Recently, I had a chat with one of my best girlfriends who is in the Inquisition Stage of having a baby. (You know that stage, the one where you pin down your nearest friend who just transformed from a fabulous hostess and party goer to a sleepless zombie and ask her all of the questions that terrify you about the entire process of hatching a chick of your own.) Her questions ran the gamut from When is the last time you got a real manicure? (answer: the day my water broke) to What if I want to only have one baby? (answer: go for it! one is hard enough, I can’t imagine 3 or 4!). As she picked up speed on the Inquisition, I could tell her defenses were already up, assuming I was going to dispel some sort of New Mom Judgement on her current ideas and thoughts of how she might choose to mother her (as yet to be conceived) offspring.
It became clear to me that I needed to share with her the one thing that I have become certain about in the last 15 weeks: None of it is wrong.
None of it is wrong.
If you breastfeed or formula feed, pump or nurse, love your sling or rock your stroller, go back to work or stay home, own your own business or spend nap time writing a blog, want to have one baby or four, hope your husband takes paternity leave or that your parents don’t want to stay in your house the first week of your baby’s life, love your day care or hire a nanny, kiss your baby on the lips or stick to the forehead, none of it is wrong.
In my opinion, the fact that a girl even considers these things already makes her a good mom. The fact that we stay up at night watching our baby’s chest rise and fall makes us good moms. The fact that we went to the OBGYN and answered the world’s most awkward questions to make sure we were ready physically to conceive makes us good moms. And don’t get me started on what we go through just to keep our baby healthy and floating around in that amniotic sac for 40 weeks.
That, for sure, makes us good moms.
So why was she worried that I might judge her for her hopes and dreams of what her family might look like? Because mine might be different? So what?
My job as her friend, and fellow human producer, is to support her in her decisions for what is best for her future pack of hooligans. My job is to tell her she is doing a great job, what gas drops will rescue her in the middle of an endless night of fussing and what Etsy shop has the best newborn sized orange leather mocs.
I had a moment this weekend where I desperately needed another mom to throw me the life raft that only a fellow mama can throw.
We took our baby to his first college football game.
I was prepared.
I had strategized exactly what to pack, anticipated what he would need and plotted our day in the hopes that everyone would survive in one piece.
We were in Boston so we took a car from our hotel to an area near the stadium to meet our friends and grab drinks and a bite to eat before the game. We had our stroller/carseat combo so the baby would ride safely in the taxi and I had the Bjorn so I could wear him throughout the day.
When we arrived at the restaurant to meet our friends, it was clear that it was not baby friendly.
We had to have the manager stash our car seat and stroller in a corner by the bar ATM, I had to strap the baby in the Bjorn in front of a crowd of on lookers and strangers kept trying to buy my husband shots for being a cool dad. I can assure you there were no women trying to buy me shots for being a cool mom. I have never felt so damn judged in my entire life, and trust me, I know some judgy bitches (and have been one myself, many, many times).
Thankfully, we were able to get a table on the patio which was much slower paced and out of the way – I was just starting to relax and look forward to seeing our friends when it began to rain. Yep, rain.
A cold, Boston in the Fall, rain.
The inside of the bar was deafeningly loud and even though I had infant noise canceling headphones, I just wasn’t brave enough to go stand in there with my 3 month old. So instead, I asked a table of guys if I could stand with my baby under their table’s umbrella. (Our table was sans umbrella, of course.) So there I stood, by myself, holding my baby, under an umbrella, next to a table of middle aged men drinking too much before a college football game.
And I cried.
I cried because I was That Mom. The one who had her kid at the most inappropriate place possible and people were staring at me. Judging me, assuming I am a terrible mother. They had no idea that my baby was sleeping like a rock or that I packed 4 extra layers of clothes or spent hours finding the smallest pair of noise canceling headphones on earth to keep his eardrums safe. And to say that I had my Mom Defenses up would be the understatement of the century. I just knew what they were thinking. Whether they were or they weren’t – whether they were actually looking at me because they wished they were the one holding a sweet, healthy babe, they liked my scarf or because they thought the baby was cute – it didn’t matter, I just knew they were judging me as a mother. And frankly, I was judging myself. Hard.
I knew our friends were making their way through the pulsing bar music and the huge crowd of young, single, childless people and, thankfully, one couple has a one year old son (who they wisely left at home with the grandparents). I waited desperately for my fellow baby mama to show up and tell me that it was all ok, that I wasn’t the worst mom on the planet. At that point, it wouldn’t have mattered if my husband said I wasn’t ruining our son’s life or if the waitress smiled and said I was ok and not in her way, I needed another mom’s reassurance.
Our friend Laura showed up to find me standing under that umbrella and told me just what I needed to hear:
she took their baby to a bar on St. Patrick’s Day when he was exactly Gray’s age.
She could have easily said that they never brought their son out when he was so young, or he never went with them to football games or around large crowds or that I was an idiot of having Gray outside when there was a 10% chance of rain, but she didn’t. She supported me, without judgement.
I hope I never forget how that made me feel – that when a girlfriend decides to do something in a different way than I would – that I support her, without judgement. That I let her know that she doesn’t have to have her Mom Defenses up around me, that I love her and her baby, and I know she’s got this whole mom thing in the bag.