Dear Strangers at Church,
Thank you for taking notice of my baby and I the other day.
I’m not talking about when you interrupted my conversation with a friend so you could touch my baby uninvited. I’m not talking about when you blocked my path as I was walking to the restroom to change my baby (or relieve myself) so you could coo over how adorable my baby is and comment on how novel it is that I’m wearing my baby.
I’m not even talking about when you pushed passed me to grab a hold of my baby’s hand while I was trying to change her diaper (and wouldn’t leave until a friend came in to take over the hand-holding job). Nope, I’m not talking about any of that – as uncomfortable and annoying as it can be. I’m talking about when you and everyone around you were kind enough to turn around in your seats and STARE at my baby and I as she cried unceasingly. You know what I’m talking about.
There was a huge line of people standing in the aisle, going down for Holy Communion and in the absolute opposite direction of where I needed to go to be able to care for my baby. There was no room or way for me to squeeze past them. All I could do was cuddle, shhh, and rock my baby – trying to comfort her – and wait. Wait for the chance to get out of Dodge and go care for my baby. Your staring didn’t help things. My family was already a little too overly concerned with what was going on and kept asking what I needed. What I needed? I needed to be able to take care of my baby and wasn’t immediately able to. I needed them to quit asking what I needed because there was nothing any of them could do to help get me what I needed. I needed all the strangers around us to quit staring at me…some with abject pity and some with some kind of look that screamed “I can’t believe she’s just letting her baby cry like that.” (at least that’s what the look communicated to me). My personal favorite were the people who were looking around like they were just curious and looking for someone. You weren’t looking for someone, you wanted to see the crying baby. At least the other busybodies owned their nosiness. You should know that I would not have sat there for what seemed like eternity while my baby cried and her diaper leaked pee all over both of us. If I had the room to push through that line of people, I would have. I didn’t. If I had the room to change my daughter right there, I would have. I didn’t. I had no choice but to sit there and wait. Your staring – no matter what your motives or feelings were – didn’t help. My baby was crying and she needed a diaper change but she was safe. She was okay. She didn’t need you to stare at her mama. If I looked upset or frustrated when you were staring at me, you should know that I was. I was not upset and frustrated with my baby. She was simply communicating, in the only way she has, that she needed something. I was upset and frustrated that you didn’t have the simple decency to ignore us and just keep praying, or day dreaming, or whatever it is that you usually do in church.
You may not have been judging me. You may have been feeling very sympathetic for me but how would I know that? All you did was stare. Open, blank, questioning, even seeming a little put out…staring. So, what is the point of this letter? Other than to allow me to vent? I’m hoping that it may serve as a reminder that it isn’t polite to stare or to insert yourself where you are not invited. God gave my husband and I our baby and He gave us the ability to care for her. We got this and He’s got our back. If we need your help, we’ll ask. Until then, PLEASE nose out. By the way, if you feel so compelled – if you happen to hear a baby/toddler/kid crying – I’m sure the parents and family would appreciate your prayers. Prayers in & nose out. That’s a good rule to live by until the family invites otherwise.
A Baby Mama
If you are invited, or invite yourself, over to visit with mom & new baby please refrain from the following… (All of these things come from personal experience or from the experiences of my friends/family)
Side note – my husband is not nearly as bothered by any of these things as I am. I think that men, in general, just aren’t as bothered by this stuff. They also don’t have hormones pulsing crazily through them and haven’t gone through 9 months of pregnancy followed by labor and delivery. They may have witnessed and supported us through it, but they didn’t physically experience it and all of it’s hormonal glory. My husband actually takes some pride in #12 & people wanting to lay claim to our baby. He says “Who doesn’t want to be on a winning team” and our baby is WINNING! 🙂
1. Making any jokes referring to how inadequately mommy is caring for baby & that you’ll just have to take baby home with you to care for him properly. Really, who would think that’s funny or a good idea? I mean REALLY?
2. Offering any unsolicited advice. Really, don’t offer any. Do not tell her what her baby needs or how she ought to be doing something. Just because she doesn’t do something the way that you did/do or the way your doctor told you to doesn’t mean that she’s doing something wrong. Really, really, really – keep your mouth shut if you are a man. There were times I wanted to smack my husband for offering breastfeeding advice. He was just trying to love me & help. I didn’t find it helpful at all. If you are having a conversation about life with baby and mom asks about something, then answer her question. I do have friend who offered unsolicited but very welcome advice about cloth diapering. She offered it via email so I didn’t have to sit and listen to this advice if I didn’t want to.
3. Wearing copious amounts of anything that has any scent to it. Perfume, hair products, body powder, etc. When you douse yourself in these products it can really bother both mom and baby. All those hormones raging and (sometimes) enhanced sense of smell means that these scents can be H.E.L.L. for mommy. Babies have sensitive senses, too. They use their sense of smell to help recognize their mama, find their mama’s breasts for nursing, etc – especially when they are very young and their eyesight hasn’t fully developed. When you’re covered in a strong scent, it can interfere with baby’s ability to sniff out mama or mama’s milk. One other thing to think about – while your scent may smell just lovely on you, if you hold baby it will transfer to baby and NO mama wants to have their baby handed back to them smelling like anyone OTHER than their baby. I have one friend who would demand that her husband give their newborn a bath immediately after certain visitors because they always wore very strong smelling perfume & she couldn’t stand the way her baby smelled after they held her.
4. Don’t take things personally. This really isn’t about you. This isn’t about how often you get to see the baby or hold the baby or feed the baby, etc. This isn’t about you. Get over yourself. Also, remember that new parents have to deal with a lot of well meaning but sometimes very annoying people. You may not do anything to annoy them but just happen to catch them after a particularly long or annoying engagement. They may be tired and feeling raw. Take some comfort or pride in the fact that the new parents might feel so comfortable with you that they don’t have to hide how tired/raw/annoyed they are. Don’t hold it against them or baby.
5. If you want to see the family, don’t always expect them to come to you. Sometimes the idea of getting a newborn & all their paraphernalia ready for an outing is daunting enough to keep parents hiding out at home. Call ahead (because surprise visits can be very stressful – especially if mommy hasn’t bothered to get out her pjs and baby is screaming when you arrive) & schedule a time to either visit the family in their home (offer to bring coffee or a meal, or to take care of baby so mom can get a shower, or help fold laundry, etc – mom may decline all of your offers but she’ll be grateful for the thought) or someplace very close to their home (which means they won’t have to pack as much stuff for baby because they won’t be out all day).
6. Don’t show up at the family’s door uninvited or unexpected. This was mentioned above but it bears repeating and deserves it’s own number on the list. Really, don’t do this to the family. Just because they let you in – that doesn’t mean they want you there. They’re probably just being nice because they couldn’t think of a polite way to avoid you. The ONLY exception to this is if you are a very close friend or family member who lives very far away, therefore making opportunities to see each other very few and far between. I can think of one family that I would be okay with them showing up with very short notice (I’d say unexpectedly but they are too considerate to do that). We love them dearly, they love us, and we only get the chance to see each other once every couple of years. I also trust that we won’t have to deal with any passive-aggressive comments about the status of our home or judgement over how messy it is. We have a few close friends who I don’t worry about the state of our home with either, but they live much closer & we have more opportunities to see them. 😉
7. Don’t try to guilt new parents into doing something they don’t want to do. If parents ask you to refrain from doing something, don’t call them out in front of other people or try to make them feel guilty about it. They are the parents and what they say goes. You need to respect that.
8. Don’t go baby crazy. This means a few different things… First, it’s really difficult to remain polite and friendly with people who had no interest in getting to know you or spending time with you prior to you having a baby. Suddenly, here’s baby and people come out the woodwork because they want to cuddle baby. What’s worse is that these people seem to feel they have an absolute right to demand to see baby whenever and wherever they please. You have no rights to this baby or family at all. If you didn’t feel a need to demand that the parents come out and visit with you every time you were in town prior to them having a baby then you need to think twice about demanding that they bring their baby out to see you. Second, it really sucks to bring baby out to see people, only to have them grab at baby and completely ignore your existence, until the baby starts crying. Then they hand the baby back to you for you to “fix” whatever is wrong, while simultaneously offering unsolicited advice about what baby needs. It’s also very uncomfortable to try to breastfeed baby (especially for first time moms) while people are just staring at you. Don’t do that. Finally, babies have the ability to heal schisms in families. That is such a blessing but please remember that this may take some time. Try to cultivate a relationship with the parents beyond the baby. Be patient with them as feelings & schisms heal. Recognize that there may be issues that pop up and need to be resolved.
9. If you invite new parents someplace, you should expect that they’ll have baby with them. If you don’t want them to bring baby or know that you’re inviting them someplace that isn’t baby friendly, don’t get upset if they decline your invitation.
10. Don’t make comments about either mom or dad’s work situation or ask questions about the family’s financial status. It isn’t your business at all. They’ll work out what is best for their family. Keep your nose out.
11. DO NOT SHARE HORROR STORIES. Pregnant moms don’t need to hear about how painful/awful/scary, etc you or your friend’s or your friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s sister’s birth was. New moms don’t need to hear about babies who died in random/obscure/freak accidents. They don’t need to hear about any of that. They need love and support and those stories aren’t loving or supportive. They are scary and they cause parents to question their judgement & abilities. God forbid something actually happens to their baby – what has sharing these stories accomplished? Nothing.
12. Don’t call the baby “my baby”. Did you carry the baby for 9 (ish) months? Did you help create the baby? Did you go through labor? Are you the baby’s mom or dad? No? Then this isn’t “your baby” and you should not refer to baby as “my baby”. I don’t know if there is any better way to piss off a new mom, especially. That baby is her baby, not yours. Recognize that. Are you a grandparent? Then that is your grand baby. Feel free to claim that. 🙂 I remember hearing stories about how my grandpa used to refer to me as “my girl”. He’d say things like “There’s my girl”. If you are a family member, godparent, or very close friend (i.e. honorary aunt/uncle status) then referring to the baby as “my girl” or “my boy” would generally be acceptable, too. However, if mom or dad asks you to refrain from calling the baby anything other than their name/nickname (i.e. no “my baby”, “my girl”, “my boy”, “my little man”, “sugar plum”, “sweetheart”, “pretty lady”, “handsome man”, etc) then don’t argue, pout, or take it personally. Refer back to #7 and respect the parents’ wishes.
Do you have anything to add to the list? Share below! 🙂
I know you can find “How to Name Your Baby” lists all over the place…cause I’ve read many of them. I just decided I’d add my two cents, especially because as prepared as I thought I was, I was still surprised by some things we’ve encountered as we’ve discussed baby names. Below is similar to the process we went through.
Step 1: Have you and your spouse make a huge list of every name you like. Consider family names (either to include or automatically veto), biblical names, Saints’ names, etc. (If your spouse is like mine, then he won’t bother with a list. He’ll just add a couple names to yours and then proceed to veto nearly everything, including some of his own suggestions.)
Step 2: Play the veto game on each other’s list. (He vetoes names off your list and you veto names off of his.)
Step 3: Start trying to combine names into first and middle combos from both lists (cause that’s just nice).
Step 4: Say the names out loud, like they may be said in various situations (like your kid is in trouble, you are cheering for them, they are graduating, passing the bar, arresting a suspect, being arrested, etc).
Step 5: Think of any possible nick names, especially mean ones and decide if you like the name enough for your kid to learn to live with whatever you come up with. (Kids are genius when it comes to making up nick names, especially mean ones, so don’t stress too much over this part).
Step 6: See if your child’s web “real estate” is available for the various names you’ve picked. Try first/middle combos as well as first/last, nicknames, etc.
Step 7: Veto more names.
Step 8: Pray. A name is a powerful and important thing. It’s good to ask God what He thinks about your choices, especially if you are leaning towards naming your kid L-a (pronounced Le DASH Ah), Shi’thead, Turtle, or some other extra creative (*cough* or crazy) name.
Step 9: Prepare yourself for lots of opinions. If you choose to share the name you’ve chosen or names you are considering with people, prepare yourself for unsolicited “advice”. Like “What about this name (that neither of you like and vetoed before ever hitting Step 1)?”
Step 9.5: I call this 9.5 because it is also about preparing yourself…for people to express abject disappointment and to almost seem rejected by your name choices. Really, it happens. You don’t want to name your kid after great-great-great-Grandpa Dickie and someone gets their panties all in a bunch.
Step 10: Unless you KNOW the gender of your baby and are absolutely certain about baby’s name – AVOID getting anything monogrammed until after baby is born and you settle on an official name. I can’t be the only person who’s name was changed at birth. My mom didn’t KNOW if I was a boy or a girl (cause they didn’t have all that fancy technology in the dark ages) but had a gut feeling that I was a girl. She called me “Amanda” throughout the entire pregnancy. Then she met me. My name is NOT Amanda. Amanda doesn’t appear in any form, in any way, in any part of my name. She met me and KNEW that I would never be an Amanda. I had to be a Rebecca. (Good thing for me because my husband’s ex-girlfriend’s name is Amanda. My MIL disliked her INTENSELY and I don’t think things would have gone as well if my name brought back memories of her.)
Step 11: Name your baby and tell the rest of the world to take their opinions and shove it. Ultimately, this baby is being entrusted by God, to you, and that includes your God-given authority to curse your baby with whatever moniker you want.
Step 12: Buy your baby’s web real estate (their website). Even if you aren’t going to “do” anything with it. This ensures that some crazy cat lady or escort or moonshiner or mercenary or amateur “film” maker or evil master-mind, etc., who just happens to share your kid’s name, won’t be able to buy it and use it for their own nefarious purposes.
I wish you all good luck with naming those babies!!
Occasionally, your kid still ends up nameless, even after following all 12 steps. Then you pull out Step 13 and just ask your kid. Our daughter was nameless for the first 3 days of her life on the outside. We had trouble deciding between the two names we’d narrowed it down to, so we asked her. “Are you a …?” She frowned. Ok. “Are you a …?” She almost started crying. Ok. Back to the drawing board (kinda)! She seemed to veto both names and we didn’t feel like either name seemed quite right…something was just a little off. So, we prayed some more and checked out the list of Saints names and checked out name meanings. One name kept coming back up. It was pretty and feminine and classic sounding. It was different but not so different. It was shared by a an awesome Saint and had a wonderfully deep meaning for our family. We asked our daughter “Are you a Colette?” and we saw her smile for the first time. We figured a newborn’s smile was all the confirmation we needed and our daughter was named. Funny thing…the two names we’d been trying to decide between were Violet and Coleen. How close were we?!?
I started working on a post about The Holy Family on their Feast Day (12/30/12). I worked on it some and then saved it as a draft and kind of forgot about it. As I started looking through my drafts today it caught my eye. How appropriate that I re-read and revise this post today, 1/9/13, as this is also our first CCD class of the new year and we will be talking about The Holy Family, among other topics today. Not only will be talking about The Holy Family, but we’ll be doing a little dissecting as well. We’ll discuss St. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus and their individual roles within the Holy Family as well as what it means to be a family and what The Holy Family is like, as a unit. I’m excited to be back in class with my second graders and pray that God will give me the words and open their minds and hearts as we study and work on their preparation to receive Jesus, later this spring, in our Most Blessed Sacrament, The Eucharist. When I started writing this blog post 2 weeks ago, I had a love story on my mind. Well, more than one as The Holy Family is a picture of such amazing and pure love itself, but specifically I had the love story that God has written for my family on my mind and heart. He is so amazing & the gifts He wants to give us are divine. Simply, amazingly divine. So, below, you’ll find the post that I began working on last year. 🙂 To be totally honest, it’s really more about my family than The Holy Family but The Holy Family did provide inspiration!
Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. I am sitting here, next to my husband, thinking about what all this means. I can’t help but hope that our baby will be born today. (Update…as of 1/9/13, I am still very pregnant. 😉 I must remind myself that everything is in God’s time & His time is perfect.) I realize there is a very slim chance that that will happen, seeing as it’s already past 3 in the afternoon and I haven’t had any kind of regular labor pains, contractions, etc & no water breakage, either. Why do I think today, of all days would be so cool for Baby Nixon to join us? Because it just fits us and our story so well. (This is actually all of the original blog post from 12/30/12 that made the final cut. LOL. Oh, who doesn’t love some editing and revision.)
Everyone has a love story. Really, we all have a few of them. The love story of us and our families. The love story of us and God. The love story of us and our spouse (no matter if our spouse is God, The Church, or a person). Every love story is supremely unique and so very special but, of course, everyone thinks that their personal love story is just a little extra unique & special. I tend to fall into that camp and happen to be of the (biased) opinion that the love story I share with Harold and our family is something a little extra special.
I could go all fairy tale on you (to be honest, I do LOVE a good fairy tale) but I won’t. 🙂 Everything about our relationship was a (to quote a Julia Roberts’ movie) “wrong fit right from the start”. Harold did not like me, at all. He didn’t find me to be attractive and thought I was a little too…well, too much, I guess is as good a way to describe it as anything. He liked girls with dark hair and dark eyes. He’s always found girls with an ethnic background, specifically Latina girls, to be particularly beautiful. What am I? Light hair, light eyes, and fair skinned. Northern European (whole lotta German & English in my background) through and through. Thankfully, he’s always been a bit of a chubby chaser, so one plus for me. So, almost no physical attraction on his side. What about me? Well, I didn’t find Harold to be all that attractive, either. He had a very young face and NO chin at all. Nothing, nada…he went from face to neck (not totally true…he just had a very “soft” chin). I also thought he was a little strange, a little quiet, a little too sensitive, and a little too meek. Also, he liked to talk philosophy. PHILOSOPHY?!? Ugh. Our personalities didn’t mesh (he told me I was simply too brash & I thought he was a mama’s boy), we weren’t physically attracted to each other, and every time we talked or hung out he always swore to himself that that would be the absolute last time. He really wanted nothing to do with me. And what now? We’re married. We’re madly in love (mad is a sometimes a big part of that) and we have one child in heaven and one in oven, due any day now. I can say there is no way we would’ve moved beyond personalities not meshing and the total lack of any physical attraction if it weren’t for God. He had to be at play in our love story. There had to be some divine intervention. (Just FYI…I find my husband to be ridiculously attractive and sexy now. He tells me how beautiful I am and that he can’t believe he didn’t see it the first time he saw me.)
I struggle with my prayer life. I always have. It ebbs and flows, like I’m sure many of yours does. I’ve always known how important it is to pray for your spouse, even when you are single and have no clue who your spouse may be. To know something and to do it are two different things entirely. I did not pray for my future husband. I’m sorry for that. Harold did. When I say Harold did, I mean that Harold prayed for MY future husband! He also prayed for me. He would kneel at the back of our church, under a picture of The Holy Family, light candles, and pray for me and my future husband. He was positive that I was a good girl, who needed a good man, and that man was NOT him. He figured that man would need the prayers. He figured I did, too. He was right about almost all of that. 😉 We’d been dating for nearly 6 months when Harold confessed this prayer habit to me. He still wasn’t sure about anything. I fell hard the instant he told me he’d been praying for me all that time. That’s our love story, well at least the beginning of it. My husband faithfully prayed for me (and him, he just didn’t know he was praying for himself), even when he didn’t like me. That is love. I am thankful. There are plenty of cute stories I could share with you. Plenty of ups and downs, plenty of inside jokes. Harold loves to make me laugh & he’s pretty funny. Those are stories for another post (maybe).
Harold and I had been dating for about 2 and 1/2 years when he decided to propose. He always said he would never ask twice BUT he actually did. 🙂 Most of the time I share the story about the first proposal but this time, I’m sharing the second. Harold took me to our church, to the back corner and we sat down. There were some older ladies in the church praying the Rosary and Harold didn’t want to draw attention or make a scene, so he told me I wasn’t allowed to cry. He asked me if I knew where we were and why were were there. I did not (I mean, I knew we were in church but you know what I mean). He pointed to the back wall, where the picture of The Holy Family was hanging and told me that we were sitting in the very spot where he used to kneel to pray for me. He knelt under The Holy Family and prayed for their intercession for me and my future family. Since it seemed to be God’s will that Harold was part of that future family, he thought it appropriate that this was the place he proposed. He dropped to one knee and pulled out my engagement ring. A pearl, surrounded by three interlocking circles of diamonds. The ring is full of a lot of symbolism, too. I did cry (very quietly…nobody noticed) and I said yes.
Sometime in the next three weeks or so, our baby will be baptized in the same corner of our church, under the same picture that Harold used to kneel under to pray for us and then that he knelt under to propose. I can not think of a more perfect place for our baby to welcomed into our Church family than that spot, under The Holy Family, where Harold and I agreed to start down the road to building our family. Icing on the cake…our baby’s baptismal garment is being made out of material from my wedding gown. Our baby will be baptized in a gown made from the gown I was wearing when our family was created before God, our extended family, and friends.
Our baby was baptized on February 3, 2013. This is a picture of our family standing in front of that picture of The Holy Family.