Bye-bye, Baby on Board

OK, first things first: This is my last ever Baby on Board column! 

How bittersweet it is to leave behind the world of tiny little babies and all those milestones: The first smile! The first night of uninterrupted sleep! The first time you change a diaper right there in Row 22, Seat C, because the flight attendant won’t let you into the bathroom! 

On a recent Friday afternoon, I was hanging out with Jen Wittes, Minnesota Parent’s Toddler Time columnist extraordinaire. 

“I totally don’t ‘get’ babies at all,” I confessed. “Who do I think I am, writing the baby column for Minnesota Parent?”

So Jen and I talked about the possibility of swapping columns for a month: I’d write about toddlers, because I’m living the toddler life right now, and Jen would write about babies, because she knows a lot about them, thanks in part to her experience as a postpartum doula. 

We debated whether Sarah (Jackson, our editor) would think this — or even a permanent column swap — was a “cool” idea or just crazy. 

Luckily for us, Sarah said she actually liked the idea!   

That means, next month, I’ll take over the serious business of writing about toddlers and Jen will be here in baby land, bringing her extensive knowledge with her. 

Unnatural everything  

Now that I’m “leaving,” it’s probably time for a confession: The baby stage didn’t come naturally to me. For one thing, I couldn’t get childbirth right (a C-sectioned breech baby, followed by a majorly traumatic vacuum-extracted VBAC). 

I failed at my holy duty of exclusive breastfeeding (and even got shamed for it from a reader when I wrote about my struggles here). I spiraled into postpartum depression. I failed to “build a village.” 

Just look through my archived columns for a laundry list of my shortcomings.

Another perspective

Of course, I’m being somewhat facetious. I’m actually grateful for these struggles (most of the time) because I think they’ve knocked some sense into me. 

The bar has seriously been lowered when it comes to parenting one-upmanship. I can’t compete and so I don’t. It’s liberating! 

But I worry my perspective might be a bit of a bummer to other — perhaps more well-adjusted — new parents. 

“You tell it like it is!” said one of my friends who generously reads my column. 

Yes, I did strive for honesty in what I wrote here. For example, I wrote about feeling invisible after becoming a mother, and was surprised to hear from lots of other women who felt the same sense of loneliness and loss of self. 

But is this the kind of stuff a vulnerable new mother really needs to hear? Sometimes I’m not so sure. (In other words, I’m sorry if I’ve traumatized you!) 

Perhaps it’s time you heard from a new voice — someone who took to the baby stage with ease, someone who’s worked as a postpartum doula. (I’m talking about Jen Wittes, if that’s not obvious.)  

Disorder is fun! 

Right now, it also makes sense for me to write about toddlers because I have them under my roof right this very minute. 

Yep, I’m living the toddler dream as we speak. Do I understand them? Of course not! (Does anyone?) 

All I know is that the levels of absurdity in our house have skyrocketed. A day doesn’t go by without at least one child scream-crying over something — say, when my husband walks upstairs to get the sunblock, and they didn’t get to "see it" (his exit and re-entry). Huh? 

Toddlers are perplexing, and I love it. Come join me next month as I start to explore their weird little worlds.


Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children. Send questions or comments to skeough@mnparent.com.