1. The decisions you make about parenting your child. Motherhood, especially at the start, is as exhilarating as it is terrifying. The first six months were a balancing act of tears and diarrhea. You’re handed this perfect little person with an encouraging “Here’s your baby. Don’t shake it,” and the rest is up to you. And the judgments of my others.
“Have you tried nursing?” “You’re stillnursing?” “Ferber, right?” “Gerber, right?” “Modified Ferber?” “Organic Gerber?” “Andobviously paleo vegan baby-led weaning…” “You’re going to back to work? When will you even see her?” “You’re staying at home? OK…”
I felt like the more I fell in love with this little person, the more daunting each decision became — I was so afraid I’d mess her up. Every crossroad was met with a swarm of unsolicited opinions, and as much as I’d try to put my blinders up, I couldn’t help but to see all of them in my periphery and feel like I should apologize if I made other choices. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a mom, it’s that you have to tune out the noise and trust your instinct. Nobody knows what you and your baby need more than you.
2. Showing your breasts in public. The choice of whether or not to nurse can be a biggie. If you do choose to give it a go, babies weirdly don’t always wait until you’re home with a Boppy, nursing bra, and season one of Younger to get hangry. They sometimes wait for you to be in a shift dress on Yom Kippur. Nursing is hard, and it’s nearly impossible if you’re consumed with not offending those around you with your gorgeous mom boobs or — HEAVENS, NO — your outlandish request for a place to pump. Once you free yourself of the worries of others, you’ll be shocked by how much easier it becomes to complete the task at can.
Truth time: I’ve always been painfully self-conscious about my breasts. I’ve been apologizing for them since I can remember, but now, I feed my kid and I feel good about them for the first time in my life. They have purpose and power, and I suppose I do too. They’re real and they’re fabulous and I am so not sorry.
3. Your baby being, like, a baby. The last thing I need to worry about when I fly is packing your adult self a goodie bag as an advance apology for my baby inevitably losing her shit (not in the literal sense, though that too). The last thing I need to buy is a round of drinks for your table because we dare to dine at 4:30 on a Tuesday. The last thing I need to make after a sleepless night of crying newborn is a batch of cookies for the neighbor who shares her wall (which works both ways, Scott). I try tirelessly to make each experience as smooth as possible, but there’s often turbulence. Babies be babies.
4. Your kid not sharing toys. While I can’t guarantee we’ll be on time to your play date or not poop your exersaucer (one of us), I promise my daughter will grab every toy your kid tries to play with and put it straight into her mouth. At the beginning, I’d apologize to the other moms, but I never really meant it — it was more a courtesy thing. Babies are just figuring out how to behave around others and make friends. Turns out, we are too. We’ll learn eventually.
5. Not being the cool mom. I remember thinking how effortlessly chic my version of motherhood would look. I’d birth my kids in my loft beneath artful nudes of my pregnant self so I could strap the baby on the next day to travel the world and see Phish with them rad baby headphones.
Yeah, so if anyone tried to come near my nakedness with a camera, they would not have lived to tell the tale. I gave birth in a hospital with a roommate who ate my miso soup, among a team of nurses who saved me when I fainted trying to postpartum pee. Twice. The thought of living in a loft gives me palpitations (WHERE TO PUT THE GATES??!), and I don’t think we’ve ventured out of our zip code in 13 months (except when we Ubered to shift-dress Yom Kippur across town). I’ve never been less cool, but I’ve also never been happier.
6. Being the scheduled mom. While I appreciate you inviting the whole family, if your event doesn’t fall at either 11:45 or 4:15, we ain’t comin’. As much as I tried to fight it, baby girl loves a schedule. She likes naps in her crib and meals in her chair, and maybe that’s the reason she’s usually a pleasure to have around? (And maybe the reason I had a baby is so I’d have an excuse not to go to stuff? No! JK! I’d totally be there, but the naps, youguyyysss!) While it’s not the baby-headphoned life I’d envisioned, she takes naps and I take showers. Well, usually.
7. Not showering. Or sleeping. Or wearing underwear (go with it). As perfect and wonderful as my wonderfully perfect baby is, shit happens — sometimes straight through the overnight diaper at 3 a.m. Sometimes it literally hits the fan. And when it does, Mama’s all up in it.
When I brought my limp baby to the pediatrician after a night of norovirus and Pedialyte by the drop, the doc fully gagged when she leaned in to tell me I’d successfully kept my girl hydrated. I’d never felt more like a mother.
8. How much sex you’re having or not having. When someone broached the subject of sex after baby in my new moms’ support group, the leader nodded knowingly into her Tazo Serenity, “Mmmm. Coconut oil.” If only a natural lube available at Whole Foods was the solution. As if, Tai.
It’s no easy task to return to feeling at home in your body after baby. The pieces of you that you knew so well are suddenly as foreign as the baby who may be feeding off them (if you choose!). It can be exciting and horrifying to get the go-ahead to sex it up. Be honest with yourself and with your partner. Things hurt, they bleed, they leak. Tending to others is inherent to so many mothers. You do you (maybe literally). It’s vital to take the time you need to do (or not do) whatever it takes to get to know your new self and make no apologies as you regain control. After that, any lube will probably do.
9. Sharing so many (TOTES ADORBS) pictures on Facebook (and saying things like “totes adorbs”). It’s not like I set out to make the cutest baby in the history of the world — it just happened, and I’m only mostly responsible. Between my schedule, my stank, and all the sex I may choose to not be having, this whole mom thing can be isolating. I hate the thought that the people I miss are missing out on her. I’m proud of who she is, I’m proud to be her mom, and sometimes it just feels good to share. And I know it shouldn’t mean much, but when you tell me how happy she looks, it validates every scary, leaky, pantyless decision I’ve made. Plus, if a baby is Beyoncé on Halloween and no one is there to see it…
The one thing for which I will apologize: Being sorry all too often for all of the above. Try as I may to live unapologetically and confidently as a woman and as a mother, it turns out that old habits die hard. But here I have this little girl, and while I can’t always live a life full of baby headphones and free of apology, I look at my daughter with the hope that maybe she can. She’s never even uttered the words, “I’m sorry,” partly because she can’t talk, but go with it. I’m going to savor that while it lasts. Moms, if we ever need a reminder to end the trend, it’s staring us right in the terrified, uncool, stanky, sleepless, proud, happy face. We need to be their examples, so let them be ours. And for that, we are all #blessed. #SorryNotSorry.