I think I’m in the wrong village

It’s only taken few brief months of motherhood to learn that everyone knows my child better than I do.

From the gaggle of bespectacled old women who suggested rather emphatically that I should move to a table farther from the front door in the coffee shop; to the considerate nanny on the street who shouted, “get a hat on that baby!” Extra-loud. Just to make sure I didn’t miss out on some rare, free advice from a paid professional childcare expert.

Thalia in a rare, hat-wearing moment

What a lucky first-time mom I am to reap the expertise of the entire community. Like the saleswoman who said, “wow, she’s a skinny one. Don’t you feed her?” Well my goodness, if it weren’t for you reminding me, I would have gone right on not feeding her for another three weeks! And the very same day, the neighbor who said, “four months? She’s huge! What are you feeding her?” You know, the usual. Chicken McNuggets.

And then there is that all-seeing, all-knowing woman in my building (every big building in New York has at least one of them). In this case, the slick, silver-tongued, aerobicized realtor who likes to grandstand for her openhouse visitors in the lobby each Sunday by greeting each resident by name and throwing out some little tidbit that demonstrates just how close she is with every one of us.

“Hi LIZ, hi NATE. Hope you had a nice trip to CALIFORNIA last week. How is your darling bulldog, EMILY? And the baby? TALIA? How is she? Still got those HUGE BROWN EYES?”

Never mind that her name isn’t Talia and I’ve corrected the woman sixteen times.

When I was pregnant she told me there was no way I was (16, 23, 37) weeks, I was way too small. And not in a complimentary way; rather in a “get a second opinion, I could be saving the life of your fetus” way. You know, because after (16, 23, 37) weeks of counting every minute since conception, I, along with my top-rated, high-risk obstetrician, may have made a deadly mathematical error.

Once Thalia was born, I was lucky enough to continue running into this woman so that I could further harvest her little gems of maternal wisdom. Like the importance of getting a good night’s sleep when I could. Or the innovative suggestion that if Nate shared some of the night feedings, I could sleep more. Once afternoon after I returned from a walk with the baby, she cornered me in the elevator and inquired whether I was still breastfeeding. Before I could answer, she stared squarely at my triple-Ds and answered her own question.

“Well of course you are. How is it going?”

“Oh just fine, thanks. Really no problems.”

“You say that now. But just know that men have a very hard time with it. They’re jealous of this beautiful bonding experience between you and the baby that they can never have themselves. So if you start having some problems with your husband, just know that this is what it is.”

I nodded graciously, smiling with lips pressed together just a little too tightly. The elevator doors rumbled open. I appreciated living on a low floor.

“Oh!” she called out from the elevator as I headed down the hallway, “that’s not to say you shouldn’t keep breastfeeding. It’s very good for your child!”

It takes a village indeed.

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