My son Tadashi* is officially two months old today, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left the house with him (not including doctor’s appointments and visits with lactation consultants).
I can blame my reluctance to venture into the outside world with him on a few tangible things:
- His current lack of immunization. I tell myself that I’m keeping him safe from any airborne pathogens or potential sickness by keeping him indoors.
- The fact that it is now flu season. See above.
- Pure exhaustion. Getting Tadashi* and all his belongings ready for some time away from home is a huge production, and — more often than not — I simply lack the energy to do so.
But, when it comes down to it, all those excuses (while slightly valid) are still excuses. Sure, there’s a risk in taking Tadashi* out when he hasn’t had his first round of vaccines, but there are still places we can go and precautions we can take that limit his exposure to potential sickness. And, yes, I’m tired — but, as I tell everyone who asks how I’m doing: How can I not be tired when I’m taking care of a newborn? There’s really no reason why I shouldn’t be able to leave the apartment with him.
So, if I’m being 100% honest with myself, I’m not really scared about leaving because Tadashi* might get sick; I’m just scared about being responsible for a young human life on my own, out in public.
Sure, taking care of my son at home, on my own, has its own stresses (more on that later) — but at least home is familiar. I know we have diapers; I know his bassinet is handy; I know that I can breastfeed him with privacy, on a comfortable couch, with something entertaining and relaxing on the television. Outside, there are so many daunting unknowns. If he gets hungry, will there be a place where I can comfortably nurse? Will I have access to a changing table? Will he behave, or will today be another fussy day where it will take every trick in the book to console him? And, of course, the worst: will people judge me if he acts up?
After some thought, I’ve realized that my anxiety of venturing out into the world with a newborn boils down to two main things: (1) my insecurities as a new parent, further exacerbated by taking care of Tadashi* on my own and an ongoing case of postpartum depression (I hope to share more about that later… in time) and (2) the constant threat of public mommy-shaming.
How can I take Tadashi* outside when I’m still not entirely sure how to read his feeding cues? When I struggle to consistently effectively put him down for a nap? When I don’t even know how to seamlessly open and fold his stroller? And, because my insecurities run so deep, will I simply break down if some stranger asks me why are you breastfeeding in public, why can’t you get your baby to quiet down, why do you have the audacity to take your non-vaccinated, two-month-old out in public???
It’s so unfortunate that these fears have kept me cooped up for two months — especially given the fact that getting some fresh air is great not only for a newborn baby but also for a new mom dealing with a serious case of the baby blues. What’s more, my self-inflicted homebound period has spiraled into full-on cabin fever. And, with every 24-hour period where I’ve been stuck inside goes by, I feel less like a human being and more like a milk machine.
But I’m refusing to remain this anxious for much longer. I’ve given myself until Wednesday (the day of Tadashi*’s 2-month well check and his vaccinations) to feel this fearful. Then, after that, I’m giving myself some tough love.
I’m going to push myself to go on daily walks with Tadashi* and our dog Henri around the apartment complex. I’m going to push myself to visit my family more often. I’m going to push myself to get more comfortable with buckling Tadashi* up in his car seat, getting him in and out of the car and into the stroller… And maybe, just maybe, he and I can go on little Mommy & Me adventures: going to our favorite coffee shop in downtown Pleasanton, browsing the shops at the Stoneridge Mall, visiting one of the parks in Dublin, bringing lunch to Reggie at work…
Hey, they’re small things. But those small things are downright terrifying right now, as a new mom experiencing quite a bit of anxiety… I just hope to give myself enough time and self-love to overcome that anxiety little by little — so that I can show my son all the interesting things to do and see out in the world.