I recently stumbled across one of those articles that's ostensibly aimed at offering improvements on the parenting front while simultaneously kicking you in the shins. (You know the type, right? "Ten Hidden Toxins That Can Create Extra Limb Growth: Is Your Baby Eating These Tentacle-Triggering Foods?") I read the title -- "Biggest New Mom Mistakes Ever" -- and rolled my eyes. Just what we all need, more evidence that we're doing it wrong and our octo-children will be forever damaged as a result. Are you guilty? the article sneered. Eat a bag of dicks, anonymous web advice, I sneered back ... and then I scanned the list.
Ha. Ha. HA. HA HA HA HA HAAAA. You guys, I've made -- and in some cases, am still making -- pretty much every single one of these "new mom mistakes."
In fact, let's just go through each terrible, avoid-at-all-costs mistake, one by one:
1) Not focusing on healing. You've got this brand-new, very small and vulnerable person whose health you've got to watch out for, but you're also recovering from childbirth, which is no walk in the park. (...) you really should be trying -- at least a little -- to take it easy and take care of yourself.
Mmmm-hm. Here's what I wrote two weeks after my second son was born:
Yesterday was my husband's first day back to work and my first day alone with both children. Things started off with a bang — or more appropriately, a BLEURGH — at about 6 AM when Dylan horked the entirety of his morning feeding all over our bed, JB’s half-asleep body in particular. After JB left for the office, I managed to get Riley into his clothes and fed before Dylan woke up, at which point I fed the baby and strapped him in the front carrier where he instantly fell asleep. Feeling like SuperMom, I strode confidently down the hall to the living room, where I was assaulted by the reek of toddler poo. I briefly fantasized about a glorious day in the future when at least one kid would start crapping somewhere other than his own pants, and took Riley to his room to change him. Wearing Dylan on my front, I lifted Riley onto his low futon bed and bent over him to deal with his diaper. At some point during this process I felt my back register an Official Complaint, but since I was committed to the task at hand I ignored it, until 5 minutes later back in the living room I tried to pick Riley up to look out the window at a garbage truck outside and my back went, FUCK YOU.
My back went out so thoroughly I couldn’t even straighten up. I took Dylan out of the carrier and realized I had another diaper to contend with, so I lurched down to the baby’s changing table while crouched over like Quasimodo. Riley scampered behind, demanding to be put on our bed so he could “sing to Diwwan." Cute, except I couldn’t lift him, and his reaction to that was to have himself a big old screaming tantrum while I wrestled Dylan’s diaper off. It was only after I had the diaper undone and the baby’s poopy butt exposed that I realized the wipes container was empty, so holding Dylan’s feet in one hand (so he wouldn’t get them covered in poo) I had to flail blindly for the wipes refill package in a drawer, drag it out with one fingernail, and tear it open with my teeth, MEANWHILE Riley had wandered over to the bedroom door and closed it and was now yelling for me to OPEN DA DOOR MOMMY, over and over, and then of course Dylan peed all over everything and in the midst of getting him wiped up and dried and changing his onesie I lunged — still hunched over — to the door for a second to let Riley out, and which point he went to the outside of the door, shut it, and started screaming to be LET BACK IN.
A few minutes later I sent an email S.O.S. to JB, which basically read DOT DOT DOT DASH DASH DASH HALP. And my husband, to whom I do not attribute nearly enough credit on a regular basis, came home from work early to help me, because I was 1) an invalid at that point, thanks to my fubar’d back and 2) halfway to being Britney-level insane.
If only I'd FOCUSED ON HEALING.
2) Becoming a hermit. (...) if you hole up in the house, you're going to feel even more frumpy, isolated, exhausted and down. You and baby could really use some fresh air. Who cares if you haven't showered since Sunday? No one will smell you. Go out and walk around the block at the very least.
No YOU walk around the block, advice article. And put some goddamned makeup on while you're at it, you look like shit. PS: It's been seven years since I had my first kid and I STILL feel occasionally feel frumpy, isolated, and exhausted. Pretty sure this is called parenthood.
3) Stewing about breaking the birth plan. You swore you'd go drug-free but then begged for an epidural. You really wanted a water birth but had to get a c-section. It might not have happened the way you wanted it, but you and baby made it through childbirth and are A-OK and that's what's really important. Let it go and enjoy that baby.
Good advice -- really! It really is! -- and I wish I could say I followed it from day one. I didn't, though. I once wrote this about my childbirth second-guessing:
I can’t help wondering, was it all really necessary? Was my blood pressure really that bad, and how could it have been — I felt perfectly healthy! All that terrible magnesium, did I really need that? Should I have tried harder for the vaginal birth, should I have taken the Pitocin, would I have increased my chances of avoiding the surgery and the fuzziness with which I remember everything that happened? Wasn’t it completely unnnatural to pry Riley out of my body three weeks early, was any of it — the medication, the sickness, the haziness, the fruitless attempts at starting labor — necessary? Sometimes I just can’t help feeling like I did something wrong.
4) Stressing about every little thing. You name it and a new mom worries excessively about it. But other than legitimate safety and health concerns, you're pretty much just making yourself crazy.
Crazy? Come on, I wasn't crazy. It's not like I put a Q-tip up my son's ass the first week after he was ... oh wait, that's exactly what I did:
There is no denying the fact that we are brand new at this, and sometimes feel less than confident about what we're doing. For instance, JB has created an Excel sheet where we obsessively enter data about Riley's input and output. It has columns for the quantity of milk he's consumed, the time of day he ate, and the amount in both ounces and milliliters. There are also entry fields for the time of day he had a dirty diaper, and the contents of said diaper as defined by the following terms: "Full Meal Deal," "Golden Shower," or "Log Patrol."
I began worrying about the state of Riley's butt yesterday, when I noticed we hadn't had occasion to mark down a Full Meal Deal or a Log Patrol in quite a while. Since midnight Monday morning, actually. He'd been watering his diapers on a regular basis, but had produced no poop whatsoever, despite the number of increasingly anxious inspections I gave his lower region.
As a person currently struggling with the fact that I've had both major abdominal surgery and many dosings of a codeine-based narcotic in the last week, I can identify with the discomfort caused by, um, not moving the mail, if you get my drift. I can only assume the pain level goes up when you're less than 2 feet long from stem to stern and your USPS service has been on hold for almost two whole days.
As we lay in bed together late last night, JB admitted that he had begun feeling nervous as well. We had just decided to hold off calling 911 for the moment, but resolved to contact the doctor in the morning, when something occurred to me. A distant memory of something I read, either online or elsewhere, about constipation in babies and a method for relief. "Listen," I told JB. "You're going to think I'm crazy, but ..."
After a quick search on Google to confirm I was in fact remembering something legitimate, we prepped ourselves for Operation Riley: Venting Prevents Explosion. A container of vaseline. A Q-tip. A strategically placed diaper, and a container of wet wipes within close range.
Friends, we put a Q-tip up our infant son's butt last night. Just the tip, mind you, we didn't go rooting for truffles in there or anything, we inserted the lubed-up tip and swirled it around gently. As for the results — well, have you ever seen how a sausage machine works? Or, wait, better yet, a Play-Doh Fun Factory? Actually, just imagine an extra-full tube of toothpaste that's been heartily squeezed, and —
Anyway. I guess we're officially parents now, because I can't imagine what other situation would have us so tearfully joyous over a wet pile of human feces.
5) Not saying yes to offers to help. Someone offers to watch baby? Do a load of laundry? Make you a sandwich and get you a drink of water? (...) Take them up on it. This is the time in your life when you really need a trip to the salon, a nap, and some good old-fashioned nourishment and hydration.
Am I the only frumpy, isolated loser who wasn't exactly inundated with sandwich-bearing Good Samaritans after giving birth, and in fact had to clean house for visiting family with a newborn strapped to my chest?
6) Taking advice that goes against your gut. That advice (...) you think just doesn't seem right, well, it probably isn't.
Ah, yes. Like this thoughtless, timeless advice I once saw in Working Mother magazine:
Hey, why not take your child’s most cherished object and cut it into pieces? Just picture the delight on their face when they discover a severed chunk of their beloved blanket in their lunchbox! Perhaps you could include a little note from Mom: “Quit acting like such a goddamned baby or you’re next.”
Listen, we know your vagina is probably like an old baseball mitt filled with Bubble Yum, but that’s really no excuse not to make at least a cursory swipe at it with a razor once every few months or so, junglebush. Also, remember that it’s okay to have a few personal interests, even though that of course means you’re taking precious energy away from loving your children.
Email joke chains are ALWAYS appreciated. There are literally no exceptions.
Just let your husband have the ice cream, you fat harpy. But for god's sake, YOU'D better go out and walk around the block at the very least.
I definitely didn't follow that advice, but here's an incomplete list of totally-against-the-gut things I tried out of sheer desperation:
• Sleeping with a bar of soap under my sheet to relieve pregnancy-triggered Restless Legs Syndrome (didn't work)
• Rubbing Vicks Vapo-Rub on a congested baby's feet (didn't work)
• Waking a baby for a night feeding to try and get more sleep (totally didn't work)
• Putting a baby to bed before they're all the way asleep to teach him to drift off on his own (HA HA HA HA)
• Running a loud-ass vacuum cleaner next to a fussy baby to soothe him (worked like a goddamned charm)
7) Comparing your baby to your friend's. (...) every kid really does tackle milestones at his own pace. As long as baby's pediatrician says baby is progressing normally, it's not worth sweating over.
Yeah, I was a big fat failure on this front, too. I remember how it seemed like every baby that was the same age as my son was eating, like, calzones, and here's how my kid reacted to a spoonful of rice cereal:
For a while there, I was convinced he'd never eat real food. Like, ever. I pictured him at his graduation ceremony, taking a leisurely swig from a nippled milk bottle.
(On the plus side, at least I didn't cram a Q-tip up this one's butt.)
Did you make any of these 'Biggest New Mom Mistakes'?
Image via Linda Sharps