THE MAMA VAULT – #1 There Should Be a Test

 

 

We take tests to prove we’re qualified for all the important things in life.

 

We take tests to pass from grade to grade in school.  We take tests before we can drive a car.

 

Whether we’re hairdressers, schoolteachers, chefs, insurance agents, doctors, heavy equipment operators—most all things require we take a test to prove we’re proficient—to prove we most likely will not screw things up.

 

Yet, in the most important job of all—the one we should most definitely not screw up—the job of parenthood—there is no test required.  Zero.  Zero tests.  Not one.

 

I mean there was the little Lamaze class certificate we received before the birth of our first child.  The class always put my husband to sleep when we practiced deep breathing techniques—rendering him absolutely worthless when the real deal came around.  He would’ve flunked the test had there been one.  But there wasn’t.  I give him an “E” for effort.

 

So labor came and labor went.  Actually there was a lot of action between the “came” and the “went”—some of which should’ve been a red flag for our immaturity regarding parenting if anyone was watching.  Surely they’d have blacklisted us when we couldn’t stifle our giggles as the mama in the next room said the most shocking things in the throes of her labor.  Surely to goodness!  Our behavior was highly irregular.

 

But we didn’t end up on any blacklist.

 

Instead, we loaded our little bundle of boy joy in our VW Jetta on a cool spring morning. We were exactly two actual things.  In shock and clueless.

 

We were a couple of twenty-four year olds, and the hardest thing we’d ever dealt with was college finals.  And yet they were letting us take home a real-live baby just like that.

 

The nurse escorted us to the car and strapped him in for us. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I thought I picked up on her hesitancy to let us drive off.   And who could blame her?  There was no tangible gauge of our ability—like a test score or something.   The only thing we’d proven was our ability to make a baby, which is no indication of an ability to take care of a baby.

 

I sat in the backseat to keep constant watch over our new little darling.  I’ll never forget my husband making eye contact with me through the rearview mirror and saying, What do we do now?

 

I got nothing, I thought to myself.  I didn’t say it aloud though, because I didn’t want to cause a panic.

 

Our mothers helped us for a couple of weeks, but soon we were winging it on our own.  You know, parenting on the fly.  And it was going really well, too, until we got cabin fever one day.

 

On that day, we decided to venture out for our first family outing–just the three of us.  We felt really adult about the whole thing.  So adult.

 

In our diaper bag were all the things we might even remotely need.  We’d prepared for every possible scenario.

 

Almost.

 

We strapped our precious son into his car seat and off we went. Our four-speed Jetta was a zippy little thing.  One might assume a new father would take the corners slowly, being especially careful and protective of our baby boy, who was peacefully hanging out in the backseat—an infant with no choice but to trust a pair of novices with his life.

 

This is the way it went down.

 

My husband took that first corner like he was making the last lap of the Indy 500.   Or so it seemed to me.  He tells me I’m prone to exaggeration, so whatever.  I think fatherhood triggered a spike in his testosterone levels causing him to accelerate, though I’m certainly no doctor.  All I know for sure is this—as we rounded the corner, a chain of events ensued in the seat behind me.

 

I saw it all in slow motion—the precious infant boy, fresh from my womb only three-weeks earlier—sliding across the back seat in his car seat until it hit the center hump, at which time it flipped completely upside down, and remained in that position until it came to a stop on the floorboard behind the driver’s seat.  Start to finish it couldn’t have been more than four seconds.

 

I screamed, Stop the car!  My baby, my baby!  I knew something like this would happen.

 

My husband slammed on the brakes and shoved the stick shift into park. I threw open my door before we’d come to a complete stop, racing around to the other side of the car.  Todd opened the back door, and all we saw was the car seat upside down in the floor. We didn’t see the baby—no sign of him at all.  None of his appendages were visible beneath the car seat.  Not so much as one little wrinkled hand sticking out from under it to give us the all clear.  Nothing in the diaper bag could fix it.

 

Eight-and-a-half pounds of baby sounds like a lot until it’s tucked beneath an overturned car seat.  Then it suddenly becomes tiny.  Invisible, actually.

 

Suddenly we were like two badly-behaved five-year-olds who should’ve been blacklisted from all the birthday parties for all the years.

 

You look first.  I’m scared.

 

No YOU do it.

 

We looked at each other, knowing one of us had to do the grownup thing and actually PICK UP THE CAR SEAT AND ASSESS THE CONDITION OF OUR CHILD!  Geez. Our child. See what I mean?  I told you.  We were absolutely, one hundred percent not qualified to have one.  We weren’t proficient.  Because, we hadn’t taken a freaking test! 

 

But back to the baby.  He was fine.  He is fine. A-Okay. He’s a lawyer now, for Pete’s sake.

 

When one of us finally had the courage to right-side the car seat, we found our son held firmly in place by the shoulder straps.  He was wide awake and calm as summer sea.  Because he had no point of reference, he was completely unaware being upside down in his seat in the floorboard wasn’t the usual way car rides go.

 

We kissed on him, thanked God, and correctly strapped him in the car.  We closed the back door, pulled ourselves together, and as nonchalantly as possible, climbed back in our car to continue on a new, ever-so-cautious way.

 

But not before we did a visual sweep of the neighborhood to make sure there were no witnesses.

 

Here is the excuse.

 

My husband and I are both children of the ‘60s.  Our infant years were spent lying on the actual seat of the car, likely somewhere in the vicinity of a parent, though that fact is not a given.  We do have proof my husband’s mother once placed her infant son on the back seat as she drove her car.  All this to say the whole “car seat” thing was never modeled for us—because the seats didn’t exist, there was no law and our moms were rookies.

 

So we made it to the ‘80s, where infant car seats had only been a thing for about forty-five seconds.  And we had a little problem.  We strapped the baby in the car seat, but neglected to strap the car seat in the car.   A rookie mistake.

 

Dear heavens.  We were just like our parents.  And all parents–past, present and future.

 

Which totally proves my point.

 

There will always be rookies. Novices.  There’s a new crop of them every day.  It’s like the Wild West out there.

 

So….I’m just saying maybe there should be a test.

 

Of course, I am post-menopausal now and prone to weird ideas.  You should probably pay no mind to me.

 

That said, we could just keep winging it–keep doing what we’re doing.  I mean “winging it” has produced billions of super fine human beings–most of whom have survived things that might have been prevented by a parent scoring an A or B on a test–but then again, who knows?  Actually, probably not.  The things probably would’ve happened anyway.

 

Because  kids’ lives are chock-full of good things and bad things, happy things and sad things–messy, maddening, and accidental things.   Unavoidable things.  They just are.

 

Though your kid will teeter on a thousand different precipices over the years, most every time he or she will manage to fall back to safety just in the nick of time.  And you, armed with a buttload of instinct you don’t fully understand and an ample supply of Band-aids and Neosporin, will be ready to make the catch.  Trust me.  I know things.

 

Because of this.

 

With no test to prove myself proficient in motherhood–with efforts sometimes riddled with clumsy mistakes and errors in judgment– my three still survived their childhoods.  They did.   So take heart, you mothers who are in the thick of all the things at this very minute.  Chances are actually very good yours will survive too.

 

 

 

13 Comments

  1. Toni on September 24, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Your stories always make me smile and often take a walk down memory lane. I agree on the test! I think in pre WW2 days, families lived close to older family members and there was always someone experienced around to advise and lend a hand but when my children were born in the 1980s we were on our own.
    Aged 24 and 27, with college educations , surely we could do this on our own? Weeeeellll, don’t make assumptions. Lol!
    Labor went badly and an emergency C-section happened. I was exhausted and in pain. No one told me about that shot they give you after birth that caused terrible cramps in my newly stapled stomach. Still, my HMO determined that both baby and I were ready to go home less than 24 hours later. I was tired of the prying eyes peeking around the curtain. The other new mother in my semiprivate hospital room was part of a large Vietnamese family. Apparently, it is their custom to all stay the night in the room and the hospital allowed possibly because my Southern manners prevented me from complaining. My husband followed nurse instructions to go home and sleep. I felt very alone.

    My mom expected they would keep me in the hospital for a few days. She started baling hay at her ranch and could not leave until it was finished, 3 days later. (You might have to be from a farm family to understand this concept but her livelihood depended on that hay) My in laws thought my mom was coming so they didn’t plan their visit until a couple of weeks later. So home alone we went with our tiny (almost 9 pound) baby boy.

    I really should have practiced with all that sterilization and formula making BEFORE our little angel was born. The hospital sent me home with one tiny pre-made bottle of formula so I had to get it figured out quickly. Who knew this stuff was so complicated?!

    Mid sterilization, I hear my newborn son crying and determine he is likely hungry. I rush to pick him up from the bassinet next to my side of the bed. Our Llaso Apso dog was dancing underfoot, vying for my attention. He knew something new and strange had invaded our home. Yes, I tripped over him, sending ball of yelping fluff across the room. With tightly cradled infant I tumbled….thankfully on to the bed. How I hated the hayfield at that moment. I wanted my mom! I might have shed some tears- from fear, exhaustion and frustration but we both survived and that baby boy one day became a scientist so apparently he wasn’t badly damaged by my ineptness.

    By the time my mom arrived, I had it all together and she commented that I didn’t need her at all. Lol! Little did she know.

    Some of you may be thinking now that if I had breastfed, life would have been simpler. And in retrospect I would agree but at the time we thought bottle feeding would be easier. I worked as a computer programmer and my husband was an accountant. We both had an overdeveloped work ethic and spent long hours at the office. I returned to work just 4 weeks after giving birth to finish a big project. We thought bottle feeding would enable us to share late night feeding and allow both to get some sleep. In reality that didn’t happen but that is another story.

    • Amy on September 24, 2018 at 9:34 am

      As usual you it the nail on the head!! 😍

  2. Glenda on September 24, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Your storytelling makes me so happy !!!❤️

    • Dana Wright on September 27, 2018 at 10:59 am

      I’m so glad, Glenda! Thank you so much for reading along! I know you have stories!
      -dana

  3. Kathryn Stephenson on September 24, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Yep!! That’s pretty much how it went. Lol!!!
    Love your stories.
    Kathryn

  4. Shannon on September 24, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    God gives the most important job to the least experienced people…parents! Thanks for a great”bad mom story”, Dana. We definitely all have them, if we’ve been a mom very long at all. Looking forward to next week!

    • Dana Wright on September 27, 2018 at 10:58 am

      It’s the truth, Shannon! Thanks for telling me your stories! They’re coming here soon!
      -dana

  5. Judy Miller on September 24, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    I remember the so- called infant seat that we used when we lived in San Angelo…in 1968. When we moved back home to the ranch in Llano County, the infant seat became a thing of the past. Our kids survived riding in the pickup seat , in the front because there was only one seat, all while standing up in the middle. They were even known to scream “Faster Daddy” especially while going around the curves in the road. Guess we passed the test of “ignorance is bliss”.

  6. Cindy on September 27, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Hilarious! I can just see the looks on your faces and yall were each waiting for the other to flip the car seat over and check and see if the baby was ok!

    • Dana Wright on September 27, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Ha! Thank you Cindy! You can’t make this stuff up, as you well know!

  7. Lauri on October 5, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Dana, I just now saw this! All that had hit my feed was the highlighted quote. But here it is!! And, as usual…

    This is perfect. I certainly can relate as a new mama at 22. Not having babysat — even once. And my faux pas was the infant seat purchased with green stamps. Shh. Let’s never speak of it again! 🙂

    “Write on,” sister!

    • Dana Wright on October 7, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      Haha. And carseats now? Safer, I’m sure, but a degree in engineering is required to install them.

  8. Lupe Stovall on October 30, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Love it Dana! Thank you for the giggles! Makes me wonder how many stories are held back due to embarrasment. Surely not me! Lol!

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