I visited a friend from high school recently who shares my due date. We’re both expecting boys, only this is her first baby and my second baby. It was fun to listen to her talk about her little boy; his pattern of kicks, where he sat most of the time, etc. We went back to her house, where she showed me his ultrasound pictures neatly arranged by date in a little book. The crib was set up. A baby gym sat next to a chair in the living room. My friend smiled excitedly while talking about her son, still nestled under her striped maternity top.
Not gonna lie. I was feeling a little judg-ey. Haven’s crib (never used) has since become a landing place for laundry that I’ll eventually get to. My son’s ultrasound photo is stuffed in a binder (or my wallet, I can’t remember). Haven usually just plays with random items found around the house and her aunts and uncles. My diaper bag contains my wallet, makeup bag, changing pad, wipes, Cheerios (usually dumped at the bottom), and diapers (although, I forgot these last week when going to a baby shower). Damon has to remind me of my due date half the time. I haven’t even looked at boy clothes yet. A stranger at Walmart remarked how I looked almost ready to deliver (only 7 months…but thanks anyway). I’ve done this before. I don’t need those “fancy trappings” and baby monitors and crap. I’m experienced, dangit! I’m a “second-time mom”!
Then I realized how condescending and dickish I was being. Because I was just like my friend while pregnant with Haven.
Starting at 21 weeks, I started fretting over the best nursery theme. I texted my mom while at Joann’s trying to figure out if a forest theme or aquarium theme would do best. Maybe butterflies. They had sparkly butterflies the size of 2 dimensional cantaloupes. Wow….that was a stupid analogy. Babies steal IQ points along with your waistline. I’ll probably be a steaming vegetable by the time my last baby pops out. Anyways! I took a bump photo every week. Every Friday. Scrutinizing each one for subtle differences. I spent no less than 60 hours decorating her nursery, folding onesies, refolding onesies, feeling guilty for not washing them with sensitive detergent prior, arranging diapers in the bassinet by size, buying new onesies, reading pregnancy forums, comparing her size to fruit at the grocery store, wandering around Target admiring headbands with oversized flowers, supplying my labor and delivery bag with mini conditioner and the perfect going-home outfit, religiously taking my folic acid and fish oil, wondering when I would finally go into labor, stressing over pediatricians…
And that was BEFORE she was even born.
After she was born, I spent every waking minute taking pictures, holding her, snuggling her, FOR THE LOVE PEOPLE WASH YOUR HANDS, “Is she eating enough?”, “She weighed exactly 13 lbs and 4 oz at her last visit..so, that puts her in the ____ percentile…but for height,…”, IS THIS A COUGH OR THE PLAGUE?!, dressing her perfectly in her onesies, thinking of her every second during class, GIVE ME BACK MY BABY, cramming diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, extra bottles, toys, soft plushy toys, bibs, extra onesies, nasal suction, etc. into the diaper bag, feeling overcome by guilt, wondering if she had died the first time that she slept for a solid eight hours, ET CETERA.
Yes. I was a “new mom”.
From the moment I saw a positive sign on the test, my brain and behavior changed forever. The switch that had once been parked at “Let’s just chill and see what happens” flipped to “OHMYGOODNESS!! NEW LIFE FORM! MUST PROTECT NEW LIFE FORM!”
All moms worry. Most worry a lot. It’s what our brains are supposed to do to keep the human race alive. What we worry about, and the degree, differs from one woman to the next. For someone who is pregnant with their first baby, they worry as much as a mom of 10, but it’s all compacted into a big ball surrounding one person. For me, the amount didn’t change. It just got distributed between two people. This is probably why my mom and mother-in-law, who each have seven children, only worry about death, disaster, disease, and dating. The amount of worrying isn’t any less than the pregnant first-time mom. It just spreads out between your kids. Some people do border on the line of extremity. Like “helicopter parenting”, in which you constantly monitor what your child does, micromanage their every action to your liking, shelter them from all, and see to it that they don’t experience mediocrity or failure. These aren’t the people to whom I referring.
Being a new mom doesn’t mean that you’re inexperienced or naive or stupid. What’s stupid is to expect something of someone that they literally have no way of knowing yet, then shaking your head in condescension and making remarks that reflect your so-called superiority because you have acquired soooo much “wisdom” in allll your time as a parent or human being. It’s like seeing someone dip their feet in the pool for the first time, and tsking because they aren’t swan diving off the highest diving board. It just shows that in all your months, years, or decades or experience, that you lack basic understanding for someone else’s perspective. Sad, really. New moms take a lot of this crap.
I took a trip to the zoo on a free day with Haven, my siblings, and a female relative. The relative spent no less than 15 minutes prior to our departure criticizing how little Haven was wearing (sweater, shirt, jeans, and socks). Never mind that Haven will kick off the blanket when the window is open, with it being forty-two degrees outside. I brought my diaper bag with me into the zoo, in which I packed things that Haven normally needs if we are gone from home for more than an hour. The relative then pounced on this point and commented how when she had three small kids, she would just tuck one diaper into her jacket pocket and call it good. I brought the diaper bag anyway. I had grabbed one sweater off the floor of my closet (without checking the size) to get the person to be quiet about how little she was wearing. They insisted on putting it on her while at the zoo, despite Haven being warm enough. Then chided that I don’t know my daughter’s own size. Fortunately, Haven didn’t need much out of the bag. Even though, 9 times out of 10 she does. I carried it around, and occasionally had one of my siblings carry it. Upon getting back to the car, the relative proceeded to scoff at how I had needlessly carried around a heavy bag and how naive I must be for not taking after her sage parenting advice (even though this person has not parented anyone under 3 for at least 40 years). This happens frequently, and I have since taken it upon myself to avoid this relative whenever possible.
It’s better to start big and trim down to what you need, than to start too small, not care enough, and try to make up for a deficiency. And every child’s needs are different. Haven has never slept in a crib. Some babies won’t sleep unless they’re swaddled in a crib. Some kids hate being swaddled. Others won’t take a bottle. Some love bottles and won’t accept anything else. Expecting someone to know exactly what their child will need before that child is even born or newly born is ridiculous. The “new mom” brain and stereotype just shows that you care. This child matters to you more than anything else, and you haven’t even met them yet. That’s pretty rad. In any other context, you would be revered as the patron saint of charity. Don’t be ashamed of it. Be proud that you care so much.
So, to my friend: I’m sorry that, even for a moment, I judged you. I’m sorry that I forgot that I was you once-upon-a-time. I’m sorry for mentally scoffing at your enthusiasm. I’m sorry for underestimating the power of the “nesting” instict. I’m sorry that I viewed your loving preparation as inexperience. I’m sorry for undermining this brand new world for you that has since become my reality. I’m sorry for being a dick. Even if it was just in my head.
I won’t tell you to “Sleep while you can!” I won’t tell you that you probably won’t use half the stuff you get at your baby shower. I won’t smirk when he kicks you and you get that gleam in your eye like it’s Christmas morning. I won’t chide you for packing 2000 items into your diaper bag because your little one might need them. I won’t say “Just wait till he starts blah blah blah!” I won’t tell you to just give him a bottle when he’s crying for your boob. You’ll learn all about him soon enough.
I’ll tell you to be excited. Go ham on your nursery! Dream about his little feet! Spend hours folding onesies, envisioning the first time you glimpse his sweet face. Browse for the perfect changing table. Rub your belly and feel his punches. Imagine holding him and rocking him to sleep. Envision yourself as a mom. Stay up late counting contractions when your belly is about to burst and hope…HOPE that you’ll get to meet him soon. When he’s here, you’ll love him to pieces, like you already do. When you look unsure of what you’re doing, I won’t try to tell you what he needs. I’ll ask if you want some help and empathize because I went through it too. When he’s crying a lot, and you tell me that you’re tired and this is hard, I’ll tell you “I know it’s hard. It’s okay for you to be frustrated.” When you tell me that you’re so happy to have your body back, even if it isn’t what it used to be, I’ll tell you “It’s okay. I miss my old self sometimes too.” I’ll wash my hands before asking to hold him. I’ll let you experience this new world.
You’re not a “new mom”. You’re a mom. And have been since that first positive test.