Once upon a time, there was a young woman who had dreamed of motherhood since she was a 12 year old-constantly-booked-$2 hr-babysitter. We’ll just call her, Shelisa, because that’s a common name. Shelisa welcomed her first baby on Valentine’s Day, which was fitting, because in her dreams her babies were always Cupid-ish acting, but less creepy. In reality, this baby screamed like a pterodactyl with a microphone. Even the grumpy nurse, Mrs. Gruffburger, said “I sure wouldn’t want to take this one home” as the writhing pterodactyl flailed and screamed with rage. And, no, Shelisa didn’t punch the nurse. She was holding a baby and the drugs kept her peaceful as a lark.
This story isn’t about the lack of sleep and excess of crying. It’s not about how much Shelisa cried because she couldn’t soothe her baby. It’s not about how humbled she was and sometimes embarrassed that she had a “bad baby”….PS–never ask a parent “is she a good baby?” Shelisa had read all the books, but apparently her baby hadn’t. Nor did those stink eye people at Target who would stare. Maybe they were just jealous they didn’t have pterodactyl.
This story is about the Fazoli lady. After not leaving the house (except to see the lactation consultant, ob, and pediatrician) for 6 weeks straight, Shelisa and her husband decided to try to go out to eat. They strategized for at least a day…timing, location, and contingency plans. Of all the possible restaurants, they settled on Fazoli’s because it was a pay ahead, but sort of sit-down nicer than fast food place close to the house. And, breadsticks always help stress.
They ordered. Baby was fine. Whew. They sat down.
“Look at us”, they said.
“We’re like REAL people with a baby!”
Baby started squirming in her carrier. Shelisa gave her the preemptive binky. Food comes. They devour the first breadstick and look at each other through bloodshot, exhausted, confused eyes…but kept the conversation positive.
“Hey, this isn’t so bad, look she’s doing ok. Well, sort of”. Shelisa starts to jiggle the carrier.
“Oops. Spoke too soon”. Baby starts to cry and even though they sat as far away from everyone as possible, people look and shine Broadway spotlights on our booth.
“I’ll just hold her.” Crying gets louder. Insert two tired fake smiles. Crying gets louder. A cloud of defeat looms overhead.
“You eat, hon, and I’ll walk her outside.” Disappointment. Humbled. Tired. Mad baby. Sad mama. Shelisa just wanted one warm meal out with her husband. Maybe 10 minutes (felt like longer) they swap so Shelisa can go in to eat by herself.
“I’ll just bring mine home,” Shelisa says.
“No, it’s ok, we’re fine. Just go eat.”
Shelisa held back tears as she walked back to the table, her shoulders slumped like a batter who had just struck out. Inning over. Still losing the game. She defeatedly plopped into the cold booth in front of her cold pasta that didn’t look exciting anymore. Big sigh. Then, with a comforting smile on her face, The Fazoili Lady appeared with a brand new plate of hot piping alfredo with hot breadsticks and took away Shelisa’s cold plate.
“Honey, I’ve been there. You sit and enjoy a hot meal,” as she swooped off seemingly knowing if she stayed longer than the tired mom’s “thank you” there would be tears. The mix of kindness and exhaustion pushed those fat, slow, hot tears out anyway. It was an unforgettable meal. Cheap alfredo never tasted so good. It was a life pause button. The kindness of a stranger. The alfredo angel. “I’ve been there”. Those words echoed in Shelisa’s head for months…well, actually years, through 3 babies in 31 months and the chaos that followed as they lived their happily ever after. “I’ve been there” was all it took to not feel so alone.
I’m not sure where you are in your parenthood journey or what personal obstacles you have to battle daily with your baby or babies or children. There’s highs and lows and middles. No matter what, you are not alone. My hope is that you will always have a Fazoli lady in your life somewhere, somehow. Someone to do something kind to you and give you encouraging words. And, most importantly, let’s do that for each other. Be the Fazoli lady.
And, it turns out, pterodactyl babies turn into the best kids ever, Mrs. Gruffburger.