Mountain Mama: The do-over baby

It wasn’t until my neighbour said it that I realized what I’d done.

We were standing in the park watching our daughters play on the slide — which, for me and my socially timid daughter meant having an arm-waving battle of “Mama, come with me on the slide” versus “I’m here at the bottom; I’ll catch you” — with our pregnant bellies jutting out in protest. We threw around small talk about how much our bodies ached and how tired we already were and then — bam — she dropped the bomb: “I’m really hoping this is my do-over baby.”

I blinked. Do-overs? Can you do that with kids?

The answer is yes. You most certainly can.

Do-over babies give you a chance to rewrite your foggy, PTSD memory of your first babe. You know how you only remember being so sleep-deprived you almost peed on your kitchen chair because you could have sworn that’s where the toilet was? Or how you almost ran your husband over because you would have bet your life’s inheritance on the fact he was over there instead of right here?

With do-over babe, you get to redo all of it and instead of having a babe that cries non-stop, nurses constantly, thrashes incessantly and howls louder than a pack of wolves that stepped on barbed wire, you get that perfect baby who sleeps 25 hours a day, looks at you adoringly, doesn’t have acne, poops only in a diaper and is so quiet everyone wonders if she’s a mute. You don’t plot your husband’s death because he left the house, and you are so well rested that dinner each night is something Gordon Ramsay would be enviable of.

At least, that’s the lure of the do-over.

I hadn’t realized I had fallen into the trap until my neighbour brought it up. Instinctively, I wanted to protest but when I went home and saw all the Gap and Hatley outfits I’d purchased, and the bag of cheap Walmart clothes I was donating, I had to concede; this babe was a do-over. Instead of wearing whatever utilitarian gender-neutral, non-politically offensive clothes that my first daughter did, I bought every pink outfit I could find. Instead of leaky, second-hand cloth diapers, I bought a swanky brand new set. And instead of using my five-year-old, barely functioning phone to take photos for her birth announcement, I booked a lux photo shoot session with Bambini Portraits.

Because dang it — I deserved to be that ideal parent with the perfect baby. I deserved that photo book with those gorgeous images of my newborn wrapped in pink, her heart-shaped lips in a perfect little “o.” I deserved not to be covered in spit-up and wear a ball cap for the next year. And I deserved to get being a parent right.

If only someone had memo’d Do-Over Babe and told her that’s what was supposed to happen. She spits up, she sleeps minimally, and she’s as wiggly as a cobra in a burlap sack. Her big sister is obsessed with smothering her to death and the dogs have forgotten how to tip-toe around a newborn.

But for one sleep-deprived minute during our photo session, my oldest daughter took Do-Over’s hand, and Do-Over wrapped her finger around her. They both looked up at the camera, with their heart-shaped lips forming little “o”s, their blue eyes twinkling, and my heart filled with love.

For that moment, I didn’t need a do-over babe: I had everything right there.

And if things get rough in the future, I can just look at the photo and remember the most important thing about a do-over: you’ve got to fake it to make it.

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