Women have babies at all different ages and in a variety of different situations. Whether a new mom is 16 and still in high school or 39 with a steady career, there is one thing that they will all inevitably have in common, which is that they will never truly be prepared. No matter how old you are, no matter how many books you’ve read or Google searches you’ve done, becoming a new mom will always be harder than you thought it would be. And I say this as someone who was lucky enough to have a relatively “easy” newborn. Nothing can prepare you for the exhaustion. You might think you know what it means to be tired, but you will never know real, true, bone-crushing, mind-numbing fatigue until you’ve cared for an infant for several weeks. It is also impossible to understand the overwhelming responsibility of holding a completely helpless little life in your hands until you are there. Babies don’t know anything, and as a mom it becomes your job to do everything for them and to teach them everything they’ll ever need to know about anything. It is a daunting task.
The thing that I was most unprepared for, however, was taking my baby out in public. I’ve found that walking through a store with a baby in your arms is equivalent to walking through a store while wearing a sandwich board that reads “Please violate my personal space and abandon all normal social boundaries when interacting with me” while ringing a loud bell. In other words, you draw attention to yourself. And as someone who prefers as little attention as possible, this definitely took some getting used to. Most people are kind and will simply gush over your baby for a few minutes (or sometimes for an awkwardly long amount of time), seemingly so excited just to witness the new little life you’ve created. There are others though who seem to think that since you’ve so carelessly brought your baby into their line of vision then you must be simply begging them to stop you and critique every parenting decision you’ve ever made.
Emmalee is not a fan of napping. In fact, she dislikes it so much that she will often fuss and cry until she falls asleep. This happens whether we are at home or out and about. One such time at Wal-Mart Emmalee was in my arms, overtired and in desperate need of a nap. While she cried I bounced and shushed her, knowing that within a few minutes she would give in and sleep. A woman approached with a look of pure horror on her face and demanded, “What’s wrong with your baby?!” Being the kind and non-confrontational person that I am, I simply answered, “She’s just tired.” The woman proceeded to give me a look that clearly said I must be the most moronic person to have ever taken care of a baby and she seemed to be using every ounce of self control she could muster to restrain herself from ripping the baby from my undeserving arms. Because anyone with any sense knows that babies never cry just because they are tired, right?
Getting older is strange. With each year that goes by I find myself thinking “I don’t feel older.” Well, apparently I don’t look older either. Someday I might view it as a good thing that people think I look young, but at the moment it is rather irritating to be mistaken for a 17 year old. Especially now that I have a baby in tow. Before Christmas I took Emmalee to get her picture taken with Santa. Due to Emmalee’s fear of anyone that isn’t Mommy or Grammy, I chose to have this done at a portrait studio that would work with us to get a good shot. Santa came out to introduce himself and to see how Emmalee would react. He said his hellos to the baby and then asked her, “And who is this holding you?” When I answered Mommy I thought he might faint from the shock. He proclaimed that I was way too young to be her mom. I proceeded to explain that I am 26 years old to which Santa replied, “Well I thought you were only 17!” This exchange was rude for a variety of reasons, but the main one being what if I was only 17? Come on, Santa. You’ve got to brush up on your people skills a bit.
Emmalee has chunky feet. Due to this it is very difficult to find shoes that fit properly and that will actually stay on her. One day in the Dollar Tree a woman approached and exclaimed in an absolutely flabbergasted manner, “Doesn’t your baby have any shoes?!” First of all, we are in the Dollar Tree. Maybe she doesn’t have any shoes. Are you offering to buy her some? If so, Target is right around the corner and I’m totally jonesing for a trip. Secondly, I know she looks like she’s two, but she’s only 10 months and she isn’t walking yet. Is it really that big of a deal for her to just wear socks when she’s being carried? And lastly, mind your own (insert choice of obscenity here) business! What makes you think that you have the right to question the choices I make for my child? Oh right, I wandered into your direct line of sight, didn’t I? My fault!
These are just a few of the absolutely bizarre encounters I’ve had while venturing out into public places with Emmalee. While I try not to let these things affect me, I will admit that I go to great lengths to keep Emma from crying when we’re out to avoid the “look at that teenager without a clue” glances. I also carry Emma’s shoes around in the diaper bag religiously, even though I have no intention of putting them on her. And I’m very seriously considering having a shirt made that reads “I am 26, married, I have a college degree and I own a home” and wearing it every time I leave the house. Emmalee will have a matching shirt that says “Yes, I do own several pairs of shoes.” You know, just to let people know.