I was never much of a baby person. My attitude ranged from mild interest in the offspring of close friends, to irritation with babies encountered elsewhere. I never understood why anyone would want to buy a greeting card with a photo of someone else’s baby, or how a baby in a commercial was supposed to make anyone feel compelled to purchase a product. When I thought of having children, I’d think of babyhood as a period of investment, a time that must be endured in order to achieve the goal of “child.”
As I wrote about a couple of years ago, I have since become a different person. I have learned to appreciate the creature that is “baby.”
Even with this new pro-baby attitude, as I anticipated Theo’s arrival, I still didn’t look forward to the early months. I braced myself for the dreaded newborn stage.
When Phoebe was a newborn, you see, I had a tough time. Her weight gain was too slow, and feeding-related activities took over 12 hours a day. She spent many hours a day crying and needing soothing, and so did I. I was extremely sleep-deprived. It was the most exhausting and overwhelming time of my life, and each day felt like a week.
With Theo, these months have flown by. He is generally mellow, and feeding has been uncomplicated. I’m amazed that I have been able to provide all the nourishment Theo needs to grow and thrive.
The flip side to this is that my days and nights are a bit of a blur of feedings and diaper changes, and that it’s rare that I can get even 4 consecutive hours of sleep at night.
In the past 6 months, I haven’t been away from Theo for even a full hour. I have been alone in the house exactly once, when John took Theo with him to pick up Phoebe from daycare. I spent that half hour or so on the phone, as I was in the middle of a work conference call. And I was making dinner.
While part of me is going crazy from the constant tether and lack of decent sleep, another part of me doesn’t really mind.
I have been really enjoying Theo’s babyness. The chubby legs, the impossibly soft skin, the tiny toes. The fuzzy mostly bald head. The wide toothless smile. I love it when he looks up at me, and touches my face, even when he grabs my lip or my nose with his sharp little baby nails. I love it that I can make him laugh when I kiss his cheeks back and forth. I love it that I can scoop him up and hold him high over my head.
I know that I fell in love with Phoebe, too, as a baby. But I don’t remember so much just enjoying the here and now of the there and then. When Phoebe was tiny, the uncharted territory was so much more stressful. I questioned myself often, agonized over mistakes. I found myself thinking “next time, I will know what to do,” and “next time, things won’t be so hard.” And now, remarkably, I have largely known what to do. Things have been easier. Even though life has been more complicated with our jobs and with having a toddler to parent as well as a baby.
I think I was in a hurry for Phoebe to grow and develop, too. I was eager for all those big next steps. Now they seem to be coming all too quickly. Theo keeps growing, and climbing that developmental ladder. He’s babbling now, and has started sitting up unsupported. He’s discovered toys, and is entranced by sounds and shapes and colors. It’s fun and exciting, but I want to slow down the time. Or at least to bottle it up and save it.
I need to get the time to buckle down and catch up with the work that I’ve committed to doing. I owe many hours to my job, and need to get moving on my degree requirements. There are plenty of other things that I have been letting slide, too. Plus I would like to have more time to myself, or time with John go to a movie or dinner.
Theo is 6 months old now, as of Wednesday. He’ll start daycare, as soon as I can get myself organized enough to get him used to a bottle. He’ll be starting solid foods, which will probably mean longer stretches between nursing. He’ll hopefully sleep longer at night, and nap better during the day.
I find it funny how I can, near-simultaneously, feel like I’m going crazy, and lament that these days of near-constant baby care will soon end.
I find myself sad that this is it for me. This time, there isn’t a “next time.” No more babies. I always imagined myself having two kids, and I am incredibly fortunate to have them. I find it terribly surprising that I can even imagine having another baby, but I know it doesn’t make sense for us. And realizing this makes this baby time feel all the more sweet.
Photo by John.