When I was pregnant, I imagined taking my new baby out and about, happily pushing the stroller and cooing at him as any proud new mom would. I couldn’t wait to take him to the park, maybe lay out a blanket and sit with him under the shade of a tree.
Then the baby was born. And I didn’t realize how much my baby would cry. Especially in a stroller.
We didn’t take him out on a stroll for the first few weeks for fear of another crying fit. But finally my husband and I decided, “Okay, we’re ready! Off to the park we go (insert high-five)!” We packed the stroller with every imaginable item we thought we would absolutely need: diapers, changing pad, wipes, toys, books, blankets… never mind that it takes all of five minutes to walk there. So out we went.
And the crying began.
The crying differed: on some days it was quick and we were able to pretend we were still having fun, and other times it’s all we heard during the whole walk. But most of our strolls were not the peaceful walks I had imagined with my new baby. What happened to all those rumors we heard about babies falling asleep in a stroller?! Apparently my baby didn’t get the memo.
And here’s the worst part: I was so scared to be out on a stroll not so much because my baby would likely cry, but because other people—especially other moms—might notice. I couldn’t bear the thought that they might think I’m a bad mom, or that I didn’t know what I was doing. Even the thought that they “could relate” because they were once in my shoes irked me, because as of that moment, they weren’t me, they weren’t in my shoes and they didn’t have a baby that cried all the time. Especially on strolls which apparently can knock every other baby but mine out into sleep.
I remember the first time I pushed the stroller by myself. I was grabbing hot chocolate with my husband at a shop that happened to be near a park. “You go ahead and order the drinks,” I casually told him. “I’ll walk around the park.” In reality I was shaking inside, nervous to be pushing the stroller on my own. There was a group of moms and nannies playing at the park, their little babies and toddlers happily smiling and crawling. And of course right when I walked in front of them, my baby—as if on cue—cried loudly. I was so embarrassed and assumed that they were judging my apparent lack of stroller-pushing skills.
Another time, I decided to drive to the library and pack the stroller too so that I could walk around the area with him. Once I arrived and managed to lug the stroller out of the trunk, I couldn’t figure out how in the world to unlatch the darn thing so that it would fold out. Meanwhile, my baby was crying in the car seat, still inside the car. I called my husband nearly in tears, frustration choking my voice, just so he could coach me on how to open the stroller.
I easily laugh now thinking about those scenarios considering that I can now flip and switch that stroller in two seconds flat, but in that moment, that fear of not knowing what I was doing, or of being judged, was very real. On one hand, I was too confident for my own good, and that confidence didn’t allow me to cut myself some slack and say, “Hey, you are a new mom, and you’re allowed to make mistakes and look like a fool trying to unfold a 30-pound stroller. And if you have a crying baby, you don’t have to look calm and collected while inside you’re reeling with embarrassment and fear of judgment. It’s really okay if you don’t know how to do everything, especially with motherhood.”
And it is. Suffice it to say my toddler now likes (or at least doesn’t mind) being in a stroller, and I have since mastered the art of the one-handed stroller fold down (take that, stroller). When I see moms of newborns, I try not to patronize or assume that they must be going through what I did, because they may not. I’ve also accepted that I’m always going to be a new mom dealing with new experiences as my child grows—if I’m not pushing a loud, crying baby in a stroller, I’m carrying a loud, crying toddler throwing a tantrum. And I don’t have to worry about what people think. Even if every mom is looking at me.
Did you have days when you felt like the new mom or the new dad? What advice would you offer new moms and dads from your experience?
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