It’s pretty well established that pregnancy is an emotional time for a woman, and I am no exception.
I can hardly watch TV anymore without evoking a rushing river of emotions. Any onscreen character serves as a stand-in for my baby, and I find myself straining to figure out what made that child grow up to be a hoarder, or smoke crystal meth or leave her bra straps hanging out of a tacky outfit.
It’s no picnic for my husband either. The other night I watched a program where one character had been born with a vestigial tail. This prompted me to cry out, “Oh my god! What if our baby has a tail?! Do you think it would show up on the ultrasound? Should we have it surgically removed or just leave it on there?”
So when my sister and mom planned a baby shower extravaganza for me — with two events in two days — the crazy cocktail of hormones coursing through me was already lining up the perfect storm. Then the A/C quit.
My poor sister, in an effort to satisfy my average temperature of about 135 degrees, had cranked her A/C down so low the night before the first shower that the unit froze up and quit. As we watched the temperature inside climb to 80 degrees, my sister snapped into action. Armed with a hair dryer, she was able to thaw the unit out and get the A/C working, with about 45 minutes to spare.
By this time, the layer of deodorant I had applied to my entire body was about as useless as a vestigial tail. But, all things considered, I was doing a pretty good job of keeping my overflowing emotions in check. That is, until I opened the first gift.
What I thought was a published book called, “Parenthood From A to Z: Everything That Nobody Tells You Before You Get Knocked Up,” turned out to be something so much more special. As I flipped through the pages, I began to notice some familiar photos: me rocking my Bugs Bunny glasses at my first communion; me playing my super-cool flute to some preschoolers. Suddenly, I realized that the book was actually created for me by my college roommates.
In addition to being some of the funniest women I know, these gals have collectively brought 20 children into this world. (That’s a lot of mom power.) They gathered up their best bits of advice and handed them over to be compiled by my dear friend Kennedy, who’s the kind of girl who’s so smart and talented you just know you’ll one day be boasting that you knew her when.
I’ve now read their book countless times. Each time I do, I think how helpful, touching and well written it is, and how many moms I know who could benefit from all its helpful tips. So, with all credit given to Kennedy and the Playground girls, I thought I’d share a little bit of it here.
A is for Advice. Everyone’s an expert … As a parent, you become a magnet for unsolicited advice and criticism. Every once in a while, these “words of wisdom” are actually helpful, but most of the time, they’re either bad or just not right for your family. Here’s our two cents: pinpoint your “core” advisors — those that you trust the most for advice on parenting. They know your family and lifestyle better than the stranger in the grocery store or your nosy neighbor, and can help you make the choices that will work best for your child. As for all that unsolicited advice, decide if there’s anything in it you can use and ignore the rest.
D is for D-cup. Your much-admired D-cup only remains while breastfeeding. Then your breasts D-flate. Also note that breastfeeding may not be as natural as you think it should be. It can take a lot of work, including help from your husband. You are not a bad mom if you cannot do it.
F is for Forgetfulness. You are not losing your mind, and you are not alone. Parenting uses up the majority of your brain, so don’t be surprised when you find yourself forgetting even the simplest things. Go back to the basics: simplify, repeat names, write things down and give yourself extra time. Most importantly, be patient with yourself when you’re making that return trip to the grocery store because you forgot the thing that sent you there in the first place.
H is for Hormones. Postpartum hormones are a crazy, crazy beast. You are elated one moment, then drowning in a flood of tears the next. The physical and emotional enormity of giving birth and the realization of being a mother tend to hit home once you leave the hospital, which is when those crazy hormones overload your system, causing anxiety and stress. Don’t despair — it’s completely normal and won’t last.
N is for Negotiation. Never negotiate with terrorists — as in the ones aged 2 and 3. As your child gets older, negotiation can help him or her feel empowered while building trust and strengthening family ties. Pick your battles wisely, and remember that negotiating is not about winning or losing.
P is for Poop. You will become obsessed with your child’s poop. It’s a little gross, but completely normal. Just know that poop comes in many different sizes, shapes and colors, and just because it’s a little green one day doesn’t mean your child is hosting some horrible intestinal parasite. Beware of the poop shooter and turd thrower; they’ll get you when you least expect it.
Q is for Quiet Time. You will dread the day that your toddler no longer takes a nap. “Quiet time” to the rescue! Spending time alone in his or her room every day will help your child develop patience, focus, creativity and imagination. And while your “break” may not be as long as it used to be, you’ll still get some much needed “quiet time” yourself.
U is for Unit. Boys are obsessed with their “units” from the very beginning. Relax. It’s normal.
Z is for Zoo. Your child’s stuffed animal collection will start out innocently enough. Each holiday, birthday, or other occasion that calls for a gift, however, will serve to grow it exponentially. At some point, it may get so bad that the stuffed animals themselves begin procreating. Don’t let your house turn into a zoo. Keep the most special ones, and donate all of the rest.
Playground Girls: I am overcome with gratitude. I love you all and feel incredibly blessed to have you in my life.