What is it that makes being a first time mom so hard? Is it the sleepless nights? The unsolicited advice from complete strangers? The knowledge that a tiny human is totally dependent on you? No, what actually makes being a first time mom so hard is that you literally have no idea what you are doing. That, coupled with the fact that every single decision and milestone seems so momentous at the time, wreaks havoc on a new mom's hormonally-imbalanced psyche.
When my son was just a few weeks old, I was on the phone with one of my dearest friends. She casually asked if Gavin had smiled yet, and I flew into a full-blown panic attack. He most certainly had not smiled yet, nor had he really shown any emotion that could be categorized as happy. I immediately, in the words of my husband, “catastrophized” the situation. If Gavin had not smiled at three weeks and five days, it was clear that he was never going to smile.
The same thing happened when Gavin started eating solid foods. I dutifully bought the organic brown rice cereal because the pediatrician insisted it was the only acceptable food to feed him until he was exactly six months old. Gavin seemed to like this arrangement...for about a week. The first four months of his life, my little boy had reliably pooped like a champ. Once cereal entered the picture, however, all pooping ceased for a week straight. Again, I handled this in true first mom fashion: I came to the conclusion that Gavin was clearly never going to poop again, it was my fault, and there was no cure. Thankfully, I was learning to do a reality check. “Becky, get a grip,” I told myself. “You are his mother, and you can make your own decisions.” I defiantly marched over to Target and bought a big box of *gasp* oatmeal baby cereal. Gavin slurped it down and ten minutes later his championship pooping status was restored. Case closed.
My problem was that I was spending time actually imagining Gavin at the age of eighteen, struggling to master basic life skills - Gavin going off to college pureeing the pizza because he still couldn't eat solid food, Gavin going off to college without learning to smile, Gavin going off to college with a pack of Pampers tucked into his duffle bag, Gavin going off to college with his pacifier or still sucking his thumb!
When I shared these haunting premonitions with my husband, he reassured me: “Bec, calm down. Look at him; he’s just fine. Besides, we aren’t going to have enough money to send him to college anyway.” Great. Now I'm envisioning Gavin's illustrious career beginning at the age of eighteen, as he manages the local Wings to Go while sucking his thumb!
Now, as we come up on the one year anniversary of somehow managing to keep our little boy not only alive but thriving, I am beginning to realize that all of my panic was completely unnecessary. Gavin is quite proficient at eating, pooping, smiling, crawling, cruising and cutting teeth. With the next one, I have decided to relax a little. I'll let the next baby smile when he or she is good and ready. There will be no tears in the doctor’s office if it takes a little longer for #2 to gain back their birth weight. I doubt I will even bother with those developmental charts, because I'll be way too busy chasing down a toddler. And, at that point, I will close the cover on the Diary of a First Time Mom.
Becky Cella is Mommy to Gavin, ten months, and wife to Matt, a school teacher in Philadelphia. She taught high school English for six years prior to earning her Masters at Cabrini College and becoming a student teaching supervisor at Philadelphia Biblical Unviersity. In her free time she enjoys helping out with her MOPS group at church and writing about the experiences of being a new mom.