I had a rough day on Sunday. Pretty sure it was mainly hormones, but I haven’t cried so much or so hard in ages. It was prompted, of course, by the baby shower discussion, and the feelings that dredged up. I talked to my mom about it for like five minutes on Saturday night and that was enough to send me into a downward spiral. My mom has generally been pretty helpful with the baby stuff – after all, she had four of them when all of this crap didn’t exist and she didn’t have any money to buy it anyway, so she maintains a pretty no-nonsense approach to child rearing. But then there’s the part of things where she’s out of touch with the modern way of doing things. When I brought up having the shower at my house, she immediately said, “No, I don’t want you having it at your house.” She then recommended the club house at her condo complex, which I immediately rejected due to the fact that most of the guests live in the city. “Okay well then we’ll have it at a restaurant.” To which I also said no because I hate things at restaurants – it feels incredibly rushed and impersonal, not to mention expensive. So that basically started the conversation out on the wrong foot. Then we talked about gender neutral clothes. I’ve actually seen a ton of cute gender neutral stuff online (not so much in places like Target or Babies R Us). But of course my mom’s idea of gender neutral is green and yellow all around, whereas mine is cool modern prints, neutral beiges, etc. And of course she said, “I haven’t seen much good gender neutral stuff, just a lot of BROWN….yuck!!” Okay, so we don’t agree about shower location OR baby colors, check. Then she started asking about names, which is the kiss of death – I HATE talking about names with my family because they’re all entirely too a) traditional and b) opinionated. I tend to just plead ignorance when they start asking me and commit to no particular names. But of course she jumped in with, “Whatever you do, just don’t name your kid after a THING…like a FRUIT or something dumb like that.” Okay, no fruits and no weird names, got it.
All of this came to a head on Sunday when I had some serious breakdowns about the whole thing. Then Greg came home and I flipped out about something that was totally my fault but it didn’t stop me from yelling at him, running upstairs and slamming the door.
This all describes one of the things that brings me down: the very public nature of having a baby. In most areas of my life, Greg and I live a pretty happy and insular life, where people are mainly unaware of our day-to-day decisions. But once in a while something comes up where I’m exposed to too many outside opinions, such as our wedding. The wedding was the most stressful experience of my life, partly because I was inundated with the things I was “doing wrong”. “Cupcakes??! Who has CUPCAKES?!” This is what happens when you’re planning something that is so visible to the public, people feel the right to give you their opinion about everything. And even if they’re not technically giving their opinion, I still feel self conscious about all of my decisions – because of what other people might be thinking. Even something as simple as a brand of pacifier, I feel like, “What if I’m making the wrong decision and everyone thinks, “Oh, nobody buys GERBER pacifiers, EVERYBODY knows you’re supposed to buy [insert name of another pacifier brand because I don’t even know THAT yet].” And it’s not so much that I care what people think as much as it all makes me doubt myself. What if they’re right? What if I DO buy a stroller that’s not nearly as well designed as some other stroller? And I know that’s not the end of the world, but I could wind up spending tons of energy trying to hold a baby in one arm and get some crappy stroller folded up with the other. And yes yes, I know that’s what friends’ opinions and Amazon reviews are for. The minute my mom questions a name choice, it makes me wonder, “Maybe that ISN’T a good name.”
All this being said, I should note that my friends are supportive because they’re not family and they have a way of a) being more polite and b) not having as much invested in your life as your family does. And even with my family, it’s really just my sister and my mom who are the opinionated ones. But I don’t think they appreciate how sensitive I am to flippant comments that don’t take my feelings into account whatsoever. My sister and mom are the queens of making offhand guttural scoffing noises if they don’t like something, regardless of whether or not they know that YOU like it. E.g., “I’m reading [insert name of complicated and book] now.” “UGHK! Why?!” Like, who says that to someone when they obviously know that you’re not reading it for a college class but because you want to? I’m entirely too susceptible to those sorts of comments, and I know I need to grow a thicker skin.
So add to the many many sources of stress the stress of trying to maintain your identity while pleasing your family.
But let’s end on a good note. When I told my mom last night that I had been a hormonal wreck on Sunday, she gave me a great pep talk about how it’s really not as hard as everyone makes it out to be, and that it’s only as complicated as you make it. She said after a few days of having the baby in the house I’d be an old pro at everything, that instinct would take over and I would know what to do, and whatever I don’t know I’ll figure out along the way. And she reminded me that she would stay with us for as long as we need her, so she’d be there to show me what to do. She really is a comforting presence in all of this craziness, even if we disagree about color choices.