My friend Joe and his wife became parents just about two weeks ago. Their kid is beautiful and perfect, and everyone is happy, healthy...and stressed.
I've assured him that yes, the first three months are a nightmare. The good news, I said, is that little things — like 15 consecutive seconds of silence — will bring more joy than you've ever known.
Now, I'm no veteran parent, but I have managed to keep my daughter alive for four years. So, here's my advice, from a grunt in the trenches to a green enlisted man.
1. Train yourself to sleep on command. When Grace was an infant, I could actually will myself to sleep. When she finally went down at 1:00 AM, I would sprint to my bed, jump in, shut my eyes and fall asleep within 60 seconds. You're going to be awake again soon, so spend as much time sleeping as you can.
2. Lullabies as stress relievers. You're tired. Jr. is screeching. So, you prop him on your shoulder and sing. Of course, he doesn't know what you're saying, so have a little fun. To the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star":
Twinkle twinkle little star
I met your mommy in a bar
She charmed me with her wit and smile
Then we both walked down the aisle
Now I wish you'd let me snore
We should have gone to the drug store
3. The Miracle Blanket. My William loved to be snuggled up tightly, but he kept thrashing around and kicking his legs in arms free, which ticked him off. The Miracle Blanket was the answer. It's got a series of pockets and flaps that make it impossible for a little one to escape. William loved it so much, he'd stop crying as soon as he saw it. It's on my list of "Greatest Things Ever." Whoever invented this should be working for NASA.
4. Have people bring you food. One of the best baby gifts we received was a fully prepared home cooked meal. You would have thought it was a wheelbarrow full of gold by our reaction. When people ask, "Is there anything we can do," tell them, "Yes. Feed us."
My last piece of advice is this: Indulge in the seventh deadly sin: Pride. After our first night home with Grace, my wife and I congratulated each other as she went down to sleep. "Well," we said, "we managed to keep her alive for 24 hours. Good for us. We rock!"
It became a little ritual. Each night, we'd acknowledge how great we are:
"Another day down. Awesome."
"Day three, baby. Rock n roll!"
Life with an infant is hard work. Acknowledge the fantastic job you and your spouse are doing. That simple moment can become a powerful part of your day.