I’m so glad I had most of my babies before social media, before organic diapers, before those dangerous baby wipes that could make your baby’s butt fall off.
I know. It’s a scary world for moms today. So much information out there. Should you vaccinate? Medicate? Hibernate? Maybe it’s better not to take your baby anywhere. Maybe you should just stay home and worry as you process every ounce of your baby’s absolutely pure and wholesome baby food. Don’t use a blender. Use a spoon. A green spoon. Not the color green. Don’t use anything painted around your baby, ever! The planet-friendly kind of green. It’s safer. Make it from scratch. Grow it yourself. Fork to table. Table to baby. After all, you are in complete control of your baby’s health and wellbeing?
It’s absolutely, positively, completely up to you?
Or is it?
Can I just let you off the hook now? The truth is, you have very little control and as your babies grow up, you’ll have even less. Brace yourself now for teenagers. “Control is a facade,”I told my daughter, Cami today as we sat on the floor playing with her daughter, KJ. “You don’t really have it.”
Cami is a young mom feeling the pressure of raising her baby in a generation filled with a lot of loud information and can I gently say, some quiet desperation? Really. I know so many young moms desperately wondering if they are doing it right. I wondered that too when I was young, but it didn’t change my mom behavior much. I wasn’t desperate at all. I was just dumb. You could buy Pampers or Huggies when Cami was a baby. I settled on Huggies and never looked back. Even when a well-meaning older woman (someone who never had children of her own, mind you) bought me a year’s worth of diaper service. All I had to do was wash the poop out in the toilet and send the soiled diapers, packed in sealed baggies, back to the service for cleaning. They’d send the laundered diapers back to me somehow in sealed baggies. I never researched how.
I’ll be really honest, rinsing poop out in the toilet like my mom’s generation did, didn’t appeal to me. I wasn’t thinking about the wellbeing of the planet when I was twenty-three years old with my first baby. I was thinking about how much sleep I could wrangle out in the middle of the night for myself. It was so much easier to throw a disposable diaper in the trash than to walk down the hall to the bathroom for a midnight washing when I could hardly keep my eyes open. People say, “I don’t know how you’ve raised seven kids.” Truthfully, I don’t know how I raised one.
And on that first one, I’m not sure that lady ever forgave me for snubbing her environmentally sound gift, but Huggies served me well for all of my children. Recently, I went to a baby shower. I always try to buy diapers for new moms along with a thoughtful gift. The kind of poop-catcher they list on their registry. I am happy to purchase cloth, Pamper’s, Huggies, whatever, but was a bit shocked when I saw the price tag on the organic ones requested. I don’t know how young moms afford those organic things unless you’re a Kardashian.
But it’s probably just like me buying Huggies in my generation. That woman who gave me the diaper service gift said to me, “I don’t know how you afford those expensive disposable diapers of your day and age.”
I hope you understand what I’m saying here. I had to figure diapers out for myself. Learning to be a mom took time, patience, trial and error. Sometimes errors happened every day. I once gave Cami a Kentucky Fried chicken leg in her car seat while I was driving. Cami wasn’t three-years-old yet. When I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw her gnawing on the bone. It was down to the nub, no bone left, really. She’d eaten nearly a whole chicken bone before I skidded sideways on the highway, throwing gravel all over the place as I plowed off the pavement and threw open my car door in a swirl of dust. I jerked my baby out of her car seat prepared to do the Heimlich Maneuver on her to save her life. Of course, she started crying. Who wouldn’t cry when your mom nearly crashes the car and kills you just to save you when you didn’t even need saving.
“We should take her to the hospital,” I told my husband after rushing home, crying along with Cami.
“She’ll be fine,” Scott said, sitting in front of a football game, drinking a beer. “She may end up barking, but she’ll be okay.”
“Barking?” I was so upset I was shaking all over.
“Yeah, like a dog.” My husband laughed.
“We don’t even give our dogs chicken bones! That’s so dangerous!” My voice rose in hysteria.
“Yeah we do,” said Scott. “I give them chicken bones whenever you’re not home. Haven’t killed a dog yet.”
“You donkey!” I hollered at my husband. Okay, I didn’t call him a donkey, it was the other word, but I meant the same thing. “What if the chicken bone shreds her stomach and she bleeds to death?” I cried.
“Cami, are you okay?” Scott took Cami from my trembling arms. “Your mom’s freaking out. Do you think she’ll be okay?” Cami settled down and stopped crying in her daddy’s strong, calm arms.
The happy ending of this story is that we were both okay. I watched Cami for any sign of trauma, she showed none, and examed her poop for a week, but never saw any chicken bone. We both survived that motherhood mishap and many more mistakes I made along the way.
So many times, I have messed up with my kids, and they are all doing fine. We gave them all their vaccinations except for the middle grade one for HPV. The thought of seventh graders having sex made me break out in hives. Plus, the vaccine was new when Cami and her sister Lacy were middle schoolers. What were the side effects? My girls weren’t guinea pigs. But I didn’t pressure other moms to skip that vaccination. Just like I didn’t pressure moms over the kind of diapers they used. Or if they should breastfeed or not breastfeed. I think we should pass a rule that we all just mom and let mom, like live and let live. My goodness, I’m just so grateful our oldest kids survived me and my husband.
When we lived in Germany, we took Cami to bars in a backpack. Maybe they thought we were crazy Americans, but nobody said anything to us. In Germany, people gave their kids beer. That was normal. When I was pregnant with our second child, my German cousin tried to get me to drink beer along with everyone else.
“I can’t, I’m pregnant,” I told him.
He shook his old gray head at me like I didn’t know anything. “Beer is good for babies,” he insisted, pointing at my protruding stomach. Obviously, it hadn’t hurt his kids. They were brilliant computer programmers in Germany making a lot of money, living in really nice houses in Munich.
“You know you could have done better than all your straight A’s in high school,” Scott said to Cami her senior year. “That beer we gave you in Germany probably killed some of your brain cells. That’s why you’re not a 4.6. You’re only a 4.0 GPA.”
Cami also drank apple juice from a bottle until she was like six or something. Okay, maybe she was four, but she was a juice girl and loved her bottle. It never hurt her teeth, they are straight and beautiful, lucky girl. She has her dad’s teeth. He brushes like once a month and never had a cavity in his life. I brush four times a day and have a filling in every tooth. I know. I’m exaggerating. If Scott didn’t brush his teeth, I wouldn’t kiss him, and we kiss a lot, but really, he doesn’t take very good care of his teeth and never needs the dentist. I, on the other hand, brush, floss, and stand on my head to send a good blood supply to my chompers, and still, they’ve given me trouble most of my life. All right. I don’t stand on my head. But still, Scott inherited good teeth. I didn’t.
Some of our kids got his good teeth. Some got mine. Often times, a child’s health is in the genes, not in your parenting ability. And I know some great babies with lousy parents and lousy babies with amazing parents. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t know any lousy babies. Babies are the best.
But we now have a running joke in our family. “Do you even have a baby?!” Luke said to Drew, Cami’s husband, about six months ago when all Luke and Alex’s baby did was cry, while Cami and Drew’s baby was sleeping through the night. Luke was walking his howling infant around the neighborhood. Luke and Cami both lived in the same little town for a few months when they first had their babies.
Luke was doing everything he could to quiet his raging son. Just for the record, Luke was a raging baby too, full on colic for the first five months. I wouldn’t have wished this payback on him, but am so proud of what a great dad he is to his hard baby. Not a bad baby, a hard baby. And Alex is an awesome mom.
Luke stopped by Drew and Cami’s house while walking his hard baby, and his sister and brother-in-law were happily watching TV at seven o’clock at night. KJ was in her crib already asleep for the night. That’s when Luke blurted his famous line and our whole family says it now. All the time.
“Do you even have a baby?!”
The truth is some babies are hard, others are easier, but all babies are a lot of work. And little ones are far more resilient than you could ever imagine. This is no excuse to be a bad parent, but I’m not writing this blog post for bad parents. I know you’re a good mom. You’re doing everything you can to do what’s best for your baby. And you’re doing just fine.
I want to leave you with one more piece of advice. Okay, two, no three bits of wisdom before I go: try to relax, have fun with your baby, and if you think there’s something wrong, please don’t Google it! Say a prayer and go see your pediatrician. Chances are, the pediatrician will tell you that your baby’s doing just fine and you are too.
Here I am with my baby, Cruz, not a baby anymore, that’s for sure, he’s seven now. And my grandson, Cam, who has given his mom and dad a run for their money since arriving last October. Cam has outgrown his colic, and he is the cutest little guy ever. His dimples could usher in world peace, but he smiles when he’s good and ready to smile.
I hope this picture makes you smile. You can’t see his dimples here, I have no idea why. He has deep ones like his Papa Scott and his mommy’s beautiful brown eyes.
And here’s a cousin picture for you because I am a proud Poppy. That’s the grandma name I chose for myself. Will the grandkids call me “Poppy?” Probably not. Scott says they will call me “Poopie.” I grew up with my grandpa and my brother calling me Poopie so I can live with that. With grandkids like these– look at his sweet little hand on her leg– they can call me anything and I’ll come running.