I’m not about to say that I’m a professional or anything, but I’ve managed to keep a baby alive for (almost!) twelve weeks now.
I don’t know about you, but that is pretty damn impressive. You know, coming from someone who swore she didn’t want children. Ever.
I joined a few Facebook groups a few weeks after I found out that I was pregnant. We would share stories about our pregnancies, complain about partners, and get advice. It was a safe space for us to talk about the most important thing that was going on in our lives.
Now it is a space for us to bitch about our partners, complain that we still can’t fit into our jeans, and wonder why we’ve got our period for the third time in six weeks. (That last one might be all me.) Postpartum life is glamorous. What can I say? All mystery goes out the window once you have five (or more) medical professionals staring at your car crash of a vagina.
It is not a sexy, mystical thing after having a baby. It is a vagina.
There’s almost always a common thread linking the Facebook posts. Am I doing this right? Should I be doing this? The baby is doing that. Should I panic?
Why can’t I zip my jeans up yet?
My partner tried to initiate sex last night. I punched him in the penis. Will this feeling ever go away? Did I break it? Do you think he got the hint? Should I punch it harder next time?
Yesterday, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a bunch of familiar posts.
Should my baby be doing this? How do I…? Why is this <insert something completely normal here> happening?
We can simply Google the problem ourselves and get lost in the dark place of the internet, but that would be too easy. We need to know that another ‘real’ person has been there. We need to be able to ask a million more questions without facing the wrath of the entire internet.
Mostly, we don’t want to look like a completely incompetent twat.
Like, who the hell let her have a baby?
I felt like that a lot when C was a newborn. I felt like I had been hit by a bus that I should have seen coming. I was suddenly in charge of a small human and I had no idea what I was doing.
I would panic if he cried. I would panic if he didn’t cry. I would panic before he fed. I would worry that he didn’t get enough. Was he sleeping enough? Why was he still sleeping? Why was he crying? Did I break him? Why did he hate tummy time? How did one sock always manage to fall off his foot?
I was worried that I wasn’t doing enough. I was worried that I wasn’t good enough. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be enough for C. I (like every woman) completely changed my life when I decided that I was going to have a baby, and I was terrified that I was going to screw it up. There is some overwhelming fear that the baby is going to pop out and you’re going to say: “Uh, this isn’t the baby I ordered. Just shove him back up there. I’m sure he’ll be fine.” Even worse is the overwhelming fear that you’re going to feel nothing when you see him for the first time.
Luckily for me, C is very durable and is so tiny that he won’t remember if he happened to stay in a wet diaper for a couple of hours. He also happened to be incredibly cute, so falling in love with him was bound to happen. You know, as much as you can fall in love with a tiny, screaming, poop machine. (Spoiler alert: Purest form of love you will find. You can’t fight it.)
Despite this love, I was (and still am) scared that I’m going to do this ‘parenting’ thing wrong.
Breast feeding, mix feeding or fully formula feeding?
Sleeping in a bassinet or co-sleeping?
Sleeping in your room or sleeping in their own room?
Pacifier or no pacifier?
Cloth diapering or disposable diapers?
Vaccinating, delayed vaccinations, selective vaccinations or no vaccinations?
Sometimes it feels like there are too many options and you never pick the right one. It is overwhelming. It is very easy to just pick one option at random and just run with it. The option you pick usually comes from gut instinct and is the right one for you (and your family), but that doesn’t mean that everyone will agree with you 100% of the time.
I’m here to tell you that it is okay.
You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
I say that because I found myself defending my choices to friends, to strangers, and to people on the internet. Most of the time, the people didn’t know me, my baby or what we had been through at the very beginning. It hasn’t been easy. Some of them didn’t know that and they simply thought I had taken ‘the easy way out’. And that hurt. A lot.
No parenting choice is easy – especially with a baby this young. You are constantly second guessing yourself. About everything.
But do you want to know a secret?
I have seen those Facebook groups. I have seen the conversations that go on inside them. Sometimes, just sometimes, the most ‘confident parent’ is asking the most questions. Sometimes a mother is panicking about something you wouldn’t think twice about. Sometimes you’re all worrying about the same thing.
Want to know another secret?
Absolutely everybody is winging it.
So, parents, you are doing an absolutely amazing job. Keep it up.