Five years ago, I had my first sweet baby: a little girl. I remember taking her to her first doctors appointment at two days old. I carried her into the office in her bucket seat while my husband followed with her diaper bag (full of enough cloth diapers, wipes, and extra outfits to last her a week) on one arm, and my boppy pillow on the other (I wish I was joking, but I had a VERY specific set up necessary to achieve a decent latch).
Three years later, I had her little brother. I remember his first check up: I had a disposable diaper and small pack of wipes crammed into my back pocket. His big sister stood at my side carrying a onesie as I signed him in while simultaneously nursing him.
A stark contrast to the frantic, inexperienced but completely over prepared mother I had been three years before. I remember sitting in the waiting room that day thinking about how differently those scenes played out. The mother I was three years ago looked much more “together”, but I wouldn’t want to trade places with her for a second! (Though I would learn, after finding myself in the splash zone of a diaper change during that same appointment, that boy moms should not only always have an extra outfit for their baby but also for themselves.) At just 48 hours into my second baby’s life, I realized that things might be a little different this time around. The differences weren’t intentional, they just sort of happened as a necessary means of survival.
My first baby had a wardrobe I was envious of. She didn’t wear the same outfit twice (unless it was REAALLLY cute!) and she never left the house without a bow on her head. My son? He had a drawer full of sleepers and a handful of actual outfits. He wore them over and over. And it was fine. He’s fine.
I remember taking my daughter to visit family when she was a few months old. Her pacifier dropped on the floor, so naturally I took it and put it in a plastic bag to boil later. My son, on the other hand, has been eating cheerios, and who knows what else, off of the floor since he could reach them. I just appreciate him cleaning. It’s fine. He’s fine.
My daughter was bathed every night and given a massage with lavender scented lotion. She had an extensive bedtime routine and wore actual pajamas to sleep in. My son? We are lovers of the baby wipe trucker bath, and as far as actual bath time frequency? We bathe him when: a. we have spaghetti for dinner or b. we can no longer recall his last bath. At bedtime? He’s more of a nudist than a pajama wearer, and it’s fine. He’s fine.
I made all of my daughter’s baby food. Organic only, please and thank you. Sugar? That’s a firm no. There’s a play date at a fast food restaurant? We’ll go, but I’ll pack her a lunch of hummus, veggies and fruit.
My son, on the other hand, eats what we eat unless I happen to have some store bought food pouches on hand. He sucks those down in seconds. This guy got his first kids meal before his first birthday. And, no, I did not utilize the fresh fruit side or grilled chicken option. It’s fine. He’s fine.
When I think about how I am parenting my son and how I parented my daughter, I have to wonder if I’m doing him a disservice. The mother I was five years ago would be shaking her ignorant judgmental head at some of the things I have allowed, but the thing is, that mother was drowning. She was over compensating for her complete lack of experience and anxiety by packing more outfits, pinning more recipes for sugar free birthday cake and reading more articles written by all the best parenting experts about how to be the perfect parent she so desperately wanted to be. She was grasping for control in all the little ways she felt she could have it because parenthood so often reminds you of how little control you have…over blow outs…over sickness…over sleep…over teething…over crying…over everything.
The mother I am now? She still feels like she’s drowning sometimes. But she’s learned. She knows that she has two children who, despite the differences in their parenting, are both equally happy, healthy and loved. She’s realized that there isn’t one right way to do this and that SHE is the only expert on the needs of her family. She’s learned that being a good mom isn’t dependent on how your baby is fed, diapered, or dressed, but how your baby is loved.
Despite all of the things I’ve let slide with baby number two, the love in my heart has only grown. And that’s how I know: it’s fine. He’s fine, and any other babies we welcome into our family will be just fine, too.
Because they’re happy.