Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Adoration to Assessment: The Cruel Transition from Pregnancy to Motherhood

Mothers-to-be get all the perks. But what comes after?

Today’s guest blog comes from former 4C for Children Board Chair Davida Gable.

All newly pregnant young women eagerly await when they’ll begin to “show.” Exhaustion and forced sobriety are no fun when a hair band above your zipper fly is the only thing allowing you to wear your “skinny” jeans. But when your pregnancy finally “shows,” the sustained public fetishizing is more intense than any wedding day.

When you go to Kroger, you can now park in the “Stork Parking” right next to the handicapped spots. Strangers will retrieve grocery carts and help load your groceries into your car. ABC News featured a piece in a “What Would You Do?” series in January of 2009, showing how shoppers responded to people “cheating” in the grocery express lane. The test groups included those determined to be the most sympathetic of humanity:  old ladies and pregnant women. Unless a pregnant woman does something egregious – like bring her burly husband with an overflowing grocery cart into the lane – others will defer to pregnant women in a manner worthy of the Orders of Precedence in British royalty.

But we all know pregnancies come to an end.  Likewise, the pregnancy honeymoon ends as soon as a woman enters the hospital with true labor pains. Now mothers feel compelled to perform their first heroic acts of mommy martyrdom.  For some mothers, a doula might be on call. For other mothers, this means having the baby “naturally,” without a painkilling epidural.  A friend of mine recounted the Most Awkward Father-in-Law Conversation Ever as his sister-in-law conquered labor and delivery in the birthing pool next to them.

When the birth of my second child was going wildly out of control, I began sobbing during preparations for an emergency cesarean section.  Not realizing that I was frightened for my baby, a nurse said, “It’s OK… it’s not a failure to get a cesarean. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Clearly, many people – including mothers – perceive and judge a cesarean section as evidence of a mother’s first maternal failings. How sad.

A few hours later, I was sitting in my hotel room, watching a commercial aired by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urging women to exclusively breastfeed their babies during their first six months of life. A film of a darling baby snuggling with mother? Alas, no.

Rather, the advertisement featured a full term pregnant woman flailing on the back of a mechanical bull. The voiceover accusingly asked, “You’d never take risks before your baby is born. Why start after?” Let the judgments and guilt-tripping begin!

A friend came to visit us in the hospital, expressing amazement at the level of security on the floor and our daughter’s security bracelet.  He wondered why I wasn’t wearing a security bracelet, too.  With my hand resting on the pile of yeast I reluctantly realized was my stomach, I explained, “She’s got more street value.”

Leaving the hospital, I was assisted out of the wheelchair into our car’s passenger seat, now pushed up as close to the dashboard as possible to accommodate the new legally compliant, backward-facing car seat throne ensconcing our new baby cherub.  I squeezed myself into the tight space, fearing every pothole on the way home.

At no time is the transition from adulation to annoyance more pronounced than in the first post-delivery visit to the grocery store.  To remove the baby carrier and baby from the back seat, I now needed enough parking space to allow my passenger door to open fully.  This means parking a couple of cart stalls away from the now forbidden “Stork Parking.”  A friend of mine who had twins said she had to park even further to allow enough door opening space for both sides of the car.

Now the short twenty-five yards to the grocery store seemed like an entire football field.  My cesarean section sutures were tender as I carried my new infant daughter in her bucket seat.  Worst of all, my unrestrained toddler seemed to dash under every SUV bumper in the parking lot.

As we proceeded toward the checkout, I noticed a man darting ahead of us to the checkout lane. Clearly, he didn’t want to get caught behind a mother, infant and toddler exhibiting the speed and efficiency of circus clowns.

I have an idea for Kroger. New parents are a critical market. They can be loyal customers for years, and Target has been crawling into Kroger’s grocery space with its new “Fresh Grocery” offerings just beyond its Prabal Garung designer collaborations.  That’s way better than a brief fling with “Stork Parking.” Kroger can keep those new parents in its store by showing them Kroger really cares. How? A designer collaboration with Jason Wu?

My idea is far more simple! It will require a foot of cash register tape and a stepladder for each store. On each express sign that says “Fifteen Items or Less”, an employee will need to tape up a piece of blank register tape with the word “or Months” to make the final sign read as follows:

“Fifteen Items or Months or Less”

“Fifteen Items or Months or Less” will give support to young families when they are desperate, impressionable and need it most. Anybody with a child under 16 months with them in the store will be allowed to use the Express Lane. Hooray!

I know, I know, some yuppie trying to buy a high-margin baguette and some Camembert will throw a tizzy, but her grocery spend is only enough to supplement her continuous rounds between ostentatious restaurants featuring trendy Brazilian and the latest cauliflower rage.

New parents need support, and they need a community and organization that cares. New parents and their young children matter. 4C for Children cares and supports them. Why shouldn’t everyone?

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