I spent a long time on the phone with my cousin– weeks out from delivering her first child–watching my eyes roll in the mirror. Then a wince.
At myself and the words my brain kept pushing out of my mouth. I started remembering about being a new mom and then thinking about how I’ve been to new moms.
Ladies, do y’all remember being pregnant with your first child? The unsolicited bad advice, such as when my Nanny recommended I keep smoking to help my nerves; the unsolicited horror stories, such as the one co-worker that talked about things like 5th degree tear and infected stitches. And if those don’t have enough hot air to raise your balloon, then there’s the Let Me Tell You What You Have to Do Because I’ve Done This Before advice.
Us Old Moms, we can’t help it can we? Most (not all) of us don’t mean it the way it sounds; we certainly don’t mean to sound as if we are—or were– in any way competent or infallible.
New Moms, we don’t mean to get so excited about your impending birth of those teeny-tiny babies; the mewling creatures that demand everything from you and, in return, hand over an ocean of rapidly rising responsibility. Maybe that excitement for you lies in a break from our gaping responsibility of not-tiny, slightly-smelly, limit-testing, hormone-laden (or worse– grown and gone) children.
We don’t mean to suggest to you, New Mom, that you are somehow wrong or abnormal for feeling a certain measure of ambivalence about the impending expulsion of the child from your womb. That place where the vast majority of women keep Baby safe and warm with very little extra effort. Old Moms don’t mean to demand that you be excited by the irrevocable life-altering circumstance of parenting—even while telling you all the reasons you should be terrified. We don’t mean to sound affronted when your smile seems strained, or to at all suggest that you are somehow less prepared for motherhood for feeling this way.
New Moms, we don’t mean to forget– and the further away from the demand of an infant the more obnoxious we’ll sound. I still remember how hard– how ridiculously, freakishly, annoyingly hard it was to mediate between logic and reality. Logically, I kept telling myself how easy Home Economics and Motherhood should be, even when my reality resembled an ugly mix of Intervention and Hoarders.
I kept waiting to feel the magic-fairy enchantment and became increasingly more depressed, guilty, and angry for the lack– both times.
I can tell New Moms that it’s cool (and sane) to be scared of childbirth. But that there is a finite end. Women don’t labor for 4 days anymore; modern medicine is good to us in that way.
I can tell New Moms that it’s not tapping out by getting pain meds; that no secret society delivers a special medal for making it all the way through naturally. I can tell New Moms that my (unplanned) natural childbirth with Elliot hurt to a degree that cannot be described, but that A) my very small kidney stone hurt way more, and B) 30 minutes of IM-GONNA-DIE was still better than the 5 days of stitches that felt IM-GONNA-DIE every time I had to go Number 2. And that neither one mattered much a month later.
I can tell New Mom that sharing L&D stories—amazing or awful—with other women is something she’ll do for a long time.
I can tell New Moms that my overall attitude toward sleep was one of by any means necessary—because as soon as they stop asking “are you ready for that baby?” so will begin “is baby sleeping through the night?”.
I can tell New Moms that it’s safe to co-sleep and that my successful easy-nursing-in-my-sleep with the one kid was rejected in entirety by the second kid. I can also tell them I ignored those that worried about smothering the baby–they were wrong. After all the generation that worried (MOM!) about my co-sleeping let me ride without carseat, and with a chain-smoking father.
I can tell New Moms that I breastfed both kids, neither of them for a full year. I can ALSO tell New Moms that breastfeeding wouldn’t have lasted even that long had its success depended on a breastpump.
I can tell New Moms that yes, Breast is Best—biology not judgement—but that does not, in any way, imply Formula is Fail.
I can tell New Moms the value of ear plugs (they work) when compared to that of stretch mark repair (sorry, no). Babies process tone of voice and facial expression. If you want to tell Baby how you feel about colic with nicely spoken words in the dark… Enough said.
I can tell New Moms that feeling guilty goes with parenting; decide to OWN it. Sometimes you’ll deserve to feel guilty, most of the time you will not.
I can tell New Moms that Old Moms have the luxury of selective memory. Any Old Mom that acts as if she’s never spent a night frozen with doubt about her skills is either lying, or not doing a very good job.
I can tell New Moms that vaccinations are good and flame-retardant footie pajamas are bad. The advantage to vaccines is that whole no-disease-thing; I’ve yet to see any pajamas that prevent whooping cough. Avoid toxic chemicals responsibly.
Shrug, I’m an Old Mom—offering unsolicited advice… Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow!