To Insanity and Beyond, A Mom’s Journey was published in 2002. It is a compilation of some of my short stories previously published in a few parenting magazines.
Ready or Not, Baby’s Here is one of those stories, and today, I’d like to dedicate it to any new parents out there who are still a little unsure about what they’re getting or have gotten into.
The nurse handed our newborn baby to my husband, who quickly passed it over to me. I was sitting in a wheelchair, waiting to leave the hospital where I had given birth to our son the day before.
“Gee, thanks” I thought. Not that I didn’t want to bring home this wrinkled small human I was holding, but the truth is I was petrified. I didn’t know what to do with it. I looked up to see relief on my husband’s face after he had handed the baby off and realized I wasn’t the only one scared stiff.
As I turned to look at the nurse I noticed she was smiling. Handing our child to us, was like buckling us into the seat of a roller coaster ride. Once you’re buckled in, you can’t get out. We had wanted to be here, we had been in a hurry to get to the front of the line, but now that it was our turn we weren’t ready to ride.
My husband is a strong, take charge kind of guy, so as his voice cracked trying to clear the knot in his throat, he told the nurse with a certainty he did not possess, the biggest lie ever told in the history of time: “We’re ready.”
When we got home, my mother was waiting for us. Thank goodness for mothers. Not the kind I had become, but real ones. I couldn’t believe how good she was. I mean, she was never that great and experienced when I was growing up, was she?
She picked our baby up (I didn’t fight her,) and in half a millisecond changed him from the Tarzan looking, loose loin cloth I had managed to install, into a tight fitting, secure diaper. She handed a crying baby off to me, smiled, and said: “He’s hungry.”
My husband and I smiled in pseudo-understanding, as we mouthed “Aha” in unison and busied ourselves emptying out some bags. As she shoved him deeper into my chest the meaning of her words dawned on me: “Oh, yeah. That’s right,” I said as I sat down making feeble attempts to be discreet. My husband’s head snapped up suddenly enlightened, and looked over at me with pride: I had figured it out. Visitor 09, Home Team 01.
During those first few days at home I remembered something said to first time parents in our Lamaze Class. The teacher/facilitator had told us: “Right now you probably think you’re ready to bring this baby home. When you do however, you’ll wish your pregnancy had been longer to better prepare you. By the way, you’ll never be fully prepared, so don’t exhaust yourselves trying. You’ll be clueless when you have your first moments alone with your newborn, but at your two-week appointment, you’ll be a pro, and by the baby’s six-month check, you’ll be ready to hand out cards and charge a fee for advice given.”
As the end of the first week was approaching I was certain those wise words had been delivered as empty promises. By our two-week appointment, the nurses would feed us more words of encouragement, and so on, to keep us going.
My husband had returned to work the very next day after our baby came home (wimp!), and my mother said ten days was all she could stay (traitor!); I would be alone, and I was terrified.
I begged my mother to stay longer, offered her money and a house in Maui I could never afford. She smiled, patted my cheek, and said: “It’s time.”
“Now what is that supposed to mean?” I cried and begged. Let it be known I had been a very independent, self-sufficient, woman until then.
The day she was leaving, she had just finished packing when we heard the baby crying. She hurried to zip up the suitcase, and by the time she had completed her task, the baby was in my arms cooing.
She didn’t accept help with the suitcase, as she feared my stitches would pop, so I busied myself strapping the baby in his car seat. I ran in to get the diaper bag, put it in the back seat and kissed my little angel on the forehead. For the first time in the ten days since he was born, I had “reacted”, responded to his needs, and taken charge of the situation. I’m not sure if it had to do with knowing that from this day forward I would mostly be on my own to care for this totally dependent child, but the “bond” so popularly discussed that stresses love and a sixth sense was finally beginning to surface. Suddenly, I felt a mixture of overwhelming responsibility, excitement for the challenge facing me every day, and a great need to nurture this baby. Scared yet eager, I felt transformed.
I started the engine, looked in the rearview mirror at my sleeping baby, and then at my mother who was staring at me. I took a deep, deep breath and said: “I think we’re ready.”
She smiled, looked beyond the car’s windshield and as if predicting the future, she said: “Yes honey, you are.”