Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, and Rosanna Unson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
There is a peacefulness I remember in the first two weeks of my baby’s life. In between those insane, chaotic moments in our lives, I remember it as a time where the three of us (mother, father, baby) learned the ropes on how to be a brand new family. We never left the apartment those first two weeks, and I wanted to cocoon ourselves in that safe space for as long as we could.
Eventually, I knew we had to see the outside world. Baby and I were getting cabin fever, and I was missing my family and friends. It should’ve been simple enough to haul us out of the apartment, but I didn’t think I’d be so paralyzed with fear and anxiety.
I was so afraid of my baby having a meltdown in public and not being able to pacify her. At that point, my breastfeeding wasn’t so great yet and both the husband and I were still figuring out how to put her to sleep. If I were to dissect my emotions further, I was also so scared of having to deal with people judging my parenting skills. Sure, a lot of it was unfounded. But doubt always has a way of eating you up.
My friends and relatives whom I haven’t heard from in a long time all had something to say about my baby and me. Everyone means well, but it’s so easy to drown in all the advice and feel incompetent. Some friends already cautioned me that this was part and parcel of being a parent. Everyone has an opinion, and a lot of them will feel compelled to share it.
I wasn’t the type who’d care too much about external validation, but motherhood did something to me. All of a sudden, I started caring about what people would think about my baby. She unleashed a love I never knew and for all the grief she puts me through, she also happens to be sweet, adorable, and attentive. I don’t know why it mattered to me so much that people should spare my baby from their scrutiny. Maybe it means making sure she’s a good baby.
And by today’s Instagram standards, that means a perpetually serene baby, a baby ready for her next Facebook photo op in cutesy clothes, a baby with zero functioning bodily fluid expulsions. Curation already begins in the cradle.
That is not my child, though. My daughter rarely smiles for pictures, has a sparse wardrobe (courtesy of her broke ass parents), wails like a banshee, and poops, pees, drools, and vomits like it’s no one’s damn business. This doesn’t mean she’s a bad baby—it only means she’s a baby.
Baby’s big day out
Her father and I try our best. We learned that she’s a happy latcher no matter where we are. Going out in public made me so grateful that we breastfed because I was so surprised at how simple it was to pop out a boob to feed her. Our friends and family didn’t mind—that gave me enough affirmation to try feeding at restaurants and parks. When boobage didn’t work, we discovered that our daughter loves being propped on her daddy’s shoulder.
Once we figured out this system (mom = boob; dad = shoulder), we learned to take shifts when we’re out, similar to how we do it at home. If the baby is fussy, one of us holds her, while the other one eats. The only way we were able to master this outside was by doing it. We eased into it by choosing only to go to small gatherings at homes then little by little, the hospital, mall, and church.
My husband was ahead of the game more than I was. He was the one who kept reassuring me that our baby will be a baby, and the planet will have to live with that. He was right, but I needed to know that the mama bear in me exists. I wanted to be prepared for people who would unfairly criticize our parenting and my child. I needed to sharpen my claws and to practice baring my teeth. I wanted to be able to protect my child.
Then I snapped out of it. Understanding that the world can be a cruel place doesn’t mean that I should move heaven and earth to shield my kid from it. Rather, I should be making sure my kid learns how to withstand it.
The universe rewarded my neurosis by giving me a baby daughter who loves being around people. Already, she likes eavesdropping on conversations and doesn’t mind being carried by strangers. She loves car rides and marvels at the sights outside her window. I have a baby who seems to love the world and isn’t afraid of it. She’ll still throw a fit when she’s uncomfortable but her trust in the world is breathtaking.
This mommy needs to learn more from her baby.