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It's impossible not to envy those smooth, competent moms and dads we've all seen on the street or at the mall – the kind who can simultaneously collapse a stroller, hold the baby, and carry four shopping bags while looking as put-together as a cover model.
But chances are they weren't always that perfect. When they were brand-new parents, they too put diapers on the wrong way and wrestled with car seat straps for hours. To help reassure you that every parent makes mistakes (including our site editors!), we've gathered some of our users' funniest, most poignant stories about life with a newborn. You're bound to learn a few things from them, or at least enjoy a laugh of recognition.
"I was out of the house one day, and I guess we'd run out of diapers, because when I got home, my husband had made one out of a maxi-pad, a dish towel, and the headband I use when I take off my make-up. It worked, but now I make sure that I'm never, ever out of diapers."
"When my daughter, Leilani, was still very young, I took her on a day trip to visit the women on my husband's side of the family (her grandmas, great-grandmas, and aunts). I really wanted to leave them with a good impression, but I soon realized I only had one extra diaper in the diaper bag. However, I did have tons of nursing pads, so I slipped one into her diaper. As the day went on, I just changed the pads every time she wet one. They worked great and nobody ever found out!"
Help! My baby is an alien!
"My newborn daughter would spit up occasionally, like all babies, but one day when she was just 3 weeks old, she began to projectile vomit. I swear it shot from her mouth 4 feet across the room. Ironically, I had just watched 'The Exorcist' the night before, so I was positive she was possessed. I couldn't believe a tiny baby could have the ability to do this naturally. Hysterical, I called my parents, the emergency room, and a priest. When I got to the emergency room, the doctor explained it to me, and told me I was probably just overfeeding her. My priest laughed so hard he had to sit down."
"I had only been home from the hospital for a couple of days and was just finishing a shower when my husband screamed for me to come to the family room. I ran in and saw our daughter, Abigail, innocently lying on a towel on the floor. My husband jumped up and ran to the bathroom, and I heard him throwing up like he had a horrible flu. He walked out a few minutes later, went into our bedroom, and came out with a gas mask on. He said he had never seen anything like that – Abby's first poop after the meconium. After that he changed her diaper with his gas mask on."
"When my first son was born, I knew nothing about giving an infant a bath. When it came time for his first one, I put him into the tub and discovered, to my horror, that I didn't know how to wash his back. He was so slippery, and his little head flopped all over the place. I was so upset I cried. I couldn't wash my own baby's back! He had a very clean front side for the first week until my mother visited. She showed me what to do. The biggest lesson I learned was to ask for help when you need it."
"Before my son, Justin, was born, I'd only changed girl babies. For the first two weeks of his life, I ended up having to change his whole outfit every time he peed in his diaper. Then one day, desperate, I told my dad about it. He laughed and then went on to tell me that little boys' penises need to be pointed down every time you change them. We still chuckle about it today."
"My son, Billy, was only about 4 days old when I got up from a nap and found that his dad had taken the nasal bulb syringe that they give you at the hospital and given it to Billy to use as a pacifier. After I explained what it was, he looked a little sheepish before saying 'Good thing I rinsed it off first.'"
When my daughter was 2 weeks old her umbilical cord stump was still not even close to falling off, but I accidentally helped it along the way. I was trying to change her diaper in a dark room and instead of grabbing the diaper tab, which I thought I had, I grabbed her umbilical stump and pulled it clear off! I felt so bad, but after a few days of it being just a little bloody, it healed up perfectly fine.
Learning the hard way
"I didn't always put a burp cloth over my shoulder when I picked up my newborn – I figured if I was holding him only for a minute, he wouldn't spit up. But once, after I laid him down, I found that my back and rear end felt very warm. I didn't feel anything on the outside of my shorts. But I had overalls on, and my son had spit up inside them all over my shirt and underwear. It was a very enlightening experience, the moral of which is that, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, always put a cloth over your shoulder when holding your little one."
"I learned the hard way to always put a diaper under my new baby girl, Lexi. I had just bathed her, so I wrapped her up in her towel and started walking from the bathroom to her room. I stopped for just a second to say something to my mom, who was visiting, and Lexi let loose! There was a huge puddle on the kitchen floor, and I was pretty soaked too!"
"The day my son, Mason, was born, my husband did his first-ever diaper change. He was so proud. But when he picked Mason up, our son urinated on him. The little cut-out in the front of the diaper for the belly button stump was too far down, and Mason's little pee-pee was sticking out. My husband was so embarrassed."
"In the first couple weeks after I had Zach, I was absolutely exhausted and trying to recover from a c-section. I was taking Percoset for the pain, which made me tired and a little loopy. So, one night it came time for his 2 a.m. feeding. I always change his diaper before feeding him, so I followed my routine as usual and went back to sleep. But when I got up the next morning to change him, I noticed he was wearing two diapers instead of one – his dirty one from the middle of the night and a clean one right on top of it."
"When my son was 5 days old, I decided to take him to the store. I was really nervous because it was my first time taking him out by myself. After spending about an hour getting ready, we left the house. I locked the front door of my house and put my key chain in my pocket. Minutes later, I buckled my son into his car seat and closed the car door. I went around to the driver's side door, and the door was locked. I went back around to the passenger side, and it was locked too. I sat on the hood of my car crying for about an hour (while my baby slept in his car seat), thinking about what a terrible mother I would be. Then I remembered that the keys were in my pocket! I unlocked the car door and took the baby back into the house. When my husband came home and I told him about it – still crying – he laughed and thought it was cute."
Somehow they survive ...
"A few weeks after my son, Weston, was born, we hit an unusually warm spell in early October, so I decided to put a fan in his window to keep him cool. When I went to check on him during his nap, I found him surrounded by a swarm of mosquitoes, and I saw that I'd forgotten to put the window screen back in when I installed the fan. So then, in my sleepless state, I sprayed him with bug repellent from head to toe, including his hands, which he immediately used to rub his eyes. Already cranky because I'd woken him up, he now started screaming because of the spray in his eyes. I was so panicked that I never even thought of just wiping him off with a damp washcloth. Instead, I put his poor little head under the running faucet. But that just made him cry harder: It was bad enough being woken up and getting bug spray in his eyes, but now his mother was drowning him in the sink. It ended up with me on the kitchen floor crying and my poor husband coming in and trying to console both me and the baby, who at this point has, amazingly, survived his first two years."
Editor's Note: Insect repellent shouldn't be used on infants younger than 2 months.
"When my son was about 6 weeks old, he began teething (I know – it's early). I wanted to give him some infants' pain reliever because he had a bit of a fever. I was going on about two hours of sleep over a period of two days, and I couldn't find the dropper that went to his medicine anywhere, so I had the bright idea that I would just cover the top of the bottle with my finger and let it drip out that way. When I tried it, I was horrified to see half the bottle disappear into his mouth! I screamed and frantically tried to scoop some out with my finger, but to no avail. I started bawling my head off and called poison control, telling the guy over the phone that I was a bad mom. He told me not to give him any more for a while, and that I shouldn't worry, because for my son's weight, he would have had to drink three whole bottles to get sick from it! I'm so ashamed about that. I'll never do it again, that's for sure."
Editor's Note: Always check with your child's doctor before giving any medication to your baby.
Adventures on the road
"When our son was 3 weeks old, we decided it was time to get out for a day with him. We packed bags all morning, trying to make sure we didn't forget anything. Extra formula, a whole bag of diapers (just in case) – you name it, we had it. We loaded everything up and trudged down the three flights of stairs to the car, but when we got to the bottom, we looked at each other and said, 'Where's the baby?!' We had left him in the apartment! We raced back up the stairs at 90 miles an hour – and found him sitting in the car carrier sound asleep. We laughed until it hurt, and never left him behind again."
Even our site editors have been there...
"When Nicky was several weeks old, I was driving home from a hike with friends. I couldn't figure out why he was fussing in the car since he usually loved the motion. Finally, when I stopped at a red light, I turned around and saw the car seat on its side. I'd strapped him in, but not the seat! Everything turned out fine, but it was a definite 'Bad Mom Day' for me. I never made that mistake again."
"About five days after my daughter, Nina, was born one sweltering New York July, she developed a fever of 102. Convinced there was something very wrong, I rushed her to the doctor's office. When I got there, the nurse led us to an air-conditioned room. When the doctor walked in, he promptly undressed my crying daughter down to her diapers. As if on cue, she suddenly stopped crying and cooed on the exam table. The doctor checked her out and then turned to me and asked, 'Do you have air-conditioning?' I said we did, but only in the bedroom. He asked where Nina and I had been all day. I told him we were in the living room. He looked at me quite seriously, and said, 'Keep her in the air-conditioned room. She doesn't have a fever; she's just hot.' Then he smiled. Thank God for air-conditioning."
"My daughter, Annie, was about 3 weeks old when some friends from work stopped by. I was working on a total of about five hours of sleep for the week, I hadn't showered in days, and I wore the same stained leggings I'd been wearing since coming home from the hospital. The only reason I changed my T-shirts is that they got sopping wet with breast milk. One of my colleagues, a 20-something single woman with no kids, asked me in all seriousness: 'So, what do you do now that you're not working?' That's when I saw the vast gulf between me, a parent, and non-parents. The non-parents just don't get it."