I was recently searching my computer’s bookmarked web pages looking for an orzo salad recipe I had enjoyed a while back when I came across a page titled, BabyCenter.Com- First Trimester. I smiled, remembering those early days of pregnancy when I searched the Internet for answers to the questions that kept my prenatal brain in a constant state of curiosity. Why am I so tired? Doesn’t any store besides Old Navy sell maternity clothes? What the hell happened to my breasts??
Forgetting my orzo salad for the moment I started scanning the dozens of websites I had flagged over the course of my computer’s tenure and realized my bookmarks folder read like a retrospective of the last five years of my life. Someone would only need to scan this list to know the challenges, both big and small, I faced in pregnancy and early motherhood. They ranged from the practical (Anita Maternity Bras) to the ambitious (KnittingHelp.com) and then onward to the scary (Berkley Parents Network: Depression and Weaning). I shudder when I recall the situation that prompted the latter search, a desperate attempt to identify a mercifully short period of extreme sadness I felt when I stopped breast-feeding JP just days before his first birthday.
There was also a page called Cracked or Bleeding Nipples. I needed no reminder as to why this site was flagged in my Safari bookmarks. Just reading the words gave me sharp pains in my areolas and instantly brought me back to the time when I had a clingy little infant who wouldn’t take a pacifier in any other form than my overused nipples and I was desperate for some information that would tell me how to remedy this increasingly painful situation. I remembered consulting with the La Leche League of Manhattan (another bookmarked page) and being crestfallen when I read that breast-feeding was a wonderful experience that, if done correctly, should be pain-free. It went on to say that if I was experiencing the symptoms I had inquired about—raw, tender, bleeding nipples— I was simply doing it wrong. It was only when a good friend and seasoned breast-feeder told me that while she eventually enjoyed the act of breastfeeding, it was initially a barbaric, painful and punishing experience that came anything but naturally. It was all I needed to hear to get me through the next few weeks.
I groaned when further down the chronologically-sorted list I saw the page titled Nut and Peanut Allergy Diet and remembered the full-fledged panic I went into when I found out my one-year old was allergic to a list of foods I had eaten liberally while breastfeeding, which may have explained his digestive issues but also launched me into a period of guilt-induced hyper-parenting. The extent to which I kept dairy and peanuts away from my son and out of my home was Herculean in the first year after his diagnosis, when I’d make every one of his meals from scratch and travel 30 minutes to the nearest Whole Foods to stock up on safe staples like dairy-free/nut-free/soy-free pancake mix. I was also lucky enough to have really good friends who denied their own finicky toddlers favorite foods like peanut butter and ice cream at parties and play dates so as not to make my son feel left out. (Did I say really good friends? I meant saints).
Further down my bookmarks folder I recognized a pattern as our family-life began to evolve. Realtor.com was a site I visited almost daily when my husband and I finally decided that we needed more space than our New York City one-bedroom apartment could provide. West Des Moines, Iowa-About was where I went to find out about the city we would move to for my husband’s job when JP was only 8 months old. And Vaseline-Stain Removal on Upholstery was a particularly helpful page I had consulted when JP began to enter his terrible-twos.
Looking back I’m stunned by how quickly it all went. When I was in the throws of those first years of motherhood I remember fantasizing with my best girlfriend about that promising day in the future when JP would wake up by himself, use the bathroom without assistance and pour himself a bowl of cereal while I slept in for a few extra minutes. Now that he’s there (almost, still no cereal-pouring) and getting ready to start full-day school in September, I want to stop the clock and preserve this exact moment, this magical time between utter dependence and total independence. But I know I can’t. I already Googled it and the page that sprung up read, No Results.
Ellen Bailey is a freelance writer, contributor to mamasagainstdrama.com and in serious danger of becoming a clingy Mom.
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