Embrace the Crazy
My cousin is pregnant with her first child.
She’s due at the end of the month, and she’s hit the who-thought-I-could-be-a-mother-and-how-do-I-stop-this-from-happening phase. We talk frequently because she thinks that as my children have survived until the ripe old ages of 12 (aka, The Preteen) and 15 (aka, The Teen), I’m a good mom.
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!! (Er, sorry. I just got told that I’m a horrible mother because I expect them to load the dishwasher.)
Like any expectant mother, my cousin has been inundated with well-meaning but essentially useless advice, ridiculous questions, and unfounded proclamations. Here were some of my favorites from when I was in her shoes.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps!” Um, when will clothes be washed and food be cooked if I sleep when the baby sleeps? I may have hysterically laugh-cried over a basket full of dirty laundry when I remembered that little gem.
“Put your baby on a strict schedule/follow your baby’s innate schedule.” Okay, but which one is it?
“Don’t hold your baby too much. It spoils them.” No. Just… no.
“To get a baby to sleep through the night, you have to put rice cereal in their bottle from the start.” This is not safe for a newborn.
“Can I touch your belly?” Excuse me, I’ve never seen you until you stopped me in front of the Preparation H in CVS, and you want me to allow you to put your grubby hands on my belly?
“Oh, I can tell by how you’re walking that it’s a boy!” No, you can’t. It’s a girl.
“You are going to nurse for at least [insert a variety of years here], AREN’T YOU???” Okay, you’re scaring me.
And don’t even get me started on all the horror stories people insist on telling a new mother. Diaper blow-outs, cracked and bleeding nipples, horrible in-laws being even more horrible than usual, YEARS of not sleeping through the night… the list goes on and on.
Can we just agree to stop flooding first time moms with unsolicited advice/horror stories? Being pregnant is overwhelming, even if it’s not your first time. It’s not just the idea that you’re going to be the reason that this child lives or dies that can make you wake up screaming, it’s the fact that your body has been hijacked by an alien being. It’s not your body anymore. Being bombarded by advice and stories doesn’t help anyone except maybe the bombardier.
No one parenting theory fits all children, just like no “one size fits all” dress fits every body. (Whenever I hear “one size fits all,” I laugh hollowly.) Heck, what worked for The Teen didn’t work for The Preteen. They are sort of like photographic negatives of each other – both great kids but opposites in almost everything. The Teen is an extrovert, and The Preteen is an introvert. The Preteen is an all-around, if somewhat indifferent, scholar, while The Teen is so math-oriented that she can barely write a coherent sentence. No one book, one seminar, one theory will work for every baby.
The Teen’s first pediatrician was wonderful; he was young (and, to be completely honest, rather dishy), but he knew children and new moms. When we moved from Georgia to the Fort, I was heartbroken because he was such a good, caring doctor. He gave me the one piece of advice that actually worked with both girls:
“Listen to your child. She will tell you exactly what she needs.”
He was right. Both girls told me exactly what they needed. It just took a little bit until we figured each other out. I’ve passed this gem along to my cousin. And I have added my own small bit of advice:
“Allow yourself to be human.”
Don’t pay attention to what people post on social media. Social media is the face we show the world; it is rarely the truth. The planets will stay aligned if the kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped in recent memory. The world will not stop turning if your baby isn’t wearing a perfectly matching, hand-smocked, monogrammed outfit that cost more than one of your car payments. Heck, load up on onsies and pajamas from Target and call it a day. There will be days where parenting gets the best of you, but you will live to parent another day. Embrace the crazy.
So my dear cousin, it’s okay to be scared. Every new mother is scared. It’s okay to be not-perfect. No one, no matter how lovely their Instagram accounts are, is perfect. You are going to be an amazing mother. You have what it takes – a good sense of humor and a heart as big as the West Texas sky. And you have a great support network of family and friends. We’ve got your back.
Oh, and table manners are extra credit!
Lee Virden Geurkink is the proud mama of two incredible girls (proof of life photo to the left). She has absolutely no idea what she’s doing as a parent, but as her girls are alive, she must being doing something right. However, their table manners still leave a lot to be desired.