There are benefits to having kids later in life — more stability financially, more experience living and knowing what you believe in and hopefully more support in the form of friends and family. But the other side of that coin is that older mothers have plenty of time to form opinions of what motherhood will be like. As a 36-year old first time mom, I definitely had ideas of what I thought child rearing would be like and some of them have held true. Some, not so much. Here are the first five lessons I’ve learned since bringing my daughter home in late September.
- Dressing a baby is a full contact sport. My mother in law has often told me how she would change her first born daughter five or six times just because she had so many cute clothes to wear. While I get the impulse —my daughter is the first grandchild on my husband’s side and the first in-town on my side so she has more clothes that Imelda Marcos had shoes — dressing a baby is very different than dressing a doll. That seems obvious, right? Wrong. I am not one to change her clothes unnecessarily and I’m a big fan of the zip up sleeper but there is real comedy involved in getting onesies with long sleeves on the child that I’ve already nicknamed Wigglebritches McGillicutty. Imagine the scene from Kill Bill Vol. 1 where the Black Mamba faces off with Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii. That’s what it’s like as her hands whip around with nails as sharp as a Hattori Hanzo sword because I’m terrified of actually clipping them and legs fly in what can only be described as a martial ballet dedicated to staying as naked as possible.
- Perfume’s intended purpose is to cover the scent of spit up. I know, I know, Calvin Klein and Yves St. Laurent want you to think that eau de perfume makes you ooze sensuality but in reality, it just barely masks the fact that while you did shower today, you didn’t shower immediately before leaving the house which is what it would take to avoid having a geyser of partially digested liquid gold on your shirt, shoulder or pants. So thanks, army of perfumers for making me slightly more acceptable in public.
- It’s not as hard as I expected. Based on my extensive readings of the internets, the source of all wisdom and power, the first two months of having a child are designed to kill you. You will never shower. You’ll never have a hot beverage or meal. Your sleep will take place while microwaving Trader Joe’s chicken tikka masala for your similarly sleep-deprived partner. And yes, it is a challenge but I have to think that the harder parts are coming later. I have been blessed with a child that likes to sleep, eats well and generally seems pretty happy to be here, so maybe my experience has been different than most but I shower often, drink hot coffee and can still drive a car without appearing sleep drunk. It can happen.
- Breastfeeding. They say it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever love, and they are right. There’s something ineffable about being able to sustain another human life using only your body (although fed is best. I truly believe that.). What they don’t tell you is that the most precious smiles, smirks and gurgles will happen while breastfeeding and you’ll want to take a photo of it and send it to everyone you’ve ever met. But you won’t. Why? Because sending pictures of your nipple is just not acceptable in modern society. Those are memories that you’ll just have to treasure yourself.
- People are kinder than you expect. As an older mom, I’ve read all of the treatises of people that are annoyed when babies cry in stores, when strollers block aisles or when babies even exist on an airplane. I’m preconditioned to apologize for my baby making the slightest noise. But in my experience, when she has cried or spit up in a store, I’ve been met with kindness and sympathy, from other customers and from store clerks. I’ve had older women help me with carts as I struggle through a parking lot and had the Target clerk offer to let me breastfeed in the dressing rooms. Although there are those people that will vilify parents, there are many more that remember those nascent days of trying to balance it all and are willing to lend a hand when you need it most. It restores my faith in humanity each time it happens.
My daughter will be three months on Christmas Eve. The learning curve is steep but fun at the same time. I can’t wait to see what the next three months teach me!