My 'Only Child' Friend Had A Baby With Her 'Only Child' Husband At 39

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“No one is ever quite ready; everyone is always caught off guard. Parenthood chooses you. And you open your eyes, look at what you’ve got, say “Oh, my gosh,” and recognize that of all the balls there ever were, this is the one you should not drop. It’s not a question of choice.” ― Marisa de los Santos, author of Love Walked In

The Only Couple with Kids

My friend Claire*, who was an only child, married in her late thirties. She met the man of her dreams, another ‘only child’ over 40 years old. Both sets of their parents were deceased. All their friends except us were childless. So, what did these two do next after getting married? They had a baby. A baby. Oh, my.

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I told my husband we needed to go over and visit. Recently, it hit me how tough it is for parents during the pandemic. Every single time I called to check up with Claire — the baby was screaming — every time. And every single time, she said she was okay.

I believe she was beginning her parenting career by using advice from baby books and those childless friends of ours. Babies should not be crying all the time.

I made a massive pot of spaghetti and meatballs with fresh garlic bread and a gigantic bowl of salad. I pressed my spouse into service as my backup, then I headed over with the food gift. My instructions to him were to say nothing, no matter what he saw or heard.

When she answered the door, Claire looked like two-day-old poo and smelled like sour milk. I asked to come in and was told I had to pass the rapid COVID-19 test. I said, “So what, I’m vaxed. Bring it.” We took the test and waited ten minutes to get a go sign. In we went.

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Great Job on the Baby

Clara tried to move some baby stuff for us to sit down. Their place looked like a baby clothing and accessories bomb had hit it. The baby was shrieking in the background with her husband.

I asked if I could see the little darling. The baby was clean, pressed, smelled like fresh dew, and dressed in the cutest little outfit. His hair was combed. His little mouth was open and screaming, when he closed it, he was crying.

I complimented the couple on how neat and clean the baby was. Then I took off his cute little outfit, leaving him in a diaper and tee-shirt; I started the baby bounce with him, walking while talking to the baby.

Yes, I was soothing him with high-pitched baby talk. He stopped screaming and looked at me with those big blue baby eyes. I kept walking around and around the room, bouncing him and talking.

Both of his parents collapsed on the couch without moving or talking. I had my spouse warm the food and give them some spaghetti and bread. They sat there, slumped over. The husband literally went to sleep while trying to eat. We woke him up.

I asked her where the baby’s food was. She told me there was a little breast milk in a bottle for the baby. I could feed him, and they could (maybe) get an overdue shower and comb their hair. The husband headed upstairs to take a shower.

Claire said she could not get the breast pump to work consistently. I again complimented her on her steadfastness but said I believed I could show her how the pump worked. We hooked the baby to one of her titties while my husband and I worked on the rest of the house.

Terrible Job Taking Care of Themselves

We always admired how beautiful and neat their home was compared to our home filled with two clutter-making teenagers. Now, we were amazed at the number of baby gadgets they had. Neatness and anal-retentive cleanliness had left the building.

Baby clutter was the keyword; toys were everywhere, there was a bassinet, a bassinet that rocked, a shaker pad that vibrated, ten or twelve baby wraps, two baby bouncers, two rocking chairs, a diaper changing table in the middle of the living room, another changing table in their bedroom and yet another in the baby’s room, all with requisite odor killer diaper holder. A crib was downstairs; a crib was upstairs. Come on.

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I peeked. Both Claire and the baby were sleeping. I let them sleep. When Claire woke up, I eased the baby into the downstairs bassinet. Okay, let’s tackle that breast pump.

I needed my engineering skill to figure out the breast pump. Claire had a breastfeeding consultant who advised her but had not given her hands-on instruction with the state-of-the-art pump. The education worked, the baby was latching on and feeding. Claire, however, was exhausted from the baby’s every two-hour feeding cycle. No one could help her feed the baby unless we got more milk into bottles.

The new pumps pumped both breasts at the same time. You could tell Claire recently had a baby; she had no modesty. We jostled those breasts until we figured out how the pumps worked, then started pumping. It was glorious.

We ended up with two, count em, two four oz bottles, and the baby had just eaten. You should have seen us celebrate. I sent Claire upstairs to shower and wash her hair. With the bottles, I was all set if the baby woke up early.

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We Will Help

Claire and her husband came down, and we all sat in the living room and smiled at each other. I needed to show them one more thing. They were doing great with the baby but were suffering from a common new parent malady. They were not taking care of themselves.

We talked about how new parents get worn out. A strategy must protect the parents from exhaustion. I said when the baby goes to sleep, parents need to catch a wink at the same time as babies are all-consuming when they awake.

My spouse and I agreed we would come over at least twice per week to help. They could count on us for sure on Wednesdays and one other day, as needed. We sat with them, everyone dozing until the baby woke up.

Claire fed the baby, then we went over swaddling and bouncing. I showed them how to swaddle the cute little thing, then gave them a lesson in bouncing and walking. You bounce at whatever speed makes that particular baby happy.

I mentioned that we would ride my daughter around in the car because it put her to sleep. The baby was not screaming. In fact, I think we got a baby smile (or burp) which was a significant improvement.

I was lucky. When I had my children, my mom came over and showed me what to do — and I had five siblings. Parenting is one of those things where trial and error may eventually lead you somewhere. Or not.

It is better if someone can show you what they learned. It was nothing but playing it forward when I helped Claire; so many people had helped with my children. Their love for me improved my life, and I hope my help will motivate her to help someone else in the future. We parents are in this together.

*not her real name

Toni Crowe is a best-selling author.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.