I did know about this for several years before my son was born, but I still wasn’t really prepared for it. Naturally, since the plates of the cranium have not yet fused in a fetus, and the birth canal is fairly tight to negotiate, the head tends to get stretched like dough being rolled out. The result is a distinctively pointy shape. My advice… do not dress your newborn in a sleeper that looks like Beldar’s pajamas. It may seem funny at first, but it really only makes things worse.
4. The fountain (boys only)
When we learned we were going to have a boy, lots of people started warning me to be sure to “cover him” while changing his diaper. I understood the premise, but it wasn’t until I saw it in action that I really understood how important it was. Fortunately, no one was in the line of fire.
3. The smell of formula
Baby formula has a very peculiar smell. In fact, it seems to be an amalgam of many different smells, each of them peculiar in its own right. The only one I’ve really been able to differentiate is potatoes. I haven’t checked to see if any potato-derived substances are actually in the formula, but there is definitely a potato-like smell in the mix. One thing is certain though: once you’ve smelled baby formula, everything smells like it.
2. The umbilical cord
OK, I actually learned this about 6 months ago when my niece was born, but it was still quite a shock. I always had this impression that the umbilical cord was completely removed at birth, but in fact a little stub of it remains attached to the baby’s abdomen for several days to a few weeks. You have to swab it with alcohol to stave off infection, and day by day it gets more shriveled, harder, and discolored (not that it was a pretty color to begin with). Our baby’s umbilical stub fell off about 2 weeks after he was born, and SLP compared the detached remnant to a crusty bit of chicken that was stuck on our barbecue grill for a week.
What is “meconium,” you ask? It is nothing short of incontrovertible proof that babies are aliens from a world far stranger than our own. Merriam-Webster describes it as “a dark greenish mass that accumulates in the bowel during fetal life and is discharged shortly after birth.” Yes, in fact it is a dense, sticky, green-black, tar-like substance that fills a newborn’s diapers for the first two days or so after birth. Its most distinctive trait, however, and one you don’t even really appreciate until the “regular” bowel movements begin, is that it is devoid of odor.