You’re doing great.
Tell yourself that. Over and over again. You. Are. Doing. Great.
When moms (particularly first-time moms) walk into my Seattle newborn photography studio, they pretty much all have one thing in common: the “look”. It’s a look that’s subtle, but it radiates from their entire body. The look says “She will be the one to realize that I have no idea what I’m doing. No. Flipping. Idea.”
At first, I not-so-humbly thought it was because they thought I was a baby expert since I see far more babies than many people. The more I think about it though, the more I realize it has less to do with me and more to do with the absolutely unreasonable amount of pressure we put on ourselves. To help you out, I’m going to tell you a secret: when it comes to mommying, none of us have a clue if we’re nailing this parenting thing. Not a single one of us.
As someone who sees at least 50 babies a year, I’m going to break it down for you one mom-shame at a time. Buckle up (and you better be buckling up in a top-of-the-line bullet-proof military tank because nothing else is safe enough, right?).
Let’s get this one out of the way now, because it actually is pretty important. Yes, your baby needs a car seat. Yes, it needs to be installed properly. No, your baby won’t break a leg if they’re not in a $1000 car seat when you shut the door too hard. A couple of things to keep in mind when purchasing and using your car seat:
- Buy it new. This is one of the few items that you really cannot buy secondhand. Once a car seat is in an accident, it’s no longer usable (even if it has no sign of damage).
- Proper size for your baby. This information can all be found in the owner’s manual.
- Proper installation. Child Passenger Safety technicians will inspect your car seat installation, typically at no charge. This is a great thing to do n your 7th or 8th month. To locate a CPS tech near you, visit (www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/childps/contacts/)
Honestly, if there’s one thing you take out of this post, let this be it: properly using a car seat matters. That’s why I like to take your baby out of the seat: I can make sure he’s positioned properly and am happy to help you out if not. What doesn’t matter? If you buy a $49 car seat at Target instead of a $1000 at a fancy baby boutique. Do what works for YOU.
Boob vs. Bottle
Just uddering (see what I did there) those words is enough to start a civil war. “I’m horrible for feeding my baby formula”. “People look at me like a floozy for nursing in public”. “My baby tried to nurse from our puppy”. Listen. Take these fears and drown them in a milkshake (except maybe the last one, that’s kinda weird). If you’re wondering if you’re doing the feeding thing right, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my baby eating happily?
- Is my baby growing?
- Am I happy with the feeding arrangement?
- Is my partner happy with the feeding arrangement?
If you answered “yes” to some or all of the above, tell anyone who questions your decisions to kick rocks.
Oh pacifiers. I remember being told with my first one that if I gave my son a pacifier that I should give up any hope of ever breastfeeding and he’d need it until he was twelve and I may as well let him suck on an open bottle of Jack Daniels. You know what? When I finally caved and gave it to him, he freakin loved it. Which meant I loved it. Which meant my husband loved it. Which meant for the few peaceful minutes it was in his mouth, there was nothing in the home but love and a whole lot of dirty laundry. But mostly love. The laundry was always there, we just pretended like it wasn’t.
With my second, I asked for a paci pretty much before he took his first breath. He hated it. I got frustrated that he wouldn’t take it. My husband got frustrated that I got frustrated that he wouldn’t take it. The baby got frustrated because (as we later learned) he’s a stubborn sweetheart who doesn’t want to be told what to do.
Moral of that story? What’s right for one family may not be right for yours, and what’s right for one kid may not be right for another. Do what works for your baby, your family and yourself.
Yeah, I’m going there. Personally, I’m a huge proponent of vaccines. I think they’ve essentially eradicated most deadly, contagious diseases. I vaccinate myself and my children. I do it to not only protect my beautiful family, but to protect your baby who is too young for most vaccines. I do it to protect the beautiful babies, kids and adults with cancer or other diseases that cause compromised immune systems. I do it to protect those who don’t believe in vaccines.
I don’t make my decision in order to obtain a sense of moral superiority.
No matter what you choose, I trust that you’re doing what you feel is best and safest for your family and those around you. Even if your decision is different from my own, I respect that you are doing what you believe to be the right choice, just like me. If anyone ever questions you, remind them that you are making what you feel to be the best possible decision for your child.
Anytime you think you don’t look beautiful in your new mom life, remember that I spent pregnancy (and a solid year after that) looking like Danny Devito as Penguin. Eat your heart out.
In all seriousness though, do not come into my newborn photography studio worried about how you look. You literally gave someone life. Not in a sixteen year-old on Facebook screaming “ADELE GIVES ME LIFE!”, but in a “I grew you and brought you into this world” kind of way. You created a human out of nothing. And you love that little creature more than yourself. I can see it in your eyes. And if that’s not beautiful, I don’t know what is.
Love yourself, stop worrying, and trust that you will raise this tiny human to the best of your ability. Whatever you choose, I will stand beside you and throw water balloons at anyone who questions your choices.