I was grateful for all the generosity that came my way after baby Paul was born: some gifts in particular were especially treasured. Food was appreciated because that was one more meal I wouldn’t have to cook.Baby clothes were great because that prolonged the time until I’d actually have to buy my son his own outfits (I lack the gene that makes me want to spend hours in the children’s section. I find shopping for baby clothes almost as tedious as shopping for men’s clothes, which is just the most boring thing in the world.)
Target gift cards were like manna from heaven because they could be used to buy diapers, formula, coffee, wine, cereal—all the things we needed. One friend just wordlessly took the baby from me and changed his diaper, to save me a trip from getting off the couch.
All of it was amazing.
But one of the presents that most rocked my world was not related to the baby at all. It came from my friend Dave’s mom, who is one of those wonderful moms who is not my biological mother but whom I think of as being a little bit more than just “not my mom.”
The small package that arrived near the holidays was sent from Macy’s and was addressed to the baby, which wasn’t that uncommon. I gave it to Steve to open, thinking that maybe it would be some sort of keepsake Christmas ornament. He read the card aloud, which said “Dear Paul: Please give this present to your mom.” So he handed me the small red be-ribboned gift box, which I opened to find a bottle of Chanel Coco Mademoiselle perfume.
I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me awhile to process this gift. Was it a mistake? Did Dave’s mom mean to send me something baby-related but Macy’s accidentally switched it with a bottle of perfume? Had I at some point talked about perfume with Dave’s mom, maybe complimented hers, and she sent me some after the fact? Why would she send me perfume? I didn’t need perfume. This was so weird.
A little while later, after taking the perfume out of its tissue paper again and trying it on, I realized that the impracticality of the gift was the essence of the gift. After the baby was born, I didn’t exactly feel like a million bucks. I had 30 pounds to lose, I was exhausted physically but getting four hours a sleep at night, and my body was awash in mind-crushing hormones. A pretty bottle of perfume in a pretty box was, obviously, meant for a totally different woman than me, a slender cosmopolitan gal who has fun places to be and great clothes to wear them to. Not fat jeans, a boob-compressing sports bra and a pair of Birkenstocks that smelled like cat pee.
Dave’s mom’s present (which I wear every day) was a reminder that someone out there knew that there was more to me and my life than the newborn baby, even if I had forgotten it. It was a treat, a luxurious, extravagant, girly treat that was only meant for me and not the baby or the husband or the house. The fact that it took me so long to realize what it was and what it meant was a sign that I really needed it, too.
I’ve written before that moms need reminders that they’re more than just moms, and part of this entails knowing moms who can help you remember that. I’m excited for my first Mothers Day and all (hooray for a 3 PM steak dinner!) and have always appreciated my own mother for the great job that she did raising me, but this year I’m also incredibly grateful for all the other mothers in my life who gave me support, sympathy, food, gift cards and fancy perfume. Even after all this time I’m still finding my way back to normal but I’d be a lot further away from the destination if it weren’t for them.