Parents worry about their kids. It’s one of those facts of life that you hear all the time. When you’re a child and starting to get older, you’re exasperated by it, usually because it comes in the form of your parents not letting you do things you want to do. As you get a little older, you’re a little embarrassed by it, and later, as an adult you think you understand it. You understand why they worry, and you know it’s actually endearing because they care. They raised you from a little baby. They love you. Then you have kids, and you realize you really didn’t understand, not fully.
And I’m not talking about some emotional epiphany about how much you can love someone. I mean that from the minute you bring that tiny little person home, you are worried. It is just instilled in you in every single aspect of your day, every day. You’re worried about whether they’re too hot or too cold and if you’ve dressed them okay. You’re worried about whether they’re getting the right amount to eat, if they have tags or strings from clothes making them uncomfortable while they sleep, if you’re burping them enough to prevent gas trouble, if it’s too loud or too bright for them. You’re worried because if any possible thing- big or small- is wrong, all they can do to let you know is to cry, and it’s up to you to figure out why in order to make it better. You have a laundry list of things to try to soothe them and it’s all trial and error. It takes time, it takes patience and it takes commitment. There are times when you’ll be trying to soothe your baby when it hits you – you will never not be doing this. The ways you do it will change as they age, but you will always have this little person that you are so completely responsible for making happy, for keeping comfortable.
You’ll spend an hour every morning, and again in the afternoon, standing at the changing table with him, helping him work his legs and rubbing his tummy while he works out his gas. You love that time with him though, because you talk to him and he gurgles sounds at you and you cheer him when he gets some gas out and relaxes again, looking at you and making faces while you babble endlessly at him about how adorable he is, about what you’re doing that day, about any and everything that comes into your head to engage him.
You spend more hours than you thought possible on your ass, in a (hopefully/sometimes) comfy chair, nursing, and getting ready to sit on your ass. An extended period of time with a baby in your arms means needing everything within reach. Make sure you have a burp cloth, make sure you have an extra burp cloth if he throws up on the first one. Make sure you have an extra cloth to put under him to catch the milk he lets run out the bottom of his mouth when he gets lazy. Make sure you have some water, a snack, the tv remote or your book – both really, in case he is too squirmy or talkative to read. Make sure you have the nipple shields you’ve been using because latch was a problem. Are the nipple shields clean? No? (They never are). Better wash them first. Make sure his medicine is right there so you can give it to him right before he eats, because it’s the icky tasting kind and he’ll need to wash the taste out of his mouth. Grab the nose aspirator in case you see boogers. Make sure you have fresh breast pads for when you’re done. Then sit down with the baby to nurse. Sometimes you feel like you barely move from your nursing spot all day, unless you’re prepping it. You set up the blanket and nipple shield, give him his medicine and you nurse- for as long as they decide to, then you burp him. When you think they’re done burping you either engage and play with them or they fall sleep on your shoulder. Sometimes this lasts for maybe five to ten minutes, and then they want to nurse some more. So you nurse some more, and start over. More burping, more playing, more sleeping. When they do finally fall asleep on your shoulder you sit for a while more while you wait to make sure they’re really out, and you try to maneuver yourself up and to their bassinet without jostling them too much, and hold your breath as you try the dreaded shoulder-to-bassinet transition method you’ve been trying to perfect. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t, and you have to pick them back up and start over. More sitting. Maybe more nursing. More patting, more bouncing, more swaying. More waiting for them to be asleep enough to try again.
Sometimes you love it. You gaze at them while they’re eating and quiet, or you talk back to them when they’re animated and cooing throughout it. You watch them snuggle your shoulder and sigh when you’ve finished burping them and can’t believe how cute they are. Can’t believe that sweet little face is yours. Other times you can’t wait to get up. Parts of your butt, legs or feet go numb. Your back hurts. Your arms are tired. Your little one is in a mood and fidgeting and spitting his milk out but refusing to be done, crying whenever you take him off.
You’ll also spend hours soothing a crying baby. Burping, patting, swaying, bouncing, and pacing your house (sometimes all at once) trying to calm a loud, shrieking/crying baby who is maybe overtired, maybe overstimulated, maybe bored, maybe uncomfortable from the reflux, maybe is just colicky. There are times when you just don’t know. Just can’t make them feel better, can’t stop their lips from quivering, can’t stop their shrieking. And yes, your heart breaks. You’ll feel helpless. You’ll feel stressed. You’ll cry too.
As my son grows I’ll continue to worry. It will be over other things, eventually bigger things. But I know now that worry doesn’t develop over time. It’s there from the jump. It will change, it will grow in different ways, but it just is. I get it now.