After my wife had been given 48 hours to recover, our new family of three was headed home. The new car seat was inspected first by the hospital staff, approved, and off we went. My mother-in-law had arrived for a two-week stay under the pretense of helping out and giving her daughter some rest. In fact, we were in for a two-week crash course in all the basics.
It turned out that we knew nothing about babies, children, or being parents. We learned everything from diaper changing to rocking to sleep. And yes, I was a diaper changing dad. I wanted to experience everything that was involved and remember it forever. We made many trips to the stores to get the proper equipment, toys, etc. to help make our lives just a little easier.
After a few days, we felt that we were getting the hang of this whole thing. Sarah was fed and changed and a happy little girl. Now it was time for bed for everyone. I carried her around the house and sang to her until she was asleep and then put her in her crib. Then our first crisis happened. Sarah woke up in a dark room, found that she was all alone, and cried her little heart out for want of her mom and dad.
Luckily, we had talked about what to do when this happened. We had decided that the best thing for her and for us was to let her cry. Our bedroom was only a few feet away and the cries would reach out and pull at our hearts. My wife and I held each other, one preventing the other from getting up until the crying stopped.
As we had hoped, the crying gradually stopped after about 15 minutes. We waited a little longer and then got up to make sure Sarah was all right. There she was in her crib, sound asleep with a little smile on her face. We had succeeded but it was the most difficult 15 minutes of our lives. Sarah had already learned that crying wasn’t going to work and we had established some ground rules for bedtime.
Of course, everyone wanted to see the new baby and we spent countless days visiting and sharing little Sarah with whoever wanted to hold her and play with her. The little car seat was detachable so it made for a nice rocker where Sarah could nod off to sleep whenever she tired of all the excitement.
But generally, we were constantly worried that we were doing everything all wrong. We thought we were too strict when there was no need. We thought we were too lenient when perhaps a firmer hand was needed. But there was no gauge for us to compare. So we decided that whenever we went out to eat, Sarah would always go with us. We would prepare her and go out right after she had had her nap. We brought her food and plenty of any other supplies she might need. And we tried to have a nice meal together as a family.
What we found was our gauge. There were always several babies present wherever we went. Some were loud and crying, some were sleeping, and some were quietly enjoying the evening. We were gratified that Sarah was usually one of the babies that would quietly enjoy the evening. Of course, the more often we took her out with us, the better she behaved. Either way, we had decided that we would not back down from taking her with us.
Restaurants were not the only places that we went as a family. There was the grocery store, visiting friends, church, and countless other places. We knew that to do the simplest things included a big production of planning, stocking supplies, and picking the proper time when we would have a rested and happy baby. And while there were still times when we thought we were making mistakes, this was one area where we firmly believed that we were doing the right thing.