Hometown: San Diego, CA
How long have you’ve been living in Wiliamsburg/Greenpoint: 10 years
Occupation: mother, certified babywearing instructor, owner of Caribou Baby, a natural maternity and parenting store and event space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
When did you first become a mother? July 2009
Before becoming a mother, what did you know about motherhood? What was your idea of what you felt your life would be like? Ever since I learned about childbirth in the US in undergrad, I have had a strong affinity with for natural pregnancy, childbirth, but I don’t think I really knew anything about what it was going to be like to be a mother. I definitely knew I wanted to bring up my son in a different way than I was raised, and would take a much more natural and “attached” approach than my mother did (ie. wearing him close in a carrier, co-sleeping with him, nursing him on demand, etc.) I assumed incorrectly that raising him this way would make for a chill, relaxed and happy baby - but I quickly learned that even from birth, my son was and is clearly his own person - temperamental, moody, demanding, and characteristically UN-chill. While my mothering style may have made things a bit simpler and sweeter for the both of us, it has certainly not defined who my child is.
How would you describe the first year?
Really rough. I mean, it’s a total adventure! You have no idea this baby of yours is going to be, and how you will be as a parent, and it’s really rare that we get to experience such extreme newness, love and learning all at once like that in our adult lives. You cram all those new emotions into such a short period of time and its bound to be emotionally and physically challenging. It is truly amazing what little sleep you can live on. It’s like boot camp in a way, and it makes you a much stronger, more patient and empathetic person to go through it.
How did you get through it? I cried tears of gratitude daily for having such a supportive husband who was able to tag-team the whole parenting thing with me (or as best that he could, seeing as though I had the boobs and he had a job.) I couldn’t imagine having to go through that first year alone without that extra set of hands or shoulders to cry on. I carried my son in a carrier everywhere that I went, to retain my own sense of autonomy and normalcy. And I met up with my new mom’s group as often as humanly possible. It does not even matter if you consider those women your friends! You absolutely need them. You need a space where you are surrounded by ladies who are going exactly what you’re going through, and where you can have those start-and-stop non sequitur types of conversations that are so characteristic of new-momhood. No one judges you, everyone’s got their own challenges, and everyone is dying for a coffee or a laugh. Someone always has it worse than you, or better than you, and it’s really relieving just to be reminded of that regularly so you don’t go insane.
Do you have close friends or family near by? Did it help having a family member/friends close by?
We have no family very close by and a good portion of our friends were single or childless couples. This meant that we started to spend a lot more time with our few friends that did have children, since it was much more relaxing to be amongst people who shared a similar lifestyle, interests and concerns. It is funny how your whole network changes when you have a kid, simply because you share that in common with others. I think I prefer the support of our friends with kids than that of our family, since there can be so much stress and judgement from family sometimes.
You’ve been a mother for 3 years now, what lessons have you learn?
That being a parent is truly a blessing. It makes you a better person. I am so much more understanding, patient, selfless, and empathetic. I see people for who they are without jumping to judge so quickly, and I less defensive about who I am and the choices I make. I am pregnant with my second baby coming, and I am hoping that I will have more perspective the second time around. It think it will be easier to not second-guess myself at every turn. But at the same time, with the juggling of two children, there will be completely new challenges to face. So the adventure continues!
Tips for new moms?
#1 - Listen to your intuition! I know it sounds so cliche, but I really can’t stress this enough. So many parents have their own way of doing things, their own choices they make when it comes to sleeping, treating ailments, punishing (or not), cooking and structuring their lives with a new baby. You need to make choices that work for you and your family, and those might not look like the choices people around you are making. We forget to listen to what feels right to us because we read somewhere or hear from someone that it’s a bad idea or isn’t healthy or it’s going to mess your kid up. If your gut tells you it feels bad, then check yourself. Do some more research. If your gut tells you it feels right, than it probably is right - for you. Connect with people who support your intuition.
#2 - Get a good baby carrier and some help learning how to use one. Do not suffer with a carrier that is hurting your back, sketching you out, or impossible to use. Parents get multiple car seats and strollers for their children because they are developmentally appropriate for them at specific stages - baby carriers are no different. Like your favorite pair of heels that you can dance in all night and that never hurt your feet, or the pair of sandals that go with everything and you can walk 10 miles in, you will use your carriers every day and feel the same, if not more affection for them. Seek out someone who can teach you how to use them and you will be a much more mobile and confident mother because of it.
#3 - Cut yourself some slack. There is so much blame, guilt and finger-pointing directed towards moms. Do yourself a favor and don’t add to the negativity by judging yourself. Do the best you can, because in the end, you are the mother your child is stuck with. Try to maintain a sense of humor about the whole experience, because in the end, sometimes that is all you have :) Parenting is hard enough as it is - ask for hugs when you need them and give them out like they are going out of style.