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I’m VERY proud to introduce Jenn Larson, an amazing new mom that I had the delight of meeting as she went through pregnancy with Bump Club and Beyond. New to Chicago, Jenn came to Bump Club religiously as a mom-to-be and was the first one in line after leaving Prentice to join our mom events. Her take on new motherhood is incredibly upbeat as she rolls with the punches. I often found myself cracking up at midnight while reading her emails, so I asked her if she wanted to share her experiences with all of us. Bump Club and Beyond, meet my friend, new mom extraordinaire, Jenn Larson. What follows is her first of what hopefully will be many blog entries on our Baby Talk Blog!<!–more–>
by Jenn Larson
I am ready to openly admit something to the general public that is normally discussed only in mom’s groups- my nine week old infant is a frequent, loud, and seemingly baleful crier.
Now let me explain before you begin to fill in the blanks on your own… she isn’t grumpy, socially detached, or sickly. She doesn’t have colic, although she does have food sensitivities (which have lead me to an exclusion diet- but that is a story for another time). She is, however, intelligent, alert, and opinionated. She is very quick to let me know, in the most resounding method possible, exactly what she needs and when she needs it. She has the lungs of an Olympic swimmer and a set of pipes that would make Pavarotti jealous. Though she was born in Chicago, she has all the moxy and sass that would be expected of a Southern lady (which makes her Texan Mama supremely happy).
I’m telling you this because I think it is imperative for you to understand that I’ve been gripped by a reality that all new mother’s face- my baby is not perfect in the popular, Disneyfied sense. Though as new mom’s we are socially trained to respond to every question about how we are doing with perfect and peachy response, I’m ready to be open with the world for all of us; yes, everything is amazing, and wonderful, and perfect… but in a verrrrry fractured sense.
Last week my Army Ranger brother came to visit me for the first time since his return from deployment to Afghanistan. As a first time traveler to Chicago he made sure to inform me ahead of time that his visit should consist of two things; time with his precious new niece and the typical touristy things you do in Chicago. WIllis Tower… deep dish Pizza… the best encased meats the city has to offer…. and “that big silver bean thing.” As the mother of an eight week old newborn prone to screeching in public this is not the sort of request that prompts you to break into a happy dance, but since the request came from a war hero I felt obligated to oblige.
I’ve learned in life that sometimes it is better to be baptized by fire than it is with water, so I decided we would tackle the most ambitious task first- the mile and a half walk and 103 story ascent to the Sky Deck at Willis Tower. This way, if Baby N completely melted down on the journey, my brother would find her mild fussiness during shorter excursions to be quite pleasant in comparison. Plus, it was a beautiful, sunny day and I was dying to try out the sun parasol for my Stokke. I dug down deep, mustered as much confidence as is possible for a post-partum ball of estrogen, and I prepared to step out into the streets of Chicago.
The walk to the WIllis Tower went off without a hitch. Baby N, a notorious pacifier boycotter, blissfully sucked away her binky much to my amazement. As we entered the building and approached the elevator I was gripped by a sense of terror. A 103 floor ascent. In an elevator packed with people. Her ears were going to pop and I would be in for it!
I knew that sucking would help reduce the pressure in her ears. I looked down at Baby N who was sucking apathetically. And then she stopped… and started to push the pacifier out with her tongue. If I didn’t entertain that baby quickly to encourage her to keep sucking, I knew I was at risk of being voted off the elevator mid-ride with a screaming baby in tow…
After two repeat performances of the “Bitty Baby Dance” (If you ever run into me in public, feel free to request a performance. I’m just shocked it hasn’t made it on Youtube yet since I’m pretty sure the man next to me gleefully recorded this elevator absurdity.), we finally made it to the top and I was free to guide Baby N and my brother through our ariel view of the city. The best part was that in light of my elevator success I had actually started to relax!
As we rounded the final corner, Baby N began to whimper and I knew that it was time for her to eat. My brother suggested we find a restroom and I shot him a wide-eyed look of horror. “I’m not feeding the baby in a bathroom. That’s terribly unsanitary!” I unzipped the side of my diaper bag, pulled out my nursing cover, and progressed to a window where I could attempt to point out Cellular Field. Apparently, it was my brother’s turn to be moderately horrified.
“You’re not going to nurse right here, are you?”
“Of course I am! Why wouldn’t I?”
“Because everyone will know you’re exposed under there!”
“Well, I’m always naked under my clothes so what’s the big deal!?”
And as I stood there nursing my baby I realized something- sure, it seems like an obvious fact that I’m always naked under my clothes, but it now seemed equally as obvious that I was a confident mom sometimes covered by a pile of doubt. I hardly seemed like the self conscious girl who just eight weeks earlier had stood teary eyed in the pediatricians office unsure if I would EVER produce enough milk to sustain my newborn. Now I was feeding her at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere while pointing out sporting venues!
I was no longer the girl who needed two sets of hands to change a diaper; I was the woman who could change a major cloth diaper blow-out in the dressing room at Ralph Lauren while trying on a sweater that is worth more than my life and my stroller combined!
I was no longer the girl who was afraid to let others see me struggle; I was the woman who, after going in for a diaper change a bit too early (yet again) and suffering a direct hit from projectile poo, could open the door to greet my house guests with a clean baby, a Jackson Polock-esque nursing gown, and a request for a moment of babysitting so that I could shower up.
I realized that in eight weeks I had laughed, cried, and even stumbled akwardly through many new experiences but each time I had pulled through with a healthy, happy (albeit intense) newborn in my arms. And each situation made it even more clear that I was born to be a mother. Sure, my baby isn’t perfect, but she is the perfect baby FOR ME!
They say that motherhood changes everything, and they are right- it certainly does. It changes things in a hilarious, topsy-turvey, laugh at yourself, and lean on your friends sort of way. It makes your house dirtier, you to-do list longer, and your senses more acute. It makes you sing in public, wax poetically about finer points of your favorite diapers, and offer stroller purchase tips to complete strangers. After birth, we have to be new, stronger, more wonderful people. We become these people because we realize we have to have an enduring sense of confidence- Momfidence- since the little one watching your every move is just waiting to know how to react.
I wish I could say that the walk home from the Willis Tower was quiet and uneventful as I basked in my new found sense of Momfidence, but alas, Baby N’s red-headed temper flared up just in time to startle a large group of smartly dressed men walking out the Chicago Board of Trade. “I didn’t know something so small could be so loud,” one of the men exclaimed. “I bet you’re really tired.” I smiled down at N’s little fists of fury. “No, I feel amazing!” And I had never been more sincere.