This weekend Brian & I watched an episode of Scrubs where the main character describes the act of childbirth as performing all of your personal bodily functions while a group of strangers are all staring intently at you, DOWN THERE. And while a first-time pregnant person may think about what that means, nothing prepares you for the actual experience. Absolutely nothing. I've had annual doctor visits DOWN THERE and even minor surgical procedures DOWN THERE, and I was not prepared for it.
Neither was Brian, for that matter. He's still trying to champion the return of fathers to the waiting room.
There is an overwhelming loss of privacy that comes with motherhood. No one tells you about it except to perhaps mention that you'll never go to the bathroom again by yourself, and while you may think about what that means, none of that makes an impression on you until it actually happens to you.
But I've learned it's not just the delivery room, or even in the bathroom where these intrusions happen. During pregnancy, random strangers ask me when I'm due, what I'm having, how many kids I already have, if Helen's excited about the baby, what kind of foods I'm craving, which doctor I'm using, what hospital I'm going to, and so on. They tell me that I must be having a boy because I'm carrying high. Or that I'm having a girl because I'm pregnant "all over." (yeah, that was a new one for me, too.) AND THEY TOUCH MY BELLY. You know, I never thought of my body as a conversation piece, but okay. It's happened. I can deal with it.
Then the baby comes, and you end up sharing even more of your private moments with the world. Breastfeeding and diaper changing in public are just the beginning. Everyone wants to know how they sleep, how they eat, how much they weigh, if they cry a lot, or if they're happy. Sometimes they want to know how you're doing. Sometimes your child chooses the exact wrong moment to pass a little gas, or spit up on you, or god forbid, turn 3 and have a gigantic meltdown. If you're at the grocery store, or church, or a family reunion, you're dealing with all of these issues on a stage, where you're keenly aware of others watching your every move. You're hopeful that they sympathize, but deep down, as you try every trick in the book to avoid possible disaster, you can hear them all saying to themselves, "I would have done it differently." Add in the sleep deprivation and nagging self-doubt as you encounter everything about your baby for the first time, and you can see why first-time parents are nervous.
I'm a little less nervous this time around, but it's still a challenge to think about doing all of this again, because I'm well aware that every baby is different. I have told Brian from the beginning that based on my wealth of babysitting experience, Helen was very easy. Despite her early arrival, nothing held her back in terms of development. Her pediatrician was horrified to see us on her Day 2 checkup, after hearing that she was 5 weeks early. She couldn't believe her partner released Helen from the hospital, and then she examined her and realized we had a winner. During that first 2 months, we had mainly 3 issues: the breastfeeding was miserable; she was a tummy sleeper (and still is); and she really wanted to spend the first month being held. Once we fixed those issues, we made out like bandits. She was an awesome baby, even though we were chained to that pacifier, and I don't think any of the issues we had with her in her first year were unusual. In other words, without any personal parenting experience, we handled it all pretty well.
So I can't help but worry that we might be pushing our luck with this next one. Number Two has been hosting a karate class in my womb since the moment we figured out she was in there, and it's a little disturbing to think of what that might mean once she's out. Will this one have colic? More allergies? Will breastfeeding work for us this time? How will she sleep? What if there's something wrong? What if we can't figure out what she needs?
Maybe that's why random strangers ask so many questions. They could be looking for some validation that they made the right choices with their own kids. And I understand that, really I do. I like to think that Helen was easy to take care of because I knew what I was doing. The second baby may just blow that little theory out of the water.