While standing in an Old Navy, three days after my daughter was born, I had my first mom fail and was forced to confront the humanity of parenthood. It was a big moment.
Let me set the scene.
My daughter was born on a Saturday. I recovered from her birth quickly. When we were released to go home on Monday I felt pretty good. By Tuesday, I was ready to see other adults and get out and about. It was December, and Christmas was only a few days away. We went to the one place that made complete sense (sarcasm) to take a newborn before the holidays: the mall. My elderly relatives were appalled that we would take our daughter to such a germ-infested bio dome so soon.
We felt differently. My husband and I knew we could keep her in the stroller, car seat locked in place, and car seat shade pulled down over her tiny body. No one would even know she was in there! All baby cheeks would be locked away from the sloppy unwanted kisses of germy strangers. That Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag that I snagged on the discount shopping site was LOADED with all things we would need for the entire first year of her life, let alone our evening trip to the mall.
We were ready. We walked through the mall confidently.
I kept thinking a broad spectrum of things:
“These people have NO IDEA I pushed something the size of a watermelon out something the size of a donut hole just THREE measly days ago! I’m wonder woman!”
“Is she okay? Can she breathe in there? Maybe I should check on her again.”
“I’m so tired. How can one person be this tired?”
“I’m seriously awesome. I had a baby. Like, a legit human. Three days ago.”
“But really, how tired am I? Is this normal? Maybe I’m too tired. Maybe something is wrong with me.”
Even with all of the racing thoughts, I couldn’t stop smiling.
I felt so proud of us. We were new parents and we were out. We had everything under control and I hadn’t had a single meltdown yet. People had warned us that we’d be a wreck after our baby was born.
***Side rant: Why do we do that to each other? Why do we tell new parents about how awful it will be? We don’t know if it will be awful for them! Sure, some people are more challenged with the arrival of a baby than others. It can be HARD. However, not everything is hard. Why do we scare new parents by telling them about how bad those first few days will be? End rant.***
We made it to the other end of the mall and popped into Old Navy. My mom, husband, and I began to look around. Because it was winter, we were wearing heavy coats. After a bit of time in Old Navy we all peeled our jackets off, each time draping it over the handle on the stroller, and over that tank of a diaper bag, which was also hanging there. As we browsed the store, my husband and I turned to look at the stroller parked just a few feet away from us.
And then it happened.
As if in slow motion, the stroller began to tip toward us. The weight of three winter coats and a massive diaper bag became too much for it. The entire stroller slowly tipped over. My husband and I saw it happen and turned to one another in horror. And what did we do? After three beats of silence, we burst out in hysterical, sleep-deprived laughter. I can’t even believe I’m saying it out loud to you. We laughed. It was this desperately tired, maniacal laugh. It was a, “Oh my word. That just happened. I’m SO stinking tired. Is this real life?” sort of laugh. After a moment, we rushed to the stroller to turn it upright. I peeked inside the germ barrier and there she was, buckled tightly into her stroller and sound asleep in all her newborn goodness, as if nothing had happened.
I breathed a sigh of relief, as I still felt my heart pounding through my chest. If I wasn’t sweating before I took my winter coat off, I was sweating now. We quickly removed the winter coats, and shoved them in the huge basket on the underside of the stroller. We composed ourselves, still laughing so hard we were now crying. I looked up and in the distance caught two moms giving me the judgment stare. They didn’t know the baby inside that stroller was three days old, but I’m guessing if they did know their glares would have burned right through me.
I looked away and put my head down. I felt extreme shame. And in my delirium, I turned to my husband laughing and said, “We will NEVER speak of this. EVER. TO ANYONE.” He nodded in agreement.
I didn’t want to admit to ANYONE that I allowed my newborn daughter to take a slow ride with gravity toward the floor while we were at the mall that day.
Was she completely fine? Absolutely. Was it a total accident? Absolutely. Am I thankful she was securely buckled into her car seat when the stroller tipped over? Abso-freaking-lutely.
A few things happened as a result of this early moment in our daughter’s life. First, I laughed harder than I’d laughed in a long time before that stroller tipped over. I’m still not sure why. Second, I quickly figured out what NOT to do with my stroller, winter coats, and nine-pound newborn. This includes the fact that you should ALWAYS keep your baby strapped into their car seat when using it. Finally, as the years have passed and I have become a mama to two kiddos, I have realized that this incident is not something to be secretive about. I decided to give myself a break about it.
Was it my first mom fail? Yup. Was it my last mom fail? Nope.
As I reflected on that moment, years later, I realized my mom fail moment in Old Navy was one of the first tangible moments of humanity in parenting that I would encounter.
We had prepared for months (nine months, to be exact) for the arrival of our little human. I read parenting books and blogs, and took parenting advice from SO many people. We were older when we had our first baby, and with age came a calmness and preparedness for her arrival that I don’t think I would have had, had I been a younger first-time mom. And even with all of our preparation, we still managed to dump over the stroller on day three. Why? Because we’re human.
Parenting is not perfect. We screw up. Real life is a thing. I am not a pinterest-perfect, gorgeously arranged Instagram-snapping mom. I am a real life, get it done, shower-if-you-feel-like-it kind of mom. That moment in Old Navy was something I wanted to hide, because I was afraid of what my peers would think of me as a mom if they knew what happened that day. We need to give ourselves–and those we’re eyeing across the store in the middle of a mom fail–a break. Because, come on; although care is needed with newborns, they are made squishy for a reason.