If I could have bubble wrapped my first child to keep her safe, it would have happened. I was coming off of a pregnancy loss, and she was my rainbow baby. To make matters worse, she was born six weeks early and spent some time in the intensive care unit of the children's hospital. To say I was on protection overdrive would perhaps be one of the greatest understatements of all time.
I wedged a pool noodle under the car seat at just the right angle for her maximum comfort and had the local fire department check my work. Even still, I pulled over every half an hour to check the back seat to make sure she was breathing. Oh yeah, and I had a chart of her bowel movements. That's absolutely true—there are such things as baby shit files, and I had them. Unfortunately, there's more.
But my second kid? A lot has changed since then. You'll see.
First kid: If a child coughed within six feet of my baby in the grocery store, I death-stared the parent of the infectious little bugger and scurried away, digging in my carry-on sized diaper bag for the hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
Second kid: My kids lick everything. The lick is like the toddler's handshake. That toy that's been in the mud and rain all week? That wall? That grocery cart? That baby gate? My pants? Yeah, they lick it. It gets worse, though. Last week, my youngest child actually sneezed into my mouth. INTO MY MOUTH.
Lesson: Parenting is messy and kids get sick—there's something to be said for preparedness, but there's only so much that Lysol can do. Relax.
First kid: I was late to the solid food party partly because I was still mad at myself for being a breast-feeding failure and I was secretly terrified of my kid choking. When I did allow her to have real food, it was organic fruits and vegetables that I pureed in my own baby food maker in my own kitchen at midnight because that's the only time I had to do it. Then, I would pour it into tiny, proportioned containers for the freezer, double wrap it in plastic wrap to ensure it didn't get any unwanted air, and stumble off to bed.
Second kid: I tried for a brief moment to breast-feed but quickly realized it wasn't going to happen, so I switched to formula with more relief than sadness. Besides formula, she mostly ate jarred baby food and whatever else she found on the floor when she was just learning to scoot around. Eh, whatever.
Lesson: You're reading this article, which means you're a highly intelligent creature. Highly intelligent creatures do not let children starve. Just get some rest and do the best you can.
First kid: I checked on my first kid once every two hours at night to make sure she hadn't rolled over and was somehow sleeping on her stomach. On those occasions that she was, I rolled her back over even though I knew that meant she may wake. When she was still itty bitty, I woke her up every three hours to eat, even though that meant I got no sleep myself. I threw away that beautiful crib bumper I got at my baby shower because the third parenting book I read said they were unsafe. My anxiety piqued at night, so I was always waking up thinking the worst.
Second kid: My youngest daughter is damn near two and still sleeps in a pack and play in the spare room. She never liked that fancy crib. When she's down for the night, I leave her be.
Lesson: I know now that a sleeping baby, just like your finding your favorite vino in the sale basket at the store, is a thing of beauty. Don't mess it up.
First kid: I kept a journal for the first two months of my oldest daughter's life that detailed when she breast-fed, from which breast and how much I estimated (inaccurately, I'm sure) she was able to consume. It also contained notes on her diaper changes, including the appearance and frequency of her bowel movements. In short, I charted my kid's shit. If I thought it looked weird, I would send a picture to my husband so we could discuss it and try to pinpoint why, exactly, it looked like that. Remind me to never do a mass print of my cell phone pictures from those months because I don't want to scare the developer at the drug store.
Second kid: I have a baby book, and I have pictures. It's just that the pictures are still on my computer and the baby book is wrapped in plastic.
Lesson: You can record important tidbits and take important pictures, but, really, the most important thing is that you're present in the moments that matter. Go easy on yourself if you're not a scrapbook queen or a maker of a shit journal. Do you love your kids? Good. Do that.