Life as a new mom might have been less stressful if I had realized that babies aren’t made of porcelain or any other super-fragile substance. Or if I had known to take naps whenever my little one napped. I didn’t understand the difference between the “I’m kind of hungry” and “I have terrible, crippling gas” cries, which caused a lot of stress and a little hair loss (on my part).
And although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I didn’t even leave the house — at all — for the first month of my daughter’s life because I was terrified some hooligan would sneeze on her or expose her to a weird allergen. In retrospect, the weirdest thing she was being exposed to was me.
Becoming a mother was an unexpected thing for me. I didn’t plan for it and I certainly didn’t know what I was doing at the time. However, I like to think that no matter how much you prepare for having a baby, you’re not really prepared until you’re already doing it. That’s how it was for me, anyway. The moment I saw the plus sign on the pregnancy test, I started building my arsenal of maternal and prenatal knowledge. I bought books, spent hours on pregnancy websites and asked every mom I knew for advice. I was more than a little afraid I would fail at being a mom, so I tried to prepare myself as best I could.
It wasn’t my fault that all this preparation still wasn’t enough. The second you actually lay eyes on your very own live human infant, you lose all previous child-rearing knowledge and are unable to do much besides smile at their cuteness and maybe cry a little bit. OK, a lot.
So, if I could somehow defy physics and the laws of nature and talk to myself circa 2010, here’s what I would say:
“Relax. You’re going to be a good mom! Molly is going to be happy, healthy and not as breakable as you think. It’s OK to take her out in public — just carry hand sanitizer if you’re anxious about germs. If she won’t stop crying, and you’ve exhausted all the other options, she probably has gas. They make drops for that, by the way. And while she’s taking all those newborn naps, you better catch some Zs of your own. Trust me on that. In the very near future, you’ll be a pro at this mom business. You’ll even feel comfortable enough to write a column about it!
“Oh, and by the way, you might want to start saving for Molly’s college fund now. In about three years, she’s going to tell you she wants to be an engineer.”
(Editor’s Note: Debra Carpenter is a novice mother, wife and college student. She is also a syndicated columnist who writes about the comedy of motherhood and she blogs for The Huffington Post. She’s online at MotherInterrupted.com and Twitter: @interrupted_ma.)