The First Time

At the suggestion of a fellow mom, I wrote an anecdote based on a “first time.” Hope you enjoy!

Matthew - June 2005

Matthew - June 2005

The first time I gave Matthew a bath was quite an education. My mother-in-law was staying with us to help out. Steven had gone back to work, having taken all his time off while we were in the hospital trying to get well enough to come home. So there I was, unexpectedly the mother of a preemie trying to conquer our first aquatic endeavor.

I did what any well-educated, suburban mother does (especially one who had just left her decade-long career as a teacher). I read the book. I read through the section on bathing in my handy “What to Expect” new mother’s bible. I assembled all the supplies – wash cloth, towel, cotton ball for the face, gentle baby soap, clean but used baby tub, dry diaper, clean sleeper for post bath dressing. I carefully arranged my work station. The tub fit in the sink with wash cloth, cotton ball, and soap bottle nearby. The towel, diaper, and sleeper were on the pack and play, at the ready. And the book – the most necessary item, was propped up on the counter. Phew! Ready for our first bath.

God bless her, my mother-in-law didn’t laugh at me. She didn’t roll her eyes or make snide comments about my (in)ability to bathe a baby. She patiently waited while I got all the right stuff, checked and re-checked my book, and finally, undressed the baby.

We had timed it carefully, mid-afternoon around a sleep time, but not so late that he would be cranky, after a feeding so he wouldn’t be hungry. I was so set.

I was so stupid.

The first thing that sweet baby did when his naked little butt hit the water was poop. It ran out of him and immediately dispersed in the tub. Before we could even finish shrieking about a tub full of poop his little penis went rigid and he peed in a beautiful arc all across the kitchen, hitting the tile back splash and the spice rack. “You get the baby, I’ll get the tub!” ordered my mother-in-law, laughing at our predicament. I had to run with the wet baby across the kitchen to get to his towel, where I dried him while she emptied, cleaned, and re-filled the tub. “Well!” I huffed, “that was NOT in the book!”

I learned a lot during that first bath. I learned some practical things, like put the towel next to you, not across the room. I learned that my mother-in-law is an incredibly patient and helpful woman. But really, it was the first lesson of many in my on-going tutorial “Parenting Your Children.” The books have their place, and I still read them, but they can’t really tell me how it’s all going to work out. Patience, experience, humor, support, a well-stocked wine fridge, these are all necessary elements in getting through life at home with my boys. Each day I start with the same prayer, “Lord, please help me be the best mother I can be today.” Sometimes that mother is pretty cool. Sometimes that mother is cleaning pee off her jar of oregano.


September 23, 2008. Matthew.


  1. Linda replied:

    Hahhahah….so funny and so true. The parenting books, especially “what to expect” seem to never really prepare you for real parenting. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  2. Lisa Garrigues replied:

    Hi Elizabeth, this is Lisa Garrigues, author of Writing Motherhood, the book that inspired this writing of firsts. I love your story, funny and truthful. And the photo reminds me of an old photo my mother has of my brother when he was a baby. Thanks for sharing, Lisa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: