As Mother’s Day approaches, I think about my experience as a mother. How it’s changed me, grown me, and made me more tired than I ever thought possible. Recently, a number of my former students have become first-time parents. Social media is great for keeping up with this kind of exciting news and I love seeing their ecstatic faces as they hold their adorable little bundles. I can’t help but reminisce on my own experiences having babies. Those beautiful, exhausting, memorable days.
I had my first baby in 2008 and my fourth in 2015. I was surprised by how much had changed in those seven years. For instance, I remember having to watch a VHS tape with my first baby about keeping her safe. Could it have been a VHS? Maybe it was a DVD, but the video was definitely VHS-era quality. Immediately following, I had to sign off on it to verify I had watched it. I remember thinking, “Who would ever shake this adorable human I’m holding?” A few weeks later, on a particularly tough night of cluster feeding, it hit me, “That’s why we watched the video”. Then, when I had my second baby, there was no mention of a video. I’m not sure if this was because it was my second baby and I wasn’t delivering it in prison after having committed a felony or if they just weren’t doing the videos anymore. Who knew? Maybe the second baby would be much more colicky and require a reminder of how to handle it? Of course, that wasn’t true. Never was there a more agreeable baby than my second. Either way, it was strange.
Another important aspect of my hospital stay in 2008 revolved around the Sitz Bath. I had no fewer than four nurses come in and talk to me about said bath. It was confusing. I was like,
“Can you please spell that word for me? I seriously don’t know what you’re saying.”
“S-I-T-Z bath,” the nurse said.
I was even more confused. All I knew was that I would be sitting in water only a few degrees warmer than room temperature in a position too close to the toilet to feel sanitary for longer than I hoped. The “bath” which, let’s be honest, felt like sitting in a used bedpan ended up in my bathroom closet for at least a year after the baby was born. l finally threw it away assuming I’d get another if I had another baby. And guess what? A scant two and half years later, there was nary a mention of the Sitz bath with my second child. This oh so necessary step in healing from childbirth had all but disappeared in that time.
Fashions and baby gear definitely changed between my first and last baby. I felt rather trendy in 2008, but by 2015 I looked like Ross from friends schlepping my baby around in an early 90’s carseat. The clothes changed too. When I had my first boy in 2010, I dressed him in the customary blues, greens, and in patterns of sports, transportation, or dinosaurs. By the time I had my second boy five years later, there were very few patterns, only pithy statements on clothes that were fifty shades of gray. I don’t mean like the novel, I mean actually fifty shades of gray. My baby, in all his colors and patterns made new moms smile and raise their eyebrows -inwardly thinking, “Hand-me-downs”.
I remember also getting weird advice. One nurse told me not to shower right away because it was important for the baby to recognize my by “my scent”. Is she going to have to find her way back to me in the woods? Won’t she recognize me because she’s heard my voice for nine months or because I’m the only one breastfeeding her? No, I was supposed to forgo bathing so she could think, “Mmmmmmm. Mommy’s the one with body oder.” What damage could that do later in life when she cozies up to a stranger on public transportation because he smelled “just like Mom”?
While we’re on the subject of bathing, when did it become so noble to not bathe? My facebook feed is filled with “mommy martyrs” forgoing a shower for the sake of their kids. Unless this trend was started by Russian trolls with stock in dry shampoo, just take a shower already. If you have a newborn, you don’t even have to keep them captive. They’re captive by their own bodies and lack of coordination. Put the baby down pretty much anywhere and start the water. I know those first few weeks are overwhelming, but a little time under a hot shower may actually help.
Let me pause in my judging of other moms to say, “Can we please stop judging other moms?” Shower or not, you're doing the best you can. We all are. So, what makes well-intentioned people become so judg-y when we’re in the presence of other moms? I’ve thought a lot about this and it’s because we’re so inundated with information about what things are safe and what choices are better. This information feels so dire to us, we can’t help but judge others who haven’t read the same articles. But that’s really annoying right? We really need to stop doing that. Except for showers. Take showers. But otherwise, no judgment.
There are so many joys of motherhood. One of them is connecting with and supporting the other mothers in our respective circles. A smile or wink or shrug between moms in the aisle of the grocery store where a toddler is in full on tantrum mode can go a long way. All moms have stories like mine. Weird advice, trends, and times they used something that wasn’t a diaper for a diaper on an in-fated trip to the grocery.
Happy Mother’s Day!