As a first time mom, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Nothing devastating, but I figure my lessons learned can be your mishaps avoided.
Rookie mistake #1: I was flying alone with the baby when he had explosive diarrhea, which soaked through his clothes and wove its way into the knit of my sweater. At which point I hoped the flight attendants that seemed charmed by the baby and me on our way in, would still be, if not charmed, at least sympathetic. My flight attendants were clearly childless men (and, after this incident, they would probably stay that way). They obviously had no experience with a leaky diaper and at first they looked at me like I had poo-ed on myself. But they quickly recovered, stifled their disgust and smiled wanly as they handed me a rain forest’s worth of napkins so I could wet us down and wipe us up.
Now I knew enough to have tucked away in the diaper bag an extra pair of clothes for him, but I never thought of carrying-on extra clothes for myself. I was wearing only a camisole underneath my poopy sweater. Skimpy but it could still pass (though just barely) for NOT underwear. There were still tell-tale poo smears here and there, but I’d gotten most of it off us.
When it was it time to deplane, I saw my escape and hoped to get out with the few shreds of dignity I had left. But – just to add insult to feces – I did a deep bend to lift Jackson in his car seat up from the jetway, and my pants ripped straight up the middle seam. Meaning: straight up the ass-seam. (Incidental rookie mistake: thinking it was time for my pre-pregnancy jeans.) Had my sweater not been embroidered in poo, I would have wrapped it around my waist as a butt cover. But now I really was just flashing people. As if my poor fellow passengers hadn’t seen enough of my private parts when I was breastfeeding during the cross-country flight, I now had to lean over the luggage carousel and be asked by a moderately famous character actress, “Um, did you know your pants are split up the back?”
As a first time mom, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Nothing devastating, but I figure my lessons learned can be your mishaps avoided. “Thanks, yeah, I did.” Her look back to me was both confused and full of pity.
Lesson learned: Having realized that children can erupt from any orifice at any time, I tried from then on to include rolled-up leggings and a T shirt in my diaper bag – something, anything that could at least cover my erogenous zones in an emergency.
Rookie Mistake #2: I used to keep every random trinket, piece of crap, or page of scribble my child brought home. I used to think, well, what if he asks, “Where is that plastic spider ring? No, not the black one, not the orange one – the green one!” What if I couldn’t produce it? I’d be busted for throwing it away. Plus my kid has an incredible memory, a fondness for crappy trinkets and a tendency towards hoarding… Homeless man hoarding: cardboard, twigs and little balls of string. Eventually I realized we could end up on one of those reality shows where they have to dig people out of their own homes.
Lesson learned: I set the random trinket out of the way and trust that if he doesn’t ask for it over the course of a week, he probably never will. At which point it goes in the trash. Just don’t make the corollary rookie mistake I did – I blithely threw it on top of the kitchen trash where he saw it and yelled accusingly, “Hey, who put this in the trash?” I then had to act shocked and bewildered that someone would do that. Of course, now he’s suspicious and overly-protective of it, so I’m going to have to wait six months to a year before attempting to toss it again.
Rookie Mistake #3: From the time he was a baby, he bonded with a transitional object (or in layman’s terms: a “lovie”) in the form of a little blankie with a dog’s head at one corner. It became his security blanket, literally: he never wanted to be without it. Determined to spare him from ever experiencing the pain of its loss, we bought five so we would always have one as a backup. He eventually became wise to our ruse and insisted on only “the Doggie with the Waggly Tail.” The “waggly tail” was just an unraveled corner, but one that we couldn’t effectively duplicate on the imposters. He eventually named the imposters and would reject them one by one, “No, that’s Crispy Doggie. No, that’s Malls and Talls” (two names that, inexplicably, refer to a collective of three doggies that share a similar flatness of face.) No idea where these names came from, but you better believe we learned each imposters’ name and subtle defining characteristics because we were slaves to that doggie hierarchy.
One day, the inevitable happened – we’d spent the day in and around a seaside amusement park and we lost Doggie. It could’ve been anywhere, and we looked everywhere. We asked Lost and Found at the amusement park. Asked the local cops. They were nice and took our number. But we never heard back. Jackson was sad and asked every few days, “When are the police going to bring Doggie back?” We told him Doggie may never come back. He talked about missing him, but seemed to understand that sad things happen. A few months later, when I was feeling sad, he said, “I understand – I was sad when I lost Doggie, too.”
Lesson learned: I can’t shield my child from experiencing disappointment and loss, because disappointment and loss are a part of life.
So now I sit on my hands when I’m tempted to “help” him. Which I’m always tempted to do – God knows, he’s never wiped his butt as well as I’d have liked, but what am I gonna do? He’s five and a half, it’s his butt, and he doesn’t want help.
When he was first born, I so wanted to do it perfectly. But (and this was just dumb luck) I found myself in a baby group with all second and third-time moms. Unlike me, they were relaxed. They knew babies are babies. At one of those early pediatrician appointments, Jackson was in the 20th percentile for weight and the 75th percentile for height. I was worried about this and asked, “Is he starving?” “No, look at you,” they said, “look at Rob.” My husband, Rob, went to prom with a girl a foot and a half shorter than him, but who weighed almost as much as he did. It’s not that his date was heavy, my husband was just freakishly thin – 6’3” and 130 lbs. “If there’s reason to worry,” they said, “your pediatrician will tell you. When your pediatrician uses the words ’failure to thrive,’ that’s when you worry. Not before.”
They knew kids are a lot more resilient than one might think. They laughed when Jackson was a toddler and I told them I wanted to get him an MRI because, I explained, “he’s falling a lot.”
“You know,” they said, “toddlers fall a lot. That’s why they’re called toddlers.”
From the time he could walk, he was climbing things, and I would always wait vigilantly to catch him. But the experienced moms in my group taught me to not stop him or help him up or lift him down. If he got up on something, he needed to figure out how to get down. Because I wouldn’t always be there to catch him. And now, a couple years later, he is Spiderman. He can scale buildings. He’s a resilient and independent little dude. Sure, his shirt and underwear are on backwards, but he’s fine with that. So I am, too.
So, really, the biggest lesson I learned is that to be a good first-time mom, I should try my best to act like a second-time mom.
Beth Littleford was one of the original correspondents for The Daily Show. As an actress, she usually plays either uptight and bitchy (CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE; Desperate Housewives) or a nymphomaniac (The Hard Times of RJ Berger, Spin City) Ocasionally, she’s bitchy and sexually aggressive, like CSI: Miami or the upcoming indie MUSIC HIGH. www.bethlittleford.com Twitter – @BethLittleford • Facebook