I was so excited when I had my first baby. She was all ours/mine to take care of.
At first I looked forward to the day I would be able to leave the hospital. When I would be able to do whatever I wanted and not worry about what the bitchy nurses would say.
And, I would be all alone with Lala.
As this realization sunk in, I began to dread going home. Lala was so little and helpless. As a consequence of being in the breech position for too long, she had to wear a harness due to hip dysplasia and I constantly worried about not putting it back on correctly after changing or bathing her. She wasn’t nursing well and I worried if she was getting enough nourishment. The head-bitchy-nurse told me Lala’s new skin rash erupted because I was holding her too much and I worried I was hovering. She cried all night and I worried I wasn’t holding her enough.
They said we could go home soon and then I would be all alone with her.
When I was given the option of staying in the hospital another night to have my stitches taken out, I leaped at the chance. Nay…bounded…and shouted from the top of my lungs, “YES!!!”
When I was finally sent home with her, I felt as if I was operating on the precipice of an anxiety attack at every moment. Everything suddenly became deadly from unsterilized bottles to un-organic cotton onesies. I would place her baby monitor mere centimeters from her face and sit anxiously in the living room (10 feet away on the same floor) with the volume on the baby monitor turned up all the way, listening to her breathe. This of course was in between the 4 minute intervals where I would go in and check on her, feel her breath with my palm and check for a heartbeat.
I was going crazy.
I became neurotic. Hats were mandatory at all times, bottles fastidiously sterilized within an inch of their life, and breasts pumped at every available moment so as to glean every drop of their disappointing and unsatisfactory output.
Somehow, I managed to keep Lala fed, clean, and most importantly, alive.
I continued on this way for months. Questioning every choice and the minutiae of it all started to get to me. I started attending playdates, after I finally realized they were not for the babies. These gatherings were a place for new mommas to congregate, share information, talk about breasts and poop, and occasionally cry. I realized I was not alone.
These other new mommas were all neurotic and crazy too.
After Lala turned 1, I turned a corner. I relaxed a little as she seemed sturdier and harder to damage.
And, most importantly, I had kept her alive for a whole year…
When Lala was 2, I had another baby. Little Em was also a c-section, but I left the hospital a mere 36 hours after I had her. I was anxious for the opposite reason I had been with Lala; I wanted to get Little Em home.
As I settled into motherhood “a-deux” I realized something: I was not as neurotic and terrified as I was the first time.
And, as I reconnected with the new-momma scene I realized something else: New mommas are neurotic and annoying…
I started thinking about when I first had Lala, and how strange I thought it was that the momma’s of the older children in my complex didn’t really socialize with us new mommas. We would linger in the courtyard, starving for adult human contact, whilst trying to keep our babies from eating the sand and poking their own eyes out. These “experienced” moms, who had kept their kids alive much longer than us, would merely nod and whisk past us as quickly as possible.
And, now I knew why. We were annoying and neurotic and we probably reminded those experienced mommas of the days when they were annoying and neurotic too.
Times they probably would like to forget.
I wonder what it would have been like to not worry everyday that I was going to somehow screw up or forget something that would hurt the baby. To know that babies are much more sturdy than we think and that we new mommas have better instincts than we thought. That we are all doing a good job and that we are our own harshest critics. That the only ones making us neurotic and annoying is ourselves. There is no rule book for raising children. I guess being as neurotic as possible is the next best thing.
So, here is a shout out to all your neurotic-new-momma-nut-cases! Go ahead and make them wear hats inside the house! Buy a tank to drive them around in and spend thousands of dollars on shit you don’t need if it makes you feel like you are doing a good job.
Because, you are doing a good job, you just don’t know it yet.