A few weeks ago my husband and I were out for dinner and from our window seat watched a young couple pull up to the valet and wrestle to set up a monstrous stroller, snap on the car seat, bundle the baby for the three steps from the curb to the restaurant, and struggle to get through the door with the oversized baby bag that looked like it contained enough stuff to back pack around Europe for an entire month. The mom looked weary. The husband even more so.
My husband and I exchanged a knowing glance.
“First timers,” he said to me under his breath.
“What gave it away?” I replied, both of us smiling.
Everyone with more than one child knows that with your first you have photographic evidence of every milestone and breath in between. Thanks to digital technology, hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures are taken of first-borns. By the time a second is welcomed into the family, photos are taken but not nearly as many. And as for number three . . . there are pictures. Somewhere.
The same applies for babies and gear.
When I first discovered that I was pregnant with my first, nearly six years ago, I scoured the internet for “must-have lists”, interrogated the merchants of our neighbourhood baby store, and researched the pros and cons of every stroller, bottle, breast pump and sling on the market.
I was going to be prepared.
“What about a birth plan? We NEED a birth plan. ” I barked hysterically at my husband, father-to-be, who quickly discovered his status was being usurped by this unborn baby. He took that as his cue to rein me in.
“Beth-Anne, this is ridiculous! People have babies in caves in war-torn Afghanistan. Women have been having babies forever. Everything is going to be fine. We don’t need all of this shit that’s taking over the house.”
I huffed. I puffed. I resigned.
And then our baby unexpectedly came two weeks early.
The crib that I had researched so extensively and hunted around for the best bargain wasn’t set up. It wasn’t even delivered! The mobile was in a heap on the floor. The onesies that I had painstakingly picked out were way too big for this tiny newborn and the coming home outfit that I had debated over, turned out to be completely impractical. With its lack of buttons I was unable to maneuver his tiny limbs into the holes with confidence.
Determined to breastfeed, I was unprepared when it proved challenging and sent my husband on a mission to find nipple shields after already retrieving disposable panties and ice for my throbbing episiotomy. This wasn’t the way I imagined the birth of my first child unfolding.
And then it came. My first post-natal meltdown.
I had been warned that it would be epic but this was foreign territory. In my semi-private hospital room with a worn pink curtain separating two beds, with my pinkish son swaddled tightly in the blue flannel blanket, I lost it.
I was well past exhausted and my body was both aching and unfamiliar to me. Tears ran down my cheeks and the sobs that racked me could only be described as primal.
I was panicking. In an instant everything had changed. I was no longer a woman and wife. I was now a mother. The responsibility was overwhelming. It was crushing.
I had done all of my homework and nothing was going according to my well- researched plans!
And then the nurse who had stayed by my side for days on end extended her warm, wrinkled hands to clutch mine as she looked into my eyes.
“Everything’s going to be okay. Just listen to his cries. They are telling you what he needs. Everything he needs you alone can give to him,” she said with her soft Jamaican accent.
Three days later we went home to a house with no crib or mobile, unsure of what we were doing and who we were, but certain that what we needed could not be found at any store or in any book.
All we needed was each other.