Mamas-to-be spend months researching car seats before finally buying one. When new parents finally choose one they often spend some time getting it set up and swinging from arm to arm, and mama may wonder how much heavier it will feel when the baby currently sitting on her bladder is strapped into it.
And when the big day comes and our baby is out in the world and ready for their inaugural ride, no matter how much time we've spent reading the manual, our fingers might tremble when we buckle our baby in. We might turn to our partner and the nurses in the maternity ward and ask, "Is this too tight? Is it not tight enough?"
In short, when first-time parents walk out of the hospital with a newborn in a car seat, they've done the research, they've taken precautions and they're doing the best they can do, and they should not be shamed for that.
Unfortunately, that's what happened to Jersey Shore's Deena Cortese when she shared photos of her newborn son Christopher John's hospital exit.
Cortese posted a series of photos on Instagram to share the big moment. The first photo in the post shows CJ stretched out in the hospital bassinet, the next shows Deena and her husband Christopher Buckner walking down the hallway as Christopher Sr carries little CJ in his car seat, and the third photo is a close up of the newborn wearing a hooded onesie while strapped into his car seat. He's so little mom and dad had to roll up the sleeves on his going home outfit.
The new mama's comments section quickly blew up with Instagram users who were concerned about the way CJ was dressed and buckled in for his first ride.
The comments were, at best, an avalanche of unsolicited advice coming down on a new mom, and at worst, profanity-laced tirades about car seat safety and Cortese's ability to parent.
We get that car seat safety is very important, but coming down on a brand new mom who is just trying to do her best (and in all likelihood got the okay to go from hospital staff) is probably not the best way for people to encourage safe transportation of babies.
As a public figure with 2.5 million followers, Cortese is used to how the internet works, and the new mama took the comment storm in stride. Her photo caption seems to have been edited since it was first posted and now reads: "Going home ( it's not a jacket .. it's a onesie and hospital approved it) we're not perfect but we got this thank you for the concerns."
She says the hospital approved CJ's going home outfit, and that matters more than the approval of internet commenters. Thanking people for their concern and then moving on is probably a really healthy way for Cortese to deal with it and after years of reality television stardom, she's used to seeing mean mentions online.
But this happens to moms who don't have 2.5 million followers, too. And it's not cool.
The thing about an image on the internet is that we're seeing it in one dimension and out of context. A onesie that looks "too puffy" online may actually be just fine in real life, and straps that look loose may actually be perfectly tight, or maybe they were tightened up after the photo was taken.
And even if they weren't, even if a car seat strap is twisted or there's an aftermarket accessory on the baby's car seat, posting a mean, shaming comment isn't education—it's online bullying and it could mean that a new mama ends up isolated, afraid to take her baby in the car and sitting at home thinking she's a bad mom.
Car seats are complicated, but kindness isn't.
To Deena and anyone else who's been on the receiving end of unsolicited, mean-spirited internet parenting advice, know that you are doing your best and that you are a good mama.
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