She looks at me but she doesn’t see me. I can sense the wheels turning in her head. Her hippocampus scans itself for any type of clue — nothing. The cortex fails her as well. She doesn’t know me but she knows she is supposed to. I smile at her, with both sympathy and disappointment, and reassure her that it is okay. Not for a second longer can I bear witness to her frustration of trying to put together who I am. I turn my face away and pour her a glass of water in an attempt to conceal the frown deeply etched into my face. Who is this woman and what has she done with my grams?
If you are expecting — you are probably experiencing mild anxiety about all the things you have to buy in order to prepare for your baby’s arrival. The honest truth is that you really need very little for those first few months. The “fourth trimester” is challenging. You and your partner will be at your absolute physical, mental, and emotional worst all while being blissfully in love with your new tiny peanut.
Here are the 10 items I couldn’t live without during that time:
Rules for a modern woman:
Be sexy but not too sexy. Cover up but not too much. Be educated but don’t make men feel inadequate or stupid. Work like you don’t have children and raise your children like you don’t work. Be proud of your postpartum body, just make sure you cover up those stretch marks and extra weight. Breastfeed your children exclusively but do so only in private so that you won’t offend anyone. Don’t be a prude but don’t sleep with too many men. Have opinions but don’t offer them unless asked.
The list goes on and on. These are impossible to follow. They are misogynistic, contradicting, oppressive, and hateful. Yes, these standards are held by men, but they are dutifully enforced by other women. We refer to this today as “shaming”, or the humiliation and judgment of other women and the choices they make.
No one ever wakes up thinking that they might not live to see another morning.
One of my favorite movies, The Wood, was playing in the background when a terrible wave of abdominal cramps ripped through my lower right side. My immediate gut reaction was to blame it on PMS. I started shifting on the couch to try to get into a more comfortable position — I couldn’t. Was it the cheesy nachos I had eaten earlier at The Montage? Within seconds, another flash of white hot pain cut through me. I ran to the bathroom.
Before I had kids, hell, before I even WANTED kids, I imagined that the diapers, sleep deprivation, lack of “me” and romantic time, and the overall 24/7 responsibility of caring for another person would be nearly impossible.
Surprisingly, those ended up being the easier parts. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I could use a moment to comb my hair and get out of the sweatpants I’ve been wearing for 4 days straight. But these incredibly exhausting things are bearable — for me at least.
No one warned me about what would truly be the hardest part about parenthood:
I’ve always known that life was fragile.
When I was seven-years-old, I attempted to draft my first will. “My beanie babies went to my mom. My hot wheel collection went to my grandpa. Oh and please play the Pocahontas song at my funeral — you know, the obvious requests.”
I wasn’t sad about it. I just knew that death was a part of life. It scared me, yes, but I knew there was no escaping it. As I got older, I noticed that no one liked to discuss, let alone acknowledge, this inevitable end. In our American culture, we are obsessed with avoiding old age and death. We nip and tuck every wrinkle. We drain life savings on months of life support for those who’d rather be on the other side already. We shun our elderly and deem them useless. We’ve had it all wrong.
I want to acknowledge, out loud, that today could be my last day on Earth. I’d be lucky to someday have smile wrinkles and a sagging bosom. I’d be blessed to have achy joints and sun spots. Those are the evidence of having made it. Of having lived. Not everyone lives long enough to see a wrinkly face smiling back at them in the mirror.
1. Family isn’t always blood – blood isn’t always family.
2. Micro-expressions >
3. A firm handshake goes a long way.
4. 99% of the time, it isn’t personal.
5. Relationships are bank accounts: you must deposit to withdrawal.
6. Love isn’t all you need.
7. The gift of life is the greatest gift of all.
8. You’ve only one set of teeth: take care of them.
9. Tomorrow isn’t promised.
10. Good nutrition doesn’t require killing animals.
11. Your parents are human, too.
12. No one has it figured out.
13. Nature is the best form of entertainment.
14. It’s not about what happens, it’s about how you react.
15. Being in control is an illusion.
16. There is no such thing as “too dry” when it comes to wine.
17. Kindness has no ulterior motive.
18. Retail therapy is never worth it.
19. People are generally good.
20. Love languages.
21. How you treat people that you don’t have to treat well is a true testament to your character.
22. Listening > giving advice.
23. We are all the same all over the world.
24. Intelligence is knowing you know nothing.
25. Happiness is a choice.