Saturday, May 12, 2012

Motherhood then and now

After spending three weeks with my daughter and the little girls living with me I am struck by all that has changed and all that remains the same about new motherhood.


At 2:00 a. m. this morning this is my list:


Then: We had basinets and blankets on the floor and maybe a kind of bouncy seat (I never did). We had strollers and baby carriers, and I used those a lot. A baby on the front so I could do things when they were little, and a backpack when they were older and I could make dinner. I felt super equipped and very progressive.


Now: Where do I start? There are exer-saucers and bouncy chairs with music and mobiles that move. There are strollers for two that have the kids one on top of each other like bunk beds and strollers for mothers who run. The are multi-speed swings with different tunes. Playmats for tummy time, tag blankets, small high chairs that attach to big chairs, big high chairs and, something I think is brilliant we used one last night at a restaurant, little quilted units to keep small ones safe in commercial high chairs and shopping carts:



Then: Car seats were for bigger babies. I brought my daughter home from the hospital in a basket set on the back seat. We all did that.

Now: Car seats are wonderful and everyone uses one.

Then: Having a baby meant no one, particularly yourself, expected your stomach or maybe even the rest of your body to ever quite "go down." I remember assuming I would have to start sewing one size up after my pregnancy.

Now: Mothers have flat stomachs at their six week appointments. This is one of the great mysteries of all time to me.

Then: Maternity clothes were smock-like. We didn't quite hide our pregnancies like our mothers, but we gathered over them.

Now: Pregnant women wear bikinis and tight Tshirts, and a lot of their old clothes only tighter. This is real progress to me.

Then: We put our babies to sleep on their stomachs because it was safer. The nurses told me this way they wouldn't choke when they spit up.

Now: Babies sleep on their backs because it is safer. Flat heads are back.

Then: We padded the cribs with bumper pads and filled up them up with stuffed toys. I was well into labour with my first one when I was still finishing a quilt  - to keep her warm.

Now: Bumper pads and blankets and stuffed toys are out of cribs and infants sleep in sleep sacs. 

Then: Fathers changed diapers and made meals and their own fathers were amazed and they themselves thought they were amazing.

Now: Fathers change diapers and make meals and no one thinks it's amazing at all.

Then: Women breastfed, in my own case quite openly, by pulling up their shirts and latching on with maybe a receiving blanket half falling off. Boobs were still just boobs. We were the hippy generation and most of us had gone to college braless.

Now: The Wonderbra generation feeds with elaborate covers that hide the entire child (I call them baby burkas). Stupid magazines like Time this week still think breastfeeding is weird and publish staged and hysterical  covers implying that this is anyone else's business. I am hugely disappointed that with all the things to think about in the world breastfeeding is used for shock effect:


Then: We had low expectations for domestic life. Unless you were Greek you didn't have olive oil in the cupboard, and herbs for most families where things that came in little jars that got dusty at the back of the stove. Casseroles were the meal of choice and if you were smart you had a three week supply of tuna/noodle in the freezer.

Now: New mothers have dinner parties with beet and goat cheese salad when they come home from the hospital with vinaigrette they make with walnut oil. They keep Ouzo in the freezer.

Then: At the end of your pregnancy you said to yourself, well at least I will have a week to rest in the hospital and someone else will do the cooking. I had my first child in Australia and was in for 10 days and the nurses watched me with eagle eyes while I practiced baby bathing. The last two I had in Canada and was in for a week. I read magazines.

Now: They go home in 24 hours. They have to, they have vinaigrette to make.

Then: We wondered if we would ever sleep and if we would ever stop being tired.

Now: They wonder if they will ever sleep and if they will ever stop being tired.

What have I missed?

4 comments:

annie said...

I had four under five years old. Looking back, a twin stroller would have been pretty useful. And those car seats! How did we manage to get our children to adulthood?

Nancy W. said...

I love your post! My daughter had a baby six months ago (they live with us) and I can't believe how different it all is. And what in the world did I ever do without a Bumbo?

Summer Flies said...

Beautiful post. You really pin-point some strangeness in having babies today. I am 50 and had my son at 42 so I have a different view to the new mums today. I breastfed where and when I wanted and I wanted to see my child not hide him (how do they breathe?) I remember when Mum had her children (5) she stayed in hospital for 10days too ... probably the only rest she ever got. I'm Greek - we did have olive oil in the cupboard and it went with everything but then as a % of income it was very expensive - now it is prolific and cheap! Boo to Time!

gwensews said...

That was a nice trip down memory lane. I bottle fed my baby because the Drs thought the new formula was superior to breast milk. We took her on a road trip, laying on the front seat of the car between us. Today, we would be ticketed and sited for child neglect! Seeing all the new safety devices and the "proper" way to raise children, I wonder how ours survived!