I went to a baby shower today.
A few of us who are “of a certain age” were commenting on the seemingly-infinite array of paraphernalia it seems to require to have a baby these days.
At the risk of seeming crochety I can’t help but reflect upon what it was like back when I had my first baby, and I walked uphill both ways to get to the hospital to deliver her.
Okay, that part’s not true, but things were different back then. At least my experience was.
I didn’t have a nursery decorated in a special theme. I didn’t have a nursery at all. Until my baby was three-months-old her crib was next to our bed in the bedroom. It wasn’t like the beautiful wooden cribs that convert to toddler beds they make now either. It was a simple crib with slats that I’m certain wouldn’t be deemed safe nowadays and, worse yet, I had a bumper pad inside of it. Gasp!
Truth-be-told my baby often slept in a laundry basket beside my bed where I could reach down and pat her back when she fussed during the night. Yes, it’s true. I put my baby to sleep on her stomach. Double-gasp!
I had a good supply of diapers–flannel cloth diapers I made myself. They were simple square’s of flannel I hemmed and folded into the kite shape required for diaper use. I had a diaper pail too.
I had a few flannel gowns and undershirts. I bought the gowns before I knew if my baby was going to be a boy or a girl (though I had a strong maternal feeling that I was carrying a girl) because in my mind babies wore gowns regardless of gender.
I had a couple of t-shirts purchased from the discount store, a couple of flannel receiving blankets, and a couple of other blankets, and Playtex baby bottles and plastic bottle liners.
And books. Dr. Spock for after the baby was born and a couple of other books that educated me about what it was like to be pregnant. (My mom, remember, had never experienced pregnancy so she was no help to me there.)
I didn’t have a baby monitor or special swaddling blankets or something called a Boppy.
I had a baby. And I secretly thought they were crazy sending me home from the hospital with this precious baby because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
But I learned. We survived. And two years later I did it all over again.
As I looked at the face of the young woman opening gifts this afternoon I couldn’t help but think about how her life was about to change in ways she can’t even imagine.
There’s a quote by Elizabeth Stone I heard many years ago that is one of the truest things I’ve ever heard: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (italics mine)
My heart has been walking around outside my body for over thirty years now and I know there is nothing that can prepare you for the joy and pain that motherhood brings into your life.
All of these gizmos and gadgets that accompany modern motherhood, well they’re fine and fun and good. You can enter motherhood with plenty; you can enter motherhood with little. Either way you will be forever changed from the moment you look into the eyes of your beautiful baby for the first time.
You will become vulnerable in a way you could never have imagined as your heart moves out from it’s protected place and begins to live outside of your body. No greater joy. No greater sorrow. Nothing can compare to the transition to motherhood.
Except, perhaps, the transition to grand-motherhood.