When I became pregnant, the diaper came to symbolize my absolute crippling fear of impending motherhood. That seemingly benign little plastic white pant with the powdery scent and the smiling muppet on the band -- it was my own personal hell.
You see, in all my 36 years of life on this planet, I had yet to change one.
I was a relatively content childless woman before Nate's one lucky sperm did the wild thang with one of my eggs. I had pretty well mastered all the skills a career-driven creative professional needs to live and thrive in Manhattan: I knew which downtown falafel stand was worth the block-long line. I knew precisely where to stand on the 6 train platform at rush hour so that the door would open in front of me. I knew how to shake hands with a celebrity without stammering more than three times. But as I came to realize, not one of these accomplishments was worth a whit when I was to lie in the hospital that first postpartum night, clutching a helpless newborn baby girl to my chest.
The diaper became a running joke at first. Friends and strangers gazed at my increasingly well-upholstered waistline and asked, "So, are you excited?"
"Oh," I laughed in response. "I don't know if excited describes it. I've never even changed a diaper."
And they laughed back and laughed again and we all laughed together hahahahahahaha at the big pregnant lady who had never even changed a diaper.
"Oh ho ho, you'll change plenty soon enough," they chuckled knowingly.
And then, if there were any justice in the world, I would have been legally entitled to punch those people. But there's not. Instead, I smiled graciously and waddled home to eat sixteen Girl Scout Cookies while whining about my cankles on pregnancy message boards.
Even Nate didn't entirely understand the depths of my anxiety. He tried to make me feel better in that Guy Way, using tactics futile on pregnant women. Like reason. And rational thinking.
"Don't worry about the diapers," Nate said with one eye always on the Redskins game. "I know how to change a diaper. I'll show you. It's easy." Which is precisely what every swollen, sweaty, hormonal, freaking-the-hell-out pregnant woman does not want to hear.
What he should have realized is that when a woman says, "I don't even know how to change a diaper," the one proper response is, "Oh honey, you'll be a GREAT mother."
The only real comfort I found was in the eventual discovery that I was not alone. That even those women who had wanted this, dreamed of this their entire lives -- they were just as scared as I was.
During the first session of our birthing class, the instructor stood up at one end of the humid, fluorescent-lit classroom and asked us to go around the room and divulge our greatest anxiety. The answers ranged, as Dorothy Parker might have said, from A to B. The dozen wide-eyed young women in the group spoke of tearing. Or pain. Or tearing and pain and maybe some more tearing. Because not one woman was willing to raise her hand in front of the group and say OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I'M TERRIFIED I WILL SUCK AT THIS AND THE WORLD WILL THINK LESS OF ME AND I DON'T HAVE THE NURTURING GENE AND WHAT IF I MESS THIS UP EVERYONE ELSE MAKES IT LOOK EASY AND OH MY GOD HOW DID I GET INTO THIS SITUATION ANYWAY?
So instead we confess a fear of labor pains.
I'm convinced that there is no fearlessness as far as parenting is concerned. The stakes are too high. Show me a fearless parent and I'll show you a liar or a crack addict. I think the only option is to accept your fears. Own them. Shout them from the rooftops. Then suck it up, get yourself a latte, and move on.
And that's just what I did that first night in the hospital. With Nate's gentle guidance, I changed my daughter's diaper
When I was finished, it was lopsided. And it was bumpy. It sat too low in the back and far too high in front, so it rubbed against her belly button stump and made her squirm.
But I did it.
And I'm still doing it thirteen months later. Hoo boy, am I still doing it.
Nate's still better at it than I am. But I'm okay with that.
It's just a diaper.
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