A couple of weeks ago my husband and I bid farewell to our night nurse (I’ll call her “Mrs. Doubtfire”) and I have been intermittently teary-eyed since. She had been with us since April and helped us tremendously with our now 5-month old daughter. Not only did she allow my husband and I to get 8 hours of sleep every couple of nights, but she also gave us something that new parents so desperately need: reassurance.
I will be the first to admit that before our daughter was born, I was not crazy about the idea of sharing our home with a complete stranger. But I knew that becoming parents would be a total game-changer and that I needed to let go of my stubbornness. I did my due research, collected names and references, and spoke with other “veteran” moms who previously had nighttime help. I was soon convinced that maybe, just maybe, we did in fact need some occasional assistance at the beginning of our parenthood journey.
“But only for 2-3 weeks – maximum”, I can recall saying to my husband countless times. Surely these people had to be used to being let go when their services were no longer needed, and I really believed that a month was all we would be able to tolerate. I did not want to be one of those parents who had help for months on end. In my naïve and inexperienced mind, to have help for an extended period of time implied that we lacked competency. There were plenty of parents that we knew of who had night nurses for months on end, and I could never understand why. Were these people disinterested in caring for their own child? And who could afford such a luxury? I judged them and I was wrong.
We all judge, whether we are conscious of it or not. We judge ourselves and we pass judgement on others. It’s human nature. But nearly 5 months into my new role as a mother and I can honestly say that I have made a very concerted effort to not be critical of anyone – especially a new mom.
Aside from the physical pain of childbirth, the range of emotions that come with being a new parent is beyond anything else. I went through the postpartum blues when my baby was first born and still have my days when I am feeling down. I try to get out as often as possible and do things with my daughter to stimulate us both. I choose to surround myself with other moms who are supportive and understanding and avoid those who are not. But the reality is that we cannot evade all negativity and occasionally we find ourselves confronted with snide remarks from people. I can tell you that when you’re still feeling pretty fragile, it is sometimes difficult to rise above it.
Over the last few months I probably lost count of how many people have said to my husband and I, “oh, you STILL have a nurse”, with judgement and mockery laced into that statement.
Yes, that’s right. We STILL had a nurse and forgive me, but I wasn’t aware that there was a time limit.
Having a night nurse for the beginning stages of our daughter’s life didn’t mean we lacked competency. It didn’t mean that we were lazy, and unless you’ve seen my bank statement, it didn’t mean anything financially either. It just meant that we needed reassurance. We had no idea that constant spit up was normal and that the consistency of poop needed to be analyzed and scrutinized. We could not swaddle our baby if our lives depended on it. We just needed a bit of time and guidance.
“Mrs. Doubtfire” has moved on to help another growing family and we will forever be indebted to her. The love and care that she gave to our daughter were beyond anything we could have imagined, and the words of comfort and encouragement that she constantly gave to us were invaluable. I feel in some way that we have lost a member of our family, but I know that this feeling is only temporary. I know that with each passing day I feel a little less self-doubting and a little more confident. I know that our daughter is in the best possible hands – she is in our hands. It just took us some time to get there. We are, after all, new parents.
Heather holds an M.A. in Child Studies from Concordia University and is a professor at CDI College in the department of Early Childhood Education. She has worked with countless children in numerous daycares and in theatre settings, and often reflects on these experiences as she raises her own daughter.