Mama, you don't have to be afraid

As a new mom, I was terrified the world was waiting to judge me.

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  • As a new mom, I was terrified. My four-month-old daughter's hungry whine had evolved into the stage my husband and I affectionately referred to as "nuclear" — as in, "She's gone nuclear." Normally, I fed her discreetly under a nursing cover, or in the car when she grew old enough to consider the cover an optional nuisance. But we had gone on a walk, and there was no car to hide in. So, I took a deep breath, perched myself on the stroller, and fed my baby in the middle of a largely deserted parking lot.

  • A middle-aged woman approached. Was she about to tell me off for my poor planning and public indecency? She laughed. "I remember those days!" She gestured to her teenage daughter. "They don't get any less demanding!"

  • As a slightly less new mom, I was terrified. I had promised a friend I would be her bridesmaid, but it would require a two-hour plane ride with the baby. What if my daughter screamed the whole flight? What if other passengers muttered under their breath, and the airline personnel reprimanded me?

  • The flight attendants oohed and ahhed over my daughter. A fellow passenger lifted my bag into the overhead compartment. And the passengers encouraged her when she got restless waiting to deplane. "She was so good!" they exclaimed. "I didn't even know she was there!"

  • Mama, you don't have to be afraid. I know you see those stories going viral — the ones about mothers shamed for breastfeeding in public, for flying to see Grandma, for wanting a rare dinner out. It seems to you that parents are shamed for letting their offspring see the light of day. I want to tell you that is not true.

  • Yes, the news stories are real. Some people are cruel. But most people are kind. They will smile at your babies and coo over their chubby cheeks. They will wave back to your friendly toddler. They will reassure you that you can make it, and it will get easier.

  • Mama, I want you to know that the world is rooting for you. We know that your children are our future, and your labor of love is partly for us. Please don't be afraid to go to the library, to the mall, to Applebees, to the airport. We know you are giving all you have to give. We will understand if your kids act like ... well ... kids.

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  • We love you. Don't be afraid.

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Rachel Chipman graduated with a bachelors degree in family life and human development. Her current goals are to read more, to write more, and to learn to type while holding her infant daughter.

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