I recently traveled across the country toting but one of my four children. Several people applauded how “brave” I was to travel with an infant. Others couldn’t help but note how “full” my hands were, while I sipped my iced coffee and enjoyed unfettered access to my mobile device without three sets of sticky hands reaching for it. At first I responded with a, “The other three are at home with Daddy, this is nothing,” or “He’s my fourth, this is a breeze,” totally incredulous that people could think traveling with one baby was so hard.
And then I saw her. The woman traveling with one baby. Her first baby. And then I remembered. I was her not that long ago. My husband and I traveled to Oregon from Phoenix when our first was a few months old and we suffered so much “travel with baby” anxiety that we thought we might never leave the desert again. Oh how different things were when I had my first…
1st baby: I set an alarm for every two hours at night. I woke the sleeping baby. Fed the sleeping baby. Changed the sleeping baby whether or not he needed it. I sat up straight as an arrow and turned on the light so as to never under any circumstances accidentally fall asleep while nursing the baby.
4th baby: I wake up in the morning with the baby laying horizontally beside me. My husband asks me if the baby woke up during the night to eat (I’m guessing my husband brought him to the bed. Did I?). I am completely unsure. Boobs feel deflated, so I say I think so.
1st baby: I had a lengthy birth plan typed out. I arrived at the hospital just in time to walk around the hospital forever and try to advance the contractions.
4th baby: My birth plan is no plan and if it was, it would have three words — have a baby. I arrive at my doctor’s appointment and the OB tells me I am at 8 centimeters so I should probably get to the hospital.
1st baby: I moved my baby from a bassinet in my room to a crib in his room at three months, since that’s what I had read and figured was best for the baby and for my marriage.
4th baby: He is six months. He is in a pack ‘n play in our room.
1st baby: I Pinterested and shopped and planned and rearranged until I had the nursery of my dreams. I painted frames for a coordinating collage and found the perfect dresser we had to travel miles for. I had a changing table and books and a chair for snuggling. Everything was hung and arranged perfectly.
4th baby: He was going to room with a brother, but the office is so much closer, so he’s going in there if I ever move him out of our room.
1st baby: I had a changing table, a changing pad for on-the-go travel, diaper rash cream of the natural variety, and a Kate Spade diaper bag I had to have.
4th baby: I have any horizontal surface, the back of my car/floors/restaurant tables, Desitin because it works better (but only at home and only if I can find it), and a purse I bought at a garage sale.
1st baby: I Googled constantly: How do I know if it’s gas? Best baby books for a 3 month old? Is (insert any baby behavior) normal? By what age should my baby be (insert any milestone)?
4th baby: I Google constantly: Why did Adam Levine shave his head? Will bangs make me look thinner? What’s an Ariana Grande? Why are all the Paradise Bakery stores now Panera Bread? Most recent Pentatonix song.
1st baby: I nursed in dressing rooms. I nursed in cars. I excused myself in my own home to nurse in my bedroom when we had guests. I used a fancy nursing cover with wire around the top. I walked three quarters of a mile across the mall with a starving baby so I could use the “Mother’s Lounge” in Nordstrom or the one in the food court. On occasion, I pumped milk and put it in a bottle so I could feed the baby with the bottle should the need to nurse around others arise. When at home, I had a nursing pillow tightly secured around my waist so I could position the baby perfectly.
4th baby: I nurse wherever I am. I use an Aden and Anais swaddle to cover — if I cover.
1st baby: I told the polite stranger she could not touch my baby. I worried when seasoned mothers held my baby and reminded them about supporting his head. I wore the baby in a carrier in situations where I thought someone might try to hold the baby.
4th baby: I ask my four-year-old if he is strong enough to pick up the baby and bring him to me while I’m on the toilet. I ask the grocery store clerk to hold the baby while I look for my wallet. I look forward to situations where I think someone might try to hold the baby.
1st baby: I knew the best way to raise a baby and told everyone.
4th baby: I nod and smile at the lady with the screaming toddler in aisle two while I carry my screaming toddler sack-o’-potatoes-style to the car.
1st baby: I had a matching pair of shoes and socks for every outfit and every occasion.
4th baby: I sold all the small shoes at our garage sale. He can wear shoes when he starts to walk. Or he can not wear them. Whatever.
1st baby: I checked on the sleeping baby to see if he was breathing.
4th baby: I check on the sleeping baby to see if he is breathing. Can’t give that one up for some reason.
1st baby: I prepared for hours before I left the house — nursing, changing, nursing again. I had a huge diaper bag filled with everything that I might need, an extra of each of those things, and about five to ten things nobody ever needs.
4th baby: I put the baby in the car seat and hope I still have the diapers in my purse.
1st baby: I turned down offers from close friends to bring us meals postpartum because I’m kind of picky.
4th baby: I say yes to every meal anyone offers postpartum and allow my friend to sign me up to receive meals from strangers.
1st baby: My husband and I gathered around the little tub we had bought and gave him a bath together several times a week. We laid him on a giant frog-shaped sponge on an inclined bath board so he could be at a 45 degree angle while we gently poured lukewarm water over his head. We used a frog-shaped washcloth hand puppet to massage his back and tummy while we cleaned him off with all natural baby soaps.
4th baby: He sits in the Bumbo in the shower with me once or twice a week. The soap from my body drips onto him and he is clean.
1st baby: All the rice cereal. All the official baby food. All the blended food.
4th baby: All the food I eat in the form that I eat it or quickly torn apart.
1st baby: I told my friend with a cold she should probably stay away and glared at the mom bringing the snotty nosed kid to the play date.
4th baby: I tell my friend with a cold to bring me an iced coffee on her way and smile at the mom glaring at me for bringing my snotty nosed kid to the play date.
1st baby: I love him obsessively. I think he is better than all the other babies God ever made.
4th baby: I love him obsessively. I think his is in a four-way tie for best baby God ever made.
What about you, mamas? What’s the biggest difference between your first baby and the next?