I recently met a few new moms and we all went on a hike along the bay. One of the girls I met had a four-week-old baby girl. Since I’m so all-knowing and wise now, I sympathetically asked her how she was doing. In the most chipper voice I think I’ve ever heard, she replied, “Pretty good!” Huh. She actually seemed like she meant it. She then proceeded to explain how her baby’s sleeping habits were really not bad.
I tried to think back through the fog to when I had a four-week-old, and I’m not sure I even knew the difference between night and day yet. I have fuzzy memories during those first weeks of crying in a restaurant, holding my head in my hands while my colicky baby screamed her delightful head off, and resembling a walker from “The Walking Dead” while drinking a glass of wine in my biggest pajamas. Now that I’ve survived the twilight zone, I couldn’t honestly tell you how long that seemingly never-ending period actually lasted. But at four weeks I certainly wasn’t going out on any hikes with new friends.
Maybe I’m just hoping here, but I think many of us have a tendency to do a couple things when we enter parenthood. First, we act out what I like the call the mommy charade; we try to make it look like we’ve got our sh*t together. Personally, I waited to announce my little one’s arrival on Facebook until I no longer had makeup running down my face, had enough brain power available to cover my floppy postpartum belly, and could at least feel the lower half of my body as I painfully dropped it onto an inflated inner tube after layering up with frozen newborn diapers and a generous amount of witch hazel pads.
As much as each of our little ones really, truly, are incredible miracles, we all enjoy varying degrees of awfulness when we become parents (or, you know, when we become people). Yet we are all compelled (some more than others) to pretend we’re some sort of anomaly.
Part of this, of course, is for our own sanity.
I don’t even like to admit to myself that I am the type of person who would allow piles of crusty food to rot on the floor under the highchair.
Or that I hate cleaning the tub SO MUCH that usually there’s something weirdly pink hanging around the edges before I finally grit my teeth and scrub that sh*t off.
Or that the first time I left Reagan for an hour when she was two weeks old, I did not feel anxious and sad like everyone said I would, but instead I was relieved, because I had no confidence I could do it better than anyone else could.
The other thing many of us start doing when we become parents is to believe that other people actually DO have it all together. That they’re better moms. That there’s some sort of magical code we need to figure out so we can do it right, too. And we compare, compare, compare.
And you know what I’ve come to realize over the last year? It’s all a ruse. NO ONE knows what they’re doing.
Okay, if you look at that from a sociological perspective it’s sort of frightening. Even amongst experts, scientific studies, doctors, you can almost always find someone who disagrees. There’s rarely a definitive “answer.” Everyone has their own opinion, and everyone thinks they know what’s best for kids. From a motherhood perspective…ahhh. Sigh of relief. To varying degrees, everyone is winging it. In short, everyone is human, and we’re all just figuring it out as we go along.
When I finally came to that conclusion, I was free! I began to trust my gut. I kept doing my research (because that’s what I do) and then with all the information available I decided myself what was right for my daughter instead of searching for “the answer.”
We’re all struggling with different aspects of this new life.
What’s easy for one parent might not be easy for another.
So now every time I see a brand new mom, I choose to listen to their chipper response to a stranger and believe that in the middle of the night they’re dealing with their own version of slumping on the couch feeling like a zombie as their leaky boobs stain their biggest pajamas. And that’s okay.