no job, car, or anywhere to live.
Sleisel picked me up from the airport, still in the same work uniform she’d been wearing when she dropped me off, only now her pregnant belly was protruding in all it’s 8 ½ month gestational glory.
“Hey,” she said, “how was Asia?”
“Oh, it was good… How was work?”
I tried not to stare at her stomach while she told me about her day and all the horrible people she’d encountered. When we reached her car, it was parked almost exactly where it had been when she dropped me off all those months before. It was like nothing had changed.
“Here we are, my car is just as junky as when you last saw it.”
But the junk had changed—it used to be pizza boxes and shoes, now it was pastel gift bags and wads of tissue paper. Fuzzy blankets and teethings rings were everywhere and the spindly legs of a stroller protruded ominously from the backseat.
Fulfilling my overwhelming need for cheese, we grabbed tex-mex and began reminiscing.
“Remember when we were alcoholics and had a separate trash bin just for wine bottles?”
“Remember when you were abandoned at a cabin and I almost died trying to rescue you?”
“Remember that time we were going to party in LA but then I took a pregnancy test?
Looking back into the past was far easier than trying to imagine what might be waiting for us in the future. I began rifling through the mountain of gift bags.
“Is this just extra stuff?”
“No, this is everything.”
“…You haven’t unpacked any of it?”
“I was waiting for you.”
The next morning, we tackled the abyss. Shleisel held up three bright green squeezy bulbs.
“Are these for his ears?”
“Maybe,” I said, “But then what are the 12 boxes of Q-tips for?”
“Oh my God, we’re not ready.”
“We got this, let me google it.”
By the end of the day we’d established a hierarchy of burp cloths and those that didn’t measure up were shoved into the back of the coat closet, along with Shleisel’s growing collection of digital thermometers. The amount of baby clothes was astounding and my fingers grew numb from cutting price tags.
“If this is all going into your closet, then where on earth are you going to keep your own clothing?”
Shleisel shrugged, gesturing at the floor and the foot of her bed.
“Same place as always.”
The crib was nestled in a corner of her room, which we decorted with various things I’d brought back from overseas. A Masai painting from Kenya sat above the bed next to a mobile of Thai silk birds and a lantern from Hoi An. He may not have had his own bedroom, or even a name yet, but damn if that baby didn’t have an impressive array of souvenirs.
The more we prepared, the more I wondered how the human race had made it so far without Google. Want to know how many diapers a newborn uses in one day? Google it. Want to know whether vacciness are good or evil? Google it.
I felt like a baby-prep champ until I started unpacking bottles and realized there was a long list of instructions and warnings on the back. Most of it was pretty straightforward, but a single sentence sent me running for the internet: “Bottles must be cleaned with the usual method of sterilization.”
“Shleisel,” I asked “What the hell is the usual method of sterilization?”
“Oh my God, we’re not ready.”
“We got this, let me Google it.”
There were 626,000 results on how to properly wash and boil baby bottles. As with everything infant-related, it involved meticulous step-by-step instructions. Everything looked so simple and innocent in primary colors but even something as innocuous as a “Nipple Drying Rack” required a paragraph of explanation.
I was so focused on properly preparing steps 2 through 9 of the usual method of sterilization that I forgot to put soap into the dishwasher until halfway through the cycle. When I finally got to Step #6, I froze.
“What’s wrong?” Shleisel asked.
“Should I have sterilized the tongs and colander before I started? Have I just ruined everything?”
Shleisel shook her head at me and went back to stacking sippy cups.
“Seriously,” I said, “What about the cabinets? How do we sterilize the cabinets? OH MY GOD, WE’RE NOT READY.”
She was already waddling off to the bathroom for the thousandth time, but I still heard her murmured reply, “We got this.”
I wasn’t so sure, so I went back to Google and typed “How to Raise a Baby.” There were 90,500,000 results, some of them even had pictures.
We had less than three weeks before the baby was due– surely that was enough time to memorize all these diagrams. I realized I had this under control, I’d read Baby Wise—and between the two of us we’d managed to create a hovering table and graduate from college. Raising a baby couldn’t be that much harder, right?
If you have kids, did you overly prepare before you brought them home? Do you ever feel like you’re living out a role or situation that’s beyond your choosing? When have you relied on Google to help you survive this overly confusing world?
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