Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We've Come A Long Way, Baby

Last week, I was sipping coffee with a friend when an elderly woman approached us and asked how old Charlotte is. We exchanged pleasantries and gushed over my beautiful baby. As the woman was leaving she said, "Motherhood suits you, my dear! You're a natural."

Fast forward to today as I stopped to nurse Charlotte at a local parenting store. I entered the lounge area, which was empty except for another mother who was trying to soothe her fussy little one. The woman looked frazzled. The baby was cranky, her diaper bag had spilled all over the floor, she had spit-up on her shoulder. She was pretty much a hot mess. I slipped her a sympathetic smile, glided over to a chair and started nursing my smiley, serene baby when it struck me:

I was this woman just three short years ago.

The baby's grandmother was also with them, and we started chatting. "How old is your baby?" the grandmother asked. "Three months today," I responded. "Maddy just turned two months," the grandmother replied. "Have you found it gets easier each month?"

At this point, the mother looked up at me with that frazzled, stressed out look I remember too well. That look of... "Please, just tell me this is going to get better." That look of... "This can't always be this bad, can it? CAN IT?!?"

I smiled and said that Charlotte is our second baby, and that it's been a much easier adjustment this time around. Then I looked straight at the mother and said, "My older son was a really challenging infant. How are you doing?"

And the floodgates opened. She teared up and told me about how her baby doesn't sleep. How her baby screams for hours a day. How she's pumping because the baby won't latch. How her milk supply is running out. How she feels terrible for having to start formula. How she's desperate for her husband to come home in the evening because she just can't take it anymore.

I listened. I empathized. I avoided giving advice because she's doing what she knows best. It's not like there's a magic formula for dealing with a colicky baby. Other than time. And alcohol.

What I did tell her is that I'm a strong believer in the "fourth trimester" (the three months after birth in which the baby is adjusting to life outside the womb). That things did get easier as Will got older. That he's a bright, curious, sweet, sensitive little boy now. That I still think back to his early-infancy and shudder (seriously people, if you've never had a colicky baby, you just can't imagine the hell). That it took us a long, damn time to even think about having another kid. That finding other like-minded mom friends was the only way I survived (and continue to survive). That I eventually found my footing as a parent, and she will too.

It's almost as if I was talking to myself three years ago. I wish I would have had more people around me back then to help normalize my experience. To remind me that I'm not doing anything wrong. That I'm doing the best I can. That I'm not failing as a mother.

As they got up to leave, I looked down at my sweet, sleeping Charlotte and realized...

We've come a long way, baby.

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