Over the years I’ve read a few articles, blog posts and the like about first time moms vs. second, third and beyond. We’ve all seen some variation of the joke above. Some are hilariously funny, some ring true. However, I find that some are downright condescending and poke fun at first time moms.
I’ve been there. You don’t have to pass a test or exam (unless you count pregnancy tests & doctor’s appointments) to have a baby and to “omg take this little person home for whom I am now completely responsible!” As I first time mom, I didn’t have friends or family who’d had babies recently to look to. Of course, I wanted to do everything right and keep my new baby safe.
Having a baby is always exciting & miraculous, but there’s something extra special about your very first baby. It’s all so new, and it’s the very first time you’ll find out what it’s like to love this tiny little stranger more than you ever thought possible. Though I’m not a big fan of “stuff” (I have a short list of new mom must haves at this point), I was drawn to baby stuff like a moth to a flame as a first time mom. I loved looking at all the doo dads, and I had my nursery all set up by the time I was in my 3rd trimester. We got a pretty crib and a matching glider rocker (with ottoman and optional nursing stool), we chose unfinished furniture & stained it to match the crib. The nursery was decorated with Classic Pooh and had a matching changing pad cover, diaper stacker, lamp and wall art. The closet was organized and the tiny socks were waiting in the dresser. The pack & play was set up in the family room for downstairs diaper changes. These days (baby 3) we change diapers on the couch or bed and the extent of my nursery decorating was a blanket and a night light that matched.
With my first baby, I carried a big diaper bag with everything but the kitchen sink. I always had a toy, a book, some snacks and a drink. Now? Regular purse with a little wet bag containing some band aids & hand wipes. Cloth diapers stay in a wet/dry bag in the car and I only bring it along if I think I’ll need it. That big old diaper bag included disinfecting wipes so I could wipe down the toys at the pediatrician’s office before my daughter played with them. Now, I just make sure they wash their hands afterwards. I never put my daughter in a grocery cart or high chair without a floofy cover, and I was horrified to see other kids gnawing on the grocery cart handle. Baby #3 typically rode in the baby carrier while we shopped, but if he sits in the cart, I just wipe the handle down before he gets in, and remember to wash our hands afterwards. I’m not a big fan of germs but once my oldest started school, it was futile to do much more than wash our hands constantly.
Everyone in my family thought I was crazy for not wanting my newborn baby passed around the room crowded with visitors. I wanted people to wash their hands first, and not kiss my kids’ hands or wear their filthy shoes to stomp all over the rug she played on and even put her mouth on. OK, some things never change. I still think it’s rude and ridiculous to visit a newborn baby when you are ill, have recently been ill, or think you might be getting ill. It’s common sense to wash your hands or use sanitizer before asking to hold a new baby. When my daughter was in preschool (she and her brother are more than 4 years apart in age, so she was still my only at that point,) if she had a runny nose or was sick in any way, I thought I should keep her home. Who wants to be responsible for getting a bunch of 3 year olds sick? Her teacher said that if everyone stayed home for things like that, no one would ever be at school! Now I follow the rules of no fever or vomiting for 24 hours and so forth. I also keep the kids home if they just really aren’t feeling well & don’t seem to be themselves. If they have been sick or are coughing/sniffly, I’d let a friend know before asking them for a playdate, so they could decide whether to come.
The first time my daughter was sick enough to throw up, I was panicked. Not that anyone likes vomit, but it was really hard for me to handle. Between the constant washing and scrubbing and not being able to make her feel better, to the puke paranoia, I think I aged about 10 years. My heart skipped a beat every time she coughed for months after that. By the time baby #2 rolled around, we seemed to pass around a stomach bug once a year. I was just happy when only one child was throwing up at a time, and gave the kid a mental high five if it landed on the hard wood instead of the carpet.
Every child teaches you something, and just when you think you have this motherhood thing figured out, they knock you off your high horse. I’m the mother of 3 now and my oldest is 9. I look back at how I was with my first child and laugh a little, cringe a little and roll my eyes a lot. Yet, compared to a mom of 4 whose oldest is 13, I’m a complete motherhood noob.
My idea of what’s important and how to do things has changed dramatically. I’ve learned to let things go and focus on what really matters. There’s no right way to parent whether you’re a first time mom or fifth. We’re influenced by our own childhoods, our past experiences, and those of our close friends and family. You have to do what works for you and your family, and sometimes what works for that moment. You may do things differently as you become a veteran mom, but it doesn’t mean you weren’t doing a fantastic job as first time mom.