My daughter napped in three places during our first two weeks home: the stroller, the car, or, more often than not, on my chest.
“It’s normal,” the public health nurse explained when she called, adding they often grow out of contact napping. She finished with advice I had received many times heading into maternity leave.
“Enjoy the snuggles.”
Assured everything sounded normal, I resolved to do just that. Settled on the couch with a warm blanket, an iced coffee, and the remote, I enjoyed snuggling my sweet baby.
I was not surprised when the enjoyment faded. I expected it. As a person who is used to being on the go and getting things done, I knew the stillness would give way to restlessness. When it did, we hauled out the swing, buckled baby in, turned it on, and hoped for the best.
And for two glorious hours, my daughter slept, soothed by the gentle back and forth motion.
I felt great.
I did dishes. I started supper. Then, out of nowhere, the motor died. The swing slowed, then stopped.
My daughter woke instantly.
I did the only thing there was to do at the moment: I held my crying baby while searching the make and model of the swing online. Turns out, I wasn’t the only parent to experience betrayal by this swing. Information about where to buy and how to install a new motor also abounded, but I knew neither my husband nor I had the bandwidth for that.
My next move was to send a text to a friend from work who was also on parental leave.
“Hey! Was it you who said they had a swing?”
The response, literally one minute later:
“Yep! I can drop it off to you . . .”
A couple of days later, the swing was outside my door.
Being pregnant amid a global pandemic is a strange experience.
Solo appointments, online classes, masked baby showers–it’s all so far from what one normally associated with the time spent growing a human being.
But as peculiar as I found being pregnant during such an uncertain time, it pales in comparison to the experience of becoming a parent for the first time during a pandemic.
At my core, I am an introvert. While I certainly missed friends and family during the early days of the pandemic, I did not find it too difficult to endure physical distancing and single household bubbles. Time alone is important to me. It’s how I charge my batteries, how I refill my well.
But the isolation hits different when you’re suddenly responsible for the daily care of another person.
Sometimes thinking about how the pandemic impacted my introduction to motherhood makes me sad. But as my daughter’s infancy fades into the distance, I am realizing my postpartum experience taught me something important.
A new mama doesn’t forget who showed up. Nor does she forget who was nowhere to be found.
A lesson learned the hard way, but I’m committed to doing better. For me, that starts with an apology.
To the mamas in my life who welcomed babes before me: I’m sorry for all the times I was nowhere to be found. I’m sorry for not understanding how having a child turned your world upside-down and for not realizing how hard it is to know what you want and need when you’re in the thick of it. I’m sorry for putting that on you. I’m sorry it took going through it myself to understand why that’s a problem. I hope you can forgive me, but I understand if you can’t.
And to the new mamas and mamas-to-be in my life, I want you to know right now that you can borrow my Exersaucer. Or my steam sterilizer. Or my baby beach tent.
You stay home. I’ll drop it off. Can I bring you a coffee, too?
Have a question? Text me any time. Seriously. Even if it’s 3 a.m. I might not answer right away every time, but I’ll always respond. And if I don’t have the answer, I’ll help you find it.
Need a home-cooked meal? Someone to pick up your groceries? Someone to hold the baby so you can shower or nap or just have a moment for yourself without a baby attached to you? I’m there. And yes, I will wash my hands before I touch your precious little one.
Because it’s true: a new mama doesn’t forget who showed up. Nor does she forget who was nowhere to be found. Having lived through this, I know the best way to pay it forward is simple . . . be the one who shows up.