As my third trimester approached and I lost the ability to put on my own socks, I considered the monumental task I had in front of me. Beyond labor and delivery, I suddenly realized that we would be responsible for taking a helpless little baby and turning it into an articulate, clean, well-adjusted, well-mannered member of society. Just a tad intimidating. I felt like I had jumped out of a plane with the parachute unattached to my terrified self.
Tim and I were relatively normal, educated, middle-class individuals. We should therefore be able to handle this absurd duty, despite my overwhelming fears. I mean, if it was that difficult, the government would issue a license for it...right? If I want to operate any kind of vehicle—boat, plane, tractor-trailer, motorcycle, automobile—there's a different license for each of these.
Tim needs a license to sit out on a boat all day and drop dental floss into the water hoping to wrestle into the boat something that he can buy easily in the store. Hunters all over the country need to carry their licenses to overpower frightening animals like deer and ducks. The woman who does my pedicure needs to display her license with a picture in a frame so I have something to look at when she tickles my feet.
So I would think that the job of bringing another whole person into the world would require the most extreme licensing process. But you only need to go to the local “Crowded Germy Trampoline” for a birthday party to discover people who clearly would not meet the standards for licensure.
Lamaze is only a half-hearted attempt at physical training. They teach you how to breathe, an involuntary function at which most of us excel since we’ve made it this far. Even if the mom fails the class, she can still deliver the baby and raise the child. How do I change a diaper? Give a bath? Cut those little nails? Not injure the soft spot? Keep the head from rolling off the shoulders?
My mother told me that if a baby cries, it needs one of three things: a burp, a diaper, or food. She said we were lucky, since she had to worry about whether diaper pins were sticking her children. She also told a rather inspiring story that gave me the wonderful gift of perspective. When I was a child, I could not drink regular milk. The doctor told my mom that she needed to buy goat’s milk for me to drink. After scouring the town, my mom found the lone pharmacy that sold goat’s milk for an astronomical fee per case. Undeterred, she went home and told my father that he needed to buy a goat. I try to achieve this same confidence in my own parenting decisions.
The short “baby care” class discussed previously covers the very basic things (excluding goats). It’s not mandatory. There is no final exam. No degree I can hang proudly in my living room that says, “I’ve Been Trained to Raise a Child.” I definitely would have felt more prepared if there were a grad school for parenting. But you take the advice of those who have gone before you. Search for the parents who have four kids and are still reasonably pleasant and then if you find any, make sure to ask them for anxiety medication recommendations in addition to parenting tips.