As I watched an expectant mother open gift after gift at her recent baby shower, I longed to be her for just a moment.
I will never again know that feeling of being on the precipice of the biggest change in her life. Of straddling two worlds: one where she is untethered, the other where she is forever bonded and made part of another. (But not straddling TOO widely…because, you know…dialated vaginas.) There is always an excitement that comes with experiencing everything as a first-time mom.
For a moment at the shower, I longed to feel that excitement again…the uncharted territory…braving new situations and feeling the pride when you survived. And the stuff. Holy diaper blowouts! Where were these toys and gadgets back when I had a baby?!
And then I remembered that time at the pool.
My daughter was about four or five months old, and I had ventured to the pool with her by myself for the first time. We were splashing, having a grand time, when I noticed the skin around her eyes had become very red and irritated. She was rubbing her peepers furiously and becoming a little fussy. Clearly, this was an emergency. And I was the mom. I was sure that pretty much all the things I was told to expect when I was expecting were happening at that very instant, and my merit as a parent hung in the balance. It was time to do this.
And by do this, I mean freak the fuck out.
As I gathered up our stuff and headed frantically toward the car, I decided I should call the pediatrician.
The nurse didn’t sound very alarmed. She must not have heard me correctly. My daughter was obviously having a violent allergic reaction or had caught some water-born virus in the pool that was going to leave her blind.
Or cancer. Is this a symptom of cancer? I needed to bring her into the office immediately, and I told the nurse I was on my way there. She kindly relented that she could squeeze us in.
But on the way, things just didn’t seem right. Damn those rear-facing car seats. I couldn’t see how my daughter was doing. What were those weird noises she was making? I had this bad feeling she wasn’t breathing. I panicked, reached for my cell phone, and dialed 911.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“I’m on the side of the road, and I think my baby is having trouble breathing!”
“Okay, ma’am. Is your baby turning blue?”
“Ma’am, is that your baby crying very loudly in the background?”
“Yes, that’s her.”
“Ma’am, if your baby is crying, that means she’s breathing.”
Okay, so maybe I needed to calm myself down. Obviously, the situation was not as life-threatening as I was making it out to be, but surely the pediatrician would figure out the cause of this mysterious malady and commend me for acting so quickly.
“Doctor, I don’t know what’s wrong. Her eyes just suddenly got all red, and she was crying. Does she have a serious allergy? Should I have gone straight to the ER? Is this going to affect her eyesight? Oh the horror! Will she ever play the violin?”
“Looks to me like she just got a little sunscreen in her eyes. See? The redness is already starting to clear up. Try using zinc oxide next time. It’s less irritating.”
And THAT is precisely why I am happy I am not a first-time mom again.
I no longer go from zero to worst-possible-scenario in sixty seconds. Now it takes me more like, um, five minutes, but I can usually bring rational thinking back into the equation pretty quickly. You know, before 911 gets involved.
Experience has taught me there are very few real emergencies in parenting, and it has also given me a more level-headed gut in which to trust. My first-time mom gut was full of rare diseases, and freak accidents, and an unrealistically high proportion of baby kidnappers to normal people, and “but what if we’re that 0.01%?” I was clearly putting my trust in a rookie gut.
That expectant mom can have all the cool baby MacGyver gadgets. I’ll just sit here with my very lightweight purse, confident in my knowledge that if my child is crying, she is breathing.
And also confident that no matter which diaper new mom gets, it’s going to start smelling like caca pretty damn quickly.
Related post: We Need a Word To Describe New Mothers