Sometimes life can change in an instant.
Especially when you have an infant.
My husband, Jerry, and I joined the first-time parents club Nov. 15. Our daughter -- who after nine months of intense debate ended up being named Allison Grace in the delivery room -- is a whirlwind of flailing appendages, vocal chords and a full head of hair.
She was born five excruciatingly long days after her due date, so we were more than ready for her arrival.
Or so we thought.
Now I know that even if humans had a two-year gestation like elephants, we wouldn't have been ready.
The hospital staff did their best at easing us into the weighty responsibility of caring for someone who is fully dependent upon us for her survival, but unfortunately, we don't have a little red button with a nurse symbol on it attached to our bed at home.
Every little task is an adventure. It took us more than an hour to figure out how to get Allison into her car seat for the first time, and even that required a quick tap on the red button to make sure we didn't completely screw it up. A nurse gladly confirmed our handiwork, but our daughter begged to differ. She announced her displeasure to everyone within a 10-mile radius.
The first night brought another wake up call -- literally. I'm not exaggerating when I say we were jolted awake almost every hour until sunrise. If getting a baby to fall asleep was a competitive sport, we would've been benched.
Diaper changing brought a whole new set of challenges because neither one of us had dealt with the apparatus in more than a decade. Fortunately or unfortunately (I'm not sure which), it didn't take too long to figure it out because she gave us plenty of aromatic reasons to practice. But the first few mistakes lead to an entire load of dirty laundry and an exchange of very shocked expressions.
Perhaps the most difficult change is our inability to go anywhere without intense planning and preparation. It seemed to take us days to get out the door for Allison's first doctor appointment. Granted, we packed the diaper bag with enough gear to survive a 10-day trek in the wilderness, but we figured it was better to have too much than not enough.
When a nurse popped her head into the waiting room and called our daughter's name, it seemed surreal. There's suddenly a whole new person in our lives. After we realized she was referring to us, we began the lengthy process of gathering Alli and all of her gear.
"Sorry, it takes us forever just to walk a few feet these days," I said.
The nurse laughed and offered some words of comfort: "You'll get the hang of it."
It's a slow process, but we're learning. Probably because Allison is a good teacher and lets us know when we're doing something right. We've already discovered it's not completely ridiculous to carry around 10,000 baby wipes at all times because they take care of all types of mini catastrophes. And we never underestimate the power of switching from one set of arms to another.
But the biggest change of all can't be found in any parenting book. Forget charting feeding times, counting soiled diapers and trying to focus through the sleep deprivation. More importantly, a newborn brings so much love to a household. Everyone told me my heart would instantly swell with affection the moment I laid eyes on her, but it's so much more than that.
We've had an influx of visitors since Allison came into our lives and our walls have never felt more like home.
Sometimes change can be a very good thing.