An Open Letter to the Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary:
Let me get to the point. I know you are all very busy, and I’m incredibly busy too. I’m so busy that I don’t think I’ve brushed my teeth yet today. I probably shouldn’t have told you that. Please forget that I mentioned that.
Let’s start again.
I’m writing because, last year, you added the word “selfie” to your dictionary.
That was the word you and all your nerd colleagues couldn’t live without. “Selfie” — a word that originated with Kim Kardashian or one of her sisters. Or her mom. It could have definitely been her mom. But I digress…
You chose “selfie” when there are so many others words you could have and should have chosen.
Like what, you ask? (And thank you for asking.) Like “neomamma.”
That’s the word I would have added to your dictionary if I had been given the opportunity. And that’s specifically why I’m writing you. I’d like you to consider it for this year.
A “neomamma” is my word for a new mom. It describes being a first-time, clueless new parent who doesn’t know what she’s doing, doesn’t yet have maternal instinct (but thinks she’s supposed to), still bleeds from her nether regions, and wears maternity clothes. Oh, and did I forget to mention that this new mother is just a wee bit tired?
This woman… This state of parenting… Well, there was no word for it. That’s why I made it up. And I’d really love if you could add it to your big book.
Because I believe a new mother needs a word that differentiates her from the mother of a toddler, a preschooler, or a teenager. There is also a world of difference between a first-time mother and a seasoned mom who just had baby number 2 or 3 or – depending on what reality shows you watch –23.
If you’re going to try to defend yourselves and tell me that the dictionary has an entire “mother” category in it, don’t bother. I’ve seen it. “Den mother.” “Earth mother.” “Motherland.” Motherboard.” “Motherf….”
No. Those don’t cover it. You have no word for a new mother.
If you need more evidence, I would like to tell you a little bit about the first morning I spent at home alone with my first baby. He was probably about six days old. My parents were gone. My in-laws were gone. My husband was gone. There was no one around to ask about potentially infected umbilical cords or strange-looking poops.
The big event on my first real day on the job was what should have been a nice, relaxing walk around the block. I had bought a sling that came with its own instructional DVD. But not long after I left the apartment, I decided that the fabric from the sling was smothering my son’s face and that he probably couldn’t breathe – and his not being able to breathe worried me — so I took him out and just started carrying him in my arms. Of course, a woman walking down the street holding a newborn, wearing an empty sling, and rocking some sweet maternity clothes is going to attract attention. An older lady stopped me. “Oh. How adorable! What’s his name?”
“What’s his name?”
What was his name?
Now in my defense, the kid and I had only met earlier that week. My husband and I had JUST named him. The name was still so new. It was like when you get a new phone number. The first few times someone asks you for it, you might not recall if it’s “3423” or “3432” and you might have to look it up.
Only it wasn’t a seven-digit number, it was my CHILD’S NAME. After a couple of seconds – one second, two seconds, oh my God it felt like an eternity – the name came to me. But do you know what a “neomamma” I felt like? (See, how nicely the word works there?)
It took a long time. Weeks. Months. I honestly don’t remember how long or when or even how. But, over time, I became more and more comfortable with my new role. Until one magical, yet unremarkable day, I shed my “neomamma” status and became, simply, a mom.
And “mom”? I’m happy to say that one’s already in the dictionary.