She’d just had a baby—and she was discussing peanut-butter sandwiches
There I was, a squeamish nursing student sitting in a little recovery cubicle during the labor and delivery rotation in nursing school. I’d been kicked out of the OR — justifiably — while observing a C-section because the nurse took one look at my face and thought I was going to pass out (don’t worry, I’ve since toughened up).
As I sipped the orange juice that had been thrust into my hand, a woman who’d just given birth was on the phone, presumably with her mother or mother-in-law, discussing what her other children ate for lunch, who was going to pick them up and bring them wherever they needed to go, and other mundane matters pertaining to her family at home.
Having no children at the time, I remember being struck by the juxtaposition. Here was a woman who’d just brought a human being into the world, an action of cosmic proportions, and she was talking about peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for her toddler. I wasn’t being judgmental, I was just absolutely fascinated by interplay of the awesome and the humdrum.
When my oldest child was born it was all drama and mood music and fireworks. The milestone was replete with all things new mom, including a birth plan, fresh onesies, and a stroller that cost more than the second-hand car we once owned. It was an event, it was new, it was all in the realm of the incredible, with no mundane intertwined.
Well here we are, over ten years later, and I’m now that woman. As I frantically hurry to get to the hospital on Friday morning, I pack the big brother and big sister’s bags for camp, and give them Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast to sweeten this very not-routine morning before rushing out the door. As I labor in the hospital bed, I arrange Shabbos plans and play dates in between contractions. Forget a birth plan. I just let them know I want an epidural as soon as I feel the need.
When the baby is born, time stops, and I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amazement and majesty of a newborn. But soon after I have a foot in two worlds, that of the joyous drama of having a newborn and that of the everyday items and scheduling that make my kids’ lives go round.
And you know what? I don’t think my new baby is missing out. We joked with the nurse as we brought him to the car in the old car seat with the weathered Chuck E Cheese sticker adorning the handle, better to have an old car seat and more competent parents than a spanking new one with clueless parents.
He may have a whole lot of hand-me downs, older siblings who love to hold him and touch him and tickle his toes (don’t worry, I still make them use “magic soap”), and a mommy who’s not staring at him and holding him 24/7. But I’m able to more intuitively take care of him, drinking in the meaningful moments, because I’ve already been down this road.
I don’t freak out when I see that newborn rash, rather nuzzle his soft skin and smell his sweetness. I’m not paralyzed by the terrifying thought that I’ve brought a child into This World and the overwhelming responsibility that comes with it as I was when I first became a mother. I’m able to allow my incredibly powerful love for my baby to just flow. I know to frequently take a minute — or more — to just enjoy this phase rather than fret over the lack of sleep and unpredictability because it will slip by before I can blink.
So my little baby boy, as you snuggle in that bouncy seat that held your brother and sister before you, know that just because you’re not the first doesn’t mean you’re just another baby. You’re a world unto yourself, as unique and gorgeous and loved as those who came before you. And this time around I’m able to truly appreciate the awesomeness of that, even amid all the mundane details and little messes that make up our lives.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 777)
Oops! We could not locate your form.