I’m sitting in the wheelchair at the hospital entrance waiting for Roberto to bring the car around ready to make the short trip home with our new little baby. I am terrified. Jokingly, I whip out one of my credit cards and tell the sweet nurse who was waiting with me, “There’s a pretty high cash advance on this thing, and if you come home with me right now, I’ll max it out for you!” She laughs and says, “You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
I climb into the backseat with my little baby girl, and my husband drives about 3 mph all the way home. She doesn’t make a peep, thank goodness. I’m not sure what we would do if she does – return to the hospital? Ask if we can stay – just a little while longer? Beg the nurse to come and live with us?
In the last month of my pregnancy, I called my Mom to ask when she’d be coming out to help with the baby. I thought it was a little weird that we hadn’t set a date yet. “Call me when you have the baby and I’ll make a plane reservation for about 2 weeks after that.”
What?! Why wasn’t she planning on coming at least on my due date so she’d be here when the baby was first born? I was really irritated. When I pressed and asked her to come earlier, she replied, “You and Roberto need a couple of weeks to get this new parenting thing down for yourselves. By the time I get there, you’ll have a lot of stuff already figured out. You’ll see. It will all be okay.”
On that drive home, I kept wishing my Mom was already at the house so she could – what? Take over for me? Show me how to be a good mother? Let me be a baby instead of a mother? All of those things and more, I’m sure.
Everything about this experience was brand new. Like a brand new toy – shiny and exciting, but also a little too bright and noisy at the same time. I was afraid I’d push the wrong button and the toy would misfire or break. How were we ever going to figure this out?
Those first two weeks went by in a blur. I’m not sure that I really understood the difference between day and night anymore. The whole experience was surreal. Like the first time I tried nursing the baby in the rocking chair. I’d spent a good part of my labor at home rocking in that chair, and then 48 hours later, here I was with the baby on the outside of my belly, nursing. I remember looking at her body and thinking, “How did she ever fit inside of me?” It didn’t seem possible!
Breastfeeding was not what I thought it would be either. It was hard. I thought if I had the equipment, and my baby had the reflex we’d just put those two things together and – bam! I was amazed that it took four hands to get the baby onto my breast. I was hungry – so very hungry! And my breasts were huge! I tell my daughter that she’s the one who gifted me with breasts (she cringes every time she hears it!) but it’s true! Before her birth, I could have easily gotten away without wearing a bra, after her birth I had enough milk to feed a small village! The lactation specialists told me this was a “wonderful” problem to have, and it ended up to be true, eventually. I was amazed at all of the new things that were happening to my body.
Roberto and I negotiated all of this newness like most new parents do. Sometimes in those first two weeks we would just sit and stare at her. We couldn’t believe that we’d created this new little person and she was gorgeous and perfect in every way. We were a new little family and content in our little “babymoon” together. And sometimes, we snapped at each other because we were so, very, very tired – tired in our bones – and not able to think before we opened our mouths. Sometimes it felt like we were this well-oiled machine and other times like we had absolutely no clue how to be in a relationship, let alone parent a newborn.
But by the end of those first two weeks, when Roberto went to pick my Mom up from the airport we were both ready for her to come. Not to tell us how to parent our new baby, but to support us in our efforts that had already begun. She came and cooked, did our laundry, scrubbed our toilets – and told us both over and over again what a good job we were doing and how lucky our baby was to have us as parents.
Having her there right at the beginning, when everything was so new, would not have allowed us to stumble along and find our own way – but I didn’t realize the wisdom of this plan until we’d gone through it ourselves. My Mom grew up without a mother of her own – she died when she was a toddler. And I’ve often marveled at that, because she is hands down the best mother I know. I think some of that might stem from the fact that she had to figure it out on her own, what worked for her and my Dad as new parents. They were able to carve out their own way of parenting us from the moment they left the hospital until present day.
The newness of parenting a tiny little baby starts to fade over time. Bringing a second one home from the hospital, we didn’t have that same anxiety. I knew we could do it, because we’d been doing it already. But as my oldest daughter turns 15 this weekend, I’m struck again by how new this whole parenting experience continues to be. Now we’re experiencing the newness of High School on one end and our last just entering Kindergarten. Both stretching their level of independence from us in new ways. Our family continues to be new and dynamic, ever-changing our roles and responsibilities as parents.
It’s so nice to not feel the terror that I did the day we brought our firstborn home. But I also appreciate that the newness of parenting has never worn off. I love that we’re still surprised and delighted by our children and how they can make the everyday, too bright and noisy sometimes, but also shiny, exciting and new.
What was it like for you when you brought your new little baby home for the first time?