The rain plopped down in heavy drops on my windshield as I drove home from the grocery store this morning. I'd loaded my grocery haul into the back of my SUV just in time to miss getting soaked myself. I was glad I'd decided to do my shopping in the morning and get it out of the way despite my lack of a grocery list or a hearty breakfast.
Unprepared and hungry, I made my way through the store. As I trudged along half awake, I tried to remember what I usually buy, the store I visit every week seeming like a foreign land. I remembered fruit and wine so that seemed like a good start. As I tried to stay focused on the task at hand and not constantly chastise myself for being a mother with nine years of experience who still has no idea how do something as simple as shop for groceries for my family, two women turned down my aisle.
One was pushing the cart, the other leading the way. There was an infant car seat in the cart. I didn't need to look inside to know it held a newborn (I looked anyway). The woman leading the way was older than the one pushing the cart. I smiled at the new mother, knowing this was her first entry back into the real world; that first outing after your first child is born when you have to resume your old responsibilities but for a whole new family. She was lucky to have someone there to guide her who understood that everything looked different now and that even a familiar grocery store can seem foreign—and that a task as simple as shopping for groceries can be a challenge.
I held my smile as they passed, thinking about that precious shift in my life when I was a new mom and my husband and I transformed from a couple into a family of three and remembered: it didn't feel precious. It felt like hell. I felt like a complete idiot. Despite my love for my new baby, I felt lost and unsure of every move I made. In the nine years since, I'm not sure I've made much progress. I continued on my path, looking for bread or almond butter or some other thing that made sense, and made peace with my unpreparedness on this journey. I accepted that it was OK if I stumbled a bit as long as I kept my intention in mind: to do my best to take care of the family that I love, even if I don't always know how.
Nine years later those “new mom” feelings have stayed with me. The difference is today those insecurities are tempered by the knowledge that there is more than one right answer; that what works for other families may not work for us. I must always remember the New-Mom version of me; the same feelings she had then keep me on alert now as my girls enter each new age and stage of their lives. The “New Mom” me and the “Experienced Mom” me need each other: one must not forget the other, no matter what new challenge we are facing.
It was still raining as I backed my SUV into our garage. I’d left the radio off—only the drops of rain and the beep of the back up camera accompanied me. I caught a glimpse of the empty booster seat behind me and remembered when I had an infant car seat in its place and realized: I’ve made more progress than I thought.