A million years ago, before I got pregnant, before I got married, I remember reading Anne Lamott's OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS, and getting to the passage where the frazzled author admits to doping her newborn son with the merest soupcon of Baby Tylenol to insure his good behavior during his baptism, and thinking, "God, what a horrible thing to do!"

A few nights ago I was rereading that passage as my six-week-old daughter lay screaming in my husband's arms and thinking, "How soon can I score some of that stuff and how fast will it work?"

This, I think, is the biggest difference between where I am now and where I was six weeks ago -- I'm not judging as much.

I went into pregnancy and motherhood with an footlong list of absolutes. Epidural? Not for me! Pacifier? Not for my baby! Formula? I'd rather give her Scotch!

I was going to give birth drug-free. I was going to raise my baby without binkies, bouncy seats, or manmade beverages. I was going to calm and soothe my daughter by the sheer force of my love, breast-feed the little dumpling on demand, and begin revisions on my third novel while she napped blissfully in her Moses basket beside me.

Well, heh. Just heh. If I could run into my six-weeks-ago self on the street I would laugh my ass off at her, then drag her home by the hair, put her in bed, and instruct her to sleep as long as she could.

Don't get me wrong. Motherhood is wonderful. It's just a whole lot different -- a whole lot harder -- than I ever dreamed it would be.

Lucy seems to have three distinct personalities. From midnight to noon or so she is a dream baby -- she sleeps, she coos, she eats, she cries briefly but is calmed by a stroll or a stint in her bouncy seat (yes, we got one. The vibrating kind. Pacifiers, too. Girlfriend loves them).

From noon to eight or so she's fussy, and burpy, and she does not sleep longer than twenty minutes. Which means she needs a lot of attention. Which means that I'm not writing much more than thank-you notes (and I'm woefully behind on those, too, so if you're reading this and you sent us a gift, please know that we did get it, we are grateful, and your note is coming. Some day. I swear).

And then from eight until one in the morning she morphs into the baby that Adam and I have nicknamed, in our household homage to Harry Potter, the Howler.

She screams. And then she screams. And then -- just for fun! -- she screams some more. And then she falls asleep for a little while and we exhale and close our eyes and congratulate ourselves on a job well done except oops -- guess what! -- she wakes up and starts fussing, and we hold our breath and hope it won't happen, but it does -- she starts to scream again. And the things that worked the night before have absolutely no effect on her the next night -- they will, in fact, cause her to look at us with an expression of absolute abject misery. As in, "Why are you torturing me by taking me for a walk?!?! I don't want a walk! I don't! I don't I don't I don't!"

And to make it all worse, she is crying real tears, which I think is so unfair. It's like Mother Nature offering even more physical evidence to attest to your utter inadequacy as parents, your complete inability to give your baby what he or she needs.

Also, there is the situation of Lucy's neck, or lack of same. Most of the time she doesn't appear to have a neck -- she has a cute little head, and cute little shoulders, and not much between the two of them. Except today we were on our way up to Connecticut, and I was nursing her in the car, and she tilted her head back when she was done and her neck unfolded like the pleats of an accordion and there was this....this stuff....in the folds.

Good God. I've been giving her baths, both actual and sponge, and keeping her little tushie clean and dry. Who knew about the neck? What is this stuff? Where does it come from? How do I get rid of it, given that the child doesn't seem to have a neck most of the time?

Oy. Must investigate.