Seasons Change

I’ll tell you a little secret: I’m not really a baby person. I’m really not. Babies always sort of freaked me out growing up. I guess I didn’t have much experience with them or something, and well, I guess I just didn’t get the whole babies are so great/cute/cuddly thing. To me they were just little scary things that cried a lot for no known reason.

One time a friend of mine who babysat for her neighbor wasn’t free one night, and she gave the woman my name as a possible fill-in. So the woman hired me to come over that night and take care of her baby, who was probably I dunno, like seven months or something - how would I know? I didn’t know squat about babies at the time. Anyway, I remember her mentioning something about some cereal in the cabinet if the baby got hungry, and then she was gone. When it was clear the baby might be hungry, as in, was screaming and I knew not why, I went to get the kid some cereal. She wouldn’t eat it, and I didn’t know what to do. Now when I think back I know the poor thing probably didn’t eat the FROSTED MINI-WHEATS I tried to give her because the mom meant INFANT cereal, which I probably had never even seen or heard of before. Ugh. You wonder how this woman left me with her baby, and I tell you, I wonder the same thing.

Anyway, babies always scared me, and there was no time when this was more true than when I was left alone with my own baby for the first time. After Sam was born and I was still in the hospital, I was petrified every time I was left alone with him. I specifically remember that Hubby had to drive my mom home one night, and that meant I had to be left in the room with him all by myself. Certainly part of my fear was that I was recovering from a Cesarean and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to physically do what was needed without help, but there was also the fear that I just wouldn’t know the answer. I wouldn’t know what to if he started to cry; I wouldn’t know how to soothe him, or hold him, or nurse him. As he slept in my lap nursing, I just kept willing him to stay asleep, feeling petrified at every noise that might stir him and he’d start crying. And this is how I felt every time I was alone with my new baby.

On the day we were supposed to come home from the hospital, I remember trying to keep Hubby in the room with me until the very last possible minute. We had to wait for someone to come and get me and wheel me out in a wheelchair, and I didn’t want my husband to leave and go get the car ready until the guy had arrived to get me. But, of course, they wanted him to go down and get the car early so that they could be sure he’d be down there and ready to pick me up. After he left, Sam started crying, and I tried everything I could. I nursed him, changed him, changed his clothes, tried to burp him, nursed him again. And then the guy arrived and I had to put Sam in the carseat by myself - the nurse said they were not legally allowed to help me - and by then I was pretty much frantic. Sam screamed all the way to the car and most of the way home, until he fell asleep, and that pretty much set the tone for the first six months of his life, crazy, fussy thing that he was.

I’m not sure exactly when that fear, that sense of utter terror started to lift. Certainly I was forced to face it increasingly more often as time went on and I was left to care for Sam on my own. My mom eventually went home. Hubby went back to work, and then it was just the two of us, Sam and myself. Sometimes I felt crazy, because for a person who already felt traumatized by babies from the start, Sam was ahem, quite challenging. He cried all the time, and I never knew why, never knew what to do. Often I cried with him as we sat in our hot Chicago apartment asking each other what was wrong. It was a hard time for me. It was isolating to be not only a new mom, but to feel like I couldn’t do any of the new mom things that all the other new moms did in order to meet each other. Sam just wouldn’t have it.

But somehow, at some point, we sort of got into a groove. We didn’t do much, but we worked it out. We went on our walk with him in the snugli each morning and we’d stop at the little corner store to get myself a vita-water once he fell asleep, his sun hat covering his eyes. And then we’d go sit at the playground, which was always empty because it was so hot. I’d keep him asleep in the pack for as long as possible, just as I did at the hospital, because I knew once he woke up he’d be crying again. And I’d berate myself for having to have a Cesarean, telling myself that had I been able to have the birth I’d wanted then he would have been a happier baby.

Then we’d come home and peel ourselves off of each other, wet with each other’s sweat since that summer really was ridiculously hot. I’d spend the rest of the day trying to keep both of us fed, which was hard since he couldn’t be put down EVER, and then trying to keep him asleep. I’d lay next to him on the bed and nurse him to keep him napping while I watched movies on mute with the subtitles on so as not to wake him. I listened to lullaby CDs over and over again while holding him and trying to settle him down by bouncing on an exercise ball (we went through probably 4 of those). I’d sing him songs and read him books for as long as he would let me. And I really don’t know how else we passed the time. Eventually I started having an old student of mine come in a few times a week so that I could shower every so often and eat a meal while sitting down.

And then, one day, he started to smile at me. Not too far after that he started to laugh. Soon he’d bop his little head and dance. I’d play music and he’d nod and smile at me while in his swing. I’d tear up as I looked back at him feeling such an overwhelming sense of happiness that I just couldn’t contain myself. It was something so big; it was like nothing I’d ever felt in my entire life.

I was never a baby person. And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t one of those moms who looked at their baby and in an instant felt bonded and whole, nor did I instantly know what to do to for him when he cried, like I had some sort of mother’s intuition that told me all the answers. On the contrary, it took some time. It probably took the duration of a summer, the time that Sam and I worked it out together, just the two of us, and he taught me what being a mom was all about. I would easily describe it as the hardest time in my life. I would also say it was the best.

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17 Responses

  1. Such a great post. I was laughing out loud at the part with the Mini Wheats and crying remembering that new mom feeling. Lucas wasn’t quite as challenging, but I do remember those first few months of his life being extremely difficult.

    Jenn

  2. It’s funny, a lot of my friends say they felt so isolated when they had their first baby (and I felt the same way, too). I wish that we all could have known each other “then” to help each other through those times.

    My first son was not too hard for me, though I didn’t really know what I was doing. But I went back to work and he had a (marvelous) babysitter, who was there for me at all times to help me learn how to care for him (she was a former nurse). I was so lucky!

    When my second son was born, he had colic (and I had a c-section as well). THAT was very hard. I felt like I couldn’t take care of him or help him and I felt like a failure as a mom AND I felt bad because it was hard for me to figure out how to equally be there for both boys (which was impossible).

    The third son, well, he’s been the easiest, which is wonderful. And everyone else seems to be better just because he’s here, which really has been a blessing.

    Thanks for sharing your story. it’s nice to know that we all share some tough times like that.

  3. Oh, you have me in tears. Beth, you are such a fabulous mother. No one ever said we needed to know what we were doing. It’s sad to think about how many moms out act like they have got it right but are essentially aren’t trying or are ignoring that groove with their babies… or don’t even know there is a groove to be had… just like many things in life- those things that we work hard for are most precious and special and meaningful.

    Steph

  4. Sniff. That was beautiful. And it goes to show, there are many different of roads to motherhood. That’s a beautiful story.

  5. You know me well enough after all this time that I can TOTALLY relate to this post. So I won’t bother writing it down. But I will say that I appreciate you writing it. It was beautiful and sad but also uplifting. I would love to see a companion post about how you felt the second time around…for obvious reasons.

    Thank you for writing and thank you for being you.

  6. Sweetie,

    This post could be written by me. I was NEVER the person who wanted to hold another person’s newborn baby. In fact, when I held my own, I think it was my first time! NOw that my kids are a bit older, I feel like I thrive so much more than when they were newborns!

  7. Beth, you crack me up with your feeding the baby mini-wheats. I remember the first day that Dave went back to work and I just sat and cried, cried, and cried some more so nervous about what I was going to do with the baby all day. I would watch the clock and just pray that he would come home soon. Of course we survived the day and all the ones after, but that initial bonding wasn’t instantaneous either. Thanks for being so honest in your posts!

  8. I also am not a baby person. I freely admit this. To me, a baby is a means to an end: a child, a person.

    It’s funny, because the church that I attend has been both a blessing and a curse as far as healing with the new-mom isolation bit. I think I must write a post about this now…

  9. This was a great post. I also had a difficult baby. He would cry and refuse to be put down. The only way he would sleep was to either be carried or if I nursed him and let him lie next to me. I spent hours on the couch with the TV on really low just so he wouldn’t wake up. I never felt like I got any alone time. I was far enough away from family that there wasn’t much help and it was a new neighborhood where all the other moms I was friendly with worked during the day. I so totally know about the feeling of isolation. I cried the first time my husband had to go on a business trip. Honestly, when my son who is now almost two is going through one of his difficult phases I get teary eyed even now when the husband travels. It’s hard being a mom. Things don’t always come easily. But I have noticed that eventually you do find a groove and things work out.

  10. I’ve always been a baby person. In Junior high and high school I always loved being around and holding babies. That being said, I did not bond with SlowMo when she was first born. I think it may have been my age or maturity level. She was really just my doll and my parent’s did a lot of taking care of her. I bonded instantly with my two little ones. I think everyone is different, and there’s no magical way about things. I thought this was an amazing post!

  11. :) You don’t have to be a “baby” person to love your OWN baby. And I know that you are a great mom. I can feel it in your writing.

  12. That sounds very much like my experience with my first baby. The day my mom left was the worst day of my life — I literally sat at the top of the stairs SOBBING “please don’t leave me!”. She left. We survived. Funny how these wee ones can strike so much fear in us!

  13. What a phenomenal post, Beth! Felt so kindred with you across the board!
    Thank goodness for an experience earned (not intuited!) groove!

    (Just fed my “babies” mini-wheats this morning! Great story, that one!)

  14. What a fantastic post! honest and comical all at once!

  15. What an awesome post! And having a 2 week old now (my 2nd child) I can TOTALLY relate….I am much more of a toddler mom :-)

  16. I competely relate. Scared of babies? Check. C-section? Check. Fussy baby only not crying when held and moving — most naps in bjorn? Check. We broke two rocking chairs though, instead of 4 exercise balls.

  17. I love this one….it was a great read!

    I think everyone goes through that those first few days…and I swear, the ones who tell you different are most likely lying!

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