(Not a pregnancy announcement. I don’t know why I feel such a need to issue that disclaimer, aside from the small voice in my head screaming “stop traumatizing people who are considering NFP.” Which, by the way, works, and by that I mean it makes you aware of your fertility as a couple, causes you to have serious conversations with your spouse regularly, along the lines of are we ready for another baby? Have you slept in the last 3 weeks and can I gingerly stroke your arm? And my personal favorite Are you sure you should have that third margarita, darling, since we’re seeking to avoid?) all while in no way minimizing the enormous responsibility and gift of being co-creative with the Creator. End disclaimer.)
Whew. Exhaustive PSA aside, as I was sipping a piping hot espresso shoving scrambled eggs into my 6-month-old’s mouth this morning whilst she perched on my lap at breakfast, I got to thinking. I thought to myself, self, you don’t really mother this third born the way you mothered your first. And thank God for that, amiright?
I have thee most vivid memory of leaping across my parent’s kitchen table and slapping a spoonful of Death by Chocolate trifle out of my mother’s hand as she hovered dangerously near Sir Joseph’s tiny, 9-month-old lips. MOTHER! I screamed, WHAT IF HE HAS A TREE NUT ALLERGY?! THERE ARE WALNUTS IN THAT!!!!! And not to minimize the real and horrifying dangers of life-threatening allergies in the slightest, neither my family nor Dave’s has any history of food allergies, the likeliness that my baby was going to swell up and immediately stop breathing were relatively slim. Still, I quite literally slapped my mother’s hand away as if she were spooning rat poison into his mouth, leaving her a little stunned but primarily amused (I presume, mother) because she, the mother of 7 healthy children, had no apparent business trying to sneak her grandson a bite of chocolate deliciousness.
Fast forward nearly 4 years and I’m the one exposing my precious to highly-allergic table foods well before the 12 month safety threshold, because I think I read somewhere that the sooner the better in terms of preventing some food allergies, and also because I’m sitting at the breakfast table in my pajamas, coffee in one hand and laptop opened nearby and I’m giving instructions to the 3 year old about proper table etiquette and somebody pooped and the baby would like some food and okay, here you go, open wide sweetheart! I was chatting with a friend yesterday about how differently we mother our third born children, and how much we wish we could go back and tell our freshly-minted momselves: it’s going to be okay. This is going to get so much easier. and most especially: you’re going to be a totally different mom in just a few short years. We each of us have in our possession a third baby who sleeps and eats like a dream. Never fussy for no reason, never protesting naps or bedtimes, happy just to be included in the day-to-day of busy family life.
I wondered aloud whether we’d both been blessed with supernaturally calm children for our third go-round, as kind of a cosmic consolation for our, ahem, spirited first-borns and HIIIIIIGH needs second borns, and then I wondered if maybe it was we who had calmed down.
I’ve been doing this professionally for close to 5 years now, counting pregnancy, and while I’m by no means an expert in my field, I have learned a thing or two about what constitutes grounds for freaking the freak out and what is simply another speed bump on the long and winding road of parenthood. So while my kids are regularly presenting me with new and challenging scenarios, especially the highly mobile pair, I’m a little less prone to panicky google sessions and frantic phone calls to my husband about a weird rash, a strangely pitched cry or an afternoon of nap-strking organized by the local (and highly entitled) toddler union.
These days I’m more likely to shrug my metaphorical shoulders, load ‘erybody up in the mini and drive aimlessly to a neutral location to attempt to reset everybody’s moods and salvage the remains of the day. Super Target anyone? Or just a new-to-us park where the novelty might defuse the rivalry running rampant in my ranks that afternoon.
So new moms? Take heart. You’re going to get better at this. And things that struck you as horrifying and overwhelming and devastating? They’ll still be there. And while there will always be x-factors of an unknown varietal, particularly with your oldest guinea pig, you will so get a handle on this baby thing. If anything you’ll become stupidly confident in your ability to make more babies, and thereby find yourself perpetually behind the procreative eight ball and honestly, the stuff of life and living will wear you down and wear you out and make you more yourself, purified by the experiences and the hardships and the heartaches and yes, the good stuff too.
And one day you’ll find yourself absentmindedly rubbing anti-aging moisturizing cream onto somebody’s diaper rash and the only thing that will stop and give you pause will be the price tag of what you’re slathering on the baby bottom at hand, and not whether it’s organic or hypoallergenic or tested for use on infants under the age of 2. And then you’ll shrug and keep rubbing it in, mentally high-fiving yourself for remembering to put anything at all on that poor little butt.
Babies don’t really get any easier the more you have. It’s you who grows in confidence, experience, and, frankly, indifference to what you formerly perceived as ALL THE THINGS that mattered so very much when offspring were just a hazy concept and your expanding waistline was all you had to show for your parenting experience.
So, to all my inquisitive fellow grocery getters, imma let you in on a little secret: Yes, I do in fact have my hands full. But let me assure you, when there was only one in the cart, he was perched in an organic bamboo-cotton card cover pulled from the massive depths of my plastic-coated diaper bag, retrieved and installed only after a healthy slathering of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer had been applied to every square inch of cart surface. I also had a baby carrier stuffed in there, lest he become dissatisfied and prefer to ride upon my bosom for the duration of our stressful foray into the store.
My hands were just as full when my car held only one car seat. It’s my heart and my brain that have enlarged now, and there’s more room for error, more room for fun, and more room for patience to manage the additional children you see.