Balancing Act

Expectant Mothers Say the Darndest Things
Forget that popular book about what to expect when you’re pregnant. If expectant women want to get the real scoop, all they have to do is attend their own baby shower. Oh, sure, at first it’s all polite chatter about the big event, what adorable names have been chosen for the coming bundle of joy, and enough finger sandwiches and hand-print cookies to choke a horse. But around the time the last of the punch has been scooped out of the crystal bowl, all of the experienced women get down and dirty.

I hadn’t attended a baby shower since my own more than seven years ago, when I heard the phrase “you just wait” more times than I could count. Being a fairly young, college-educated woman (a deadly combination in terms of know-it-allness), I thought I had a pretty good handle on what the birth experience and impending motherhood would bring. I was wrong, of course, as are all expectant women who think they have a clue about motherhood. But, hey, at least I was staunch in my error-filled beliefs.

I was reminded of this experience recently when I attended a baby shower for my cousin—a fairly young, college-educated woman. She and her husband had registered for baby gifts at one of those stores where you can print out a list and buy from the items they had selected.

I looked down the list, laughing silently so as not to alarm my fellow shoppers. A lullaby CD? What sleep-deprived mother has the fine motor skills at 2 a.m. to open a CD case, take out the CD, push the little button on the stereo that opens the CD compartment, place the CD on the little tray, push the button that sucks the tray back into the depths of the machine, and hit the “play” button? It’s hard enough to find your way into the baby’s room in the middle of the night, let alone go through a 100-step process just to hear soothing melodies about babies falling from broken tree boughs. Personally, I was so incapacitated as a new mother that after a couple of weeks I actually taught myself to walk from my bedroom to my son’s nursery, feed him, change him, and get him settled again—all without opening my eyes. Not surprisingly, I don’t remember a whole lot about that period.

Reviewing my cousin’s list again for equipment that she would actually touch again after removing the gift wrap, I settled on a breast milk storage kit, since I’m known among my intimates as something of a nursing nazi. I also threw in some pacifiers—even though they weren’t on the list—because you can never have enough pacifiers. In my experience, weird things tend to happen to pacifiers: the dog gets a hankering for a rubber nipple snack, they get tossed out of strollers and run over by the FedEx man, and once I even scraped the melted pieces out of the microwave. I have no idea how a pacifier got into the microwave in the first place—let alone nuked to splattered perfection—but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the midnight walks with my eyes closed.

It came time to open gifts at the shower, and everyone oohed and aahed appropriately over the little pink outfits (courtesy of the sonogram) and “My Mommy/Daddy Loves Me” bibs. After unwrapping my gift, she was very grateful for the storage kit. The pacifiers, however, prompted a slightly different reaction. “We don’t believe in pacifiers,” she said apologetically. “We’re going to try to soothe her in other ways.”

A wave of nostalgia enveloped me as I recalled my own idealistic, pre-baby days. I remember being appalled at the thought that in the not-too-distant past, mothers routinely rubbed whiskey on the gums of teething babies. Of course, when my own child began teething—and became audibly annoyed at the process—I developed the theory that mothers didn’t really use the whiskey for the baby. It was just a convenient excuse for buying it and drinking it themselves.

I also remembered my own aversion to using a pacifier—until one desperate night I discovered that a pacifier went a long way towards making a crying baby a non-crying baby. And I decided that was a good thing.

To my credit, I really tried to hold in the comment on the tip of my tongue, but in the end I lost the battle. I smiled sweetly at my cousin and said, “You just wait.” TPW