Loving the Baby You Gave Birth To I just can't get over how much babies cry. I really had no idea what I was getting into. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more like getting a cat. --Anne Lamott in Operating Instructions Oh My God, We Have a Baby! No event in an adult's life equals both the joy and the terror of becoming a parent for the first time. Fortunately, it's the joy that carries on. But in the beginning, insecurity and fear often take over. Alan, for example, a thirty-three-year-old graphic designer, vividly remembers the day he picked up his wife, Susan, from the hospital. Coincidentally, it was their fourth anniversary. Susan, a writer, age twenty-seven, had had a fairly easy labor and birth, and their beautiful blue-eyed baby, Aaron, nursed easily and rarely cried. By day two, Mum and Dad were eager to leave the hubbub of the hospital to start life as a family. "I whistled as I walked down the hall toward her room," Alan recalls. "Everything seemed perfect. Aaron had nursed right before I got there, and now he was sleeping in Susan's arms. It was just as I imagined it would be. We went down in the elevator, and the nurse let me wheel Susan out into the sunlight. When I ran for the car door, I realized I'd forgotten to set up the infant seat. I swear it took me half an hour to get it in right. Finally, I gently slid Aaron in. He was such an angel. I helped Susan into the car, thanked the nurse for her patience, and then climbed into the driver's seat. "Suddenly, Aaron started making little noises from the backseat--not really crying, but sounds I didn't recall hearing in the hospital or maybe hadn't noticed. Susan looked at me, and I looked at her. 'Oh, Jesus!' I exclaimed. 'What do we do now?' " Every parent I know has a what-now moment like Alan's. For some it comes in the hospital; for others it arrives on the trip home, or even on the second or third day. There's so much going on--the physical recovery, the emotional impact, the reality of caring for a helpless infant. Few are prepared for the shock. Some new mothers admit, "I read all the books, but nothing prepared me." Others recall, "There was so much to think about. I cried a lot." The first three to five days are often the most difficult because everything is new and daunting. Typically, I'm bombarded by queries from anxious parents: "How long should a feeding take?" "Why does she pull her legs up like that?" "Is this the right way to change him?" "Why is her poop that color?" And, of course, the most persistent question of all time: "Why is he crying?" Parents, particularly mums, often feel guilty because they think they're supposed to know everything. The mother of a one-month-old said to me, "I was so afraid I'd do something wrong, but at the same time, I didn't want anyone to help me or tell me what to do." The first thing I tell parents--and keep telling them--is to slooooooow down. It takes time to get to know your baby. It takes patience and a calm environment. It takes strength and stamina. It takes respect and kindness. It takes responsibility and discipline. It takes attention and keen observation. It takes time and practice--a lot of doing it wrong before you get it right. And it takes listening to your own intuition. Notice how often I repeat "it takes." In the beginning, there's a lot of "take" and very little "give" on your baby's part. The rewards and joys of parenting will be endless, I promise. But they won't happen in a day, darlings; rather, you'll see them over months and years. What's more, everyone's experience is different. As a mother in one of my groups, looking back oHogg, Tracy is the author of 'Secrets of the Baby Whisperer How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate With Your Baby' with ISBN 9780345440907 and ISBN 0345440900.