When my baby was born into this world, I was struck with the reality of it all. She is mine, my baby, nobody else’s. It felt like one of those reality shows when you get to play a part in someone else’s life for a while–but don’t get too comfortable, the camera crew is on its way with the annoyingly chatty host.
Our strange existence as modern women of the 21 century brought many of us to the realization that by the respectable age of 30, we rarely had a chance to handle a newborn, to change his diaper, to feed him or watch him nurse. That was me anyway, a total novice (not to say a nervous wreck). Before my baby was born I wouldn’t have wanted to hold a newborn. I was afraid to break them. I regarded every new, seemingly relaxed new mother with great admiration. “How does she do it?” I asked myself (and her, if I gathered enough nerve). They all looked like mother earth to me. Relaxed and natural.
Imagine my surprise when my turn came to play mommy. I knew newborn babies cry. Just not how much. You change them, they cry. You don’t change them, they cry. You dress them, they howl,; you undress them, it’s the end of the world as we know it. And don’t get me started with her first baths. My husband actually used his ear plugs. And these were the easy ones.
The hardest cases were those in which we had no idea why our little princess was clutching her little fists and screaming in rage, for hours at a time. She wasn’t hungry, she wasn’t wet, our home was warm and cozy and she had mommy, daddy and grandma at her disposal. She still cried. A car ride quieted her alright, just until we entered back in the house. A bath? Grandma suggested, and quickly withdrew, seeing our horrified expressions. I rocked her, kissed her, held her, and swore I would never ever touch cabbage again (thinking I caused her gas). Needless to say, I felt like a failure. Like the worst mother in the world. Where were my motherly instincts when I needed them? Wasn’t this supposed to come naturally? I felt cheated. I was supposed to just “know” what to do, right? Wrong.
Babies cry. They cry because it’s their only way of communication. They cry to let out frustrations, to get attention, to feed or to sleep. They are not named “newborns” for no reason. Babies are newcomers to our world and everything we take for granted must seem very alarming to them. Their familiar world was body-temperature warm, dark, and wet. They existed to the relaxing sounds of our hearts and our digestive systems, our well meaning voices travelling to them from far, far away. Bundled in an increasingly tightening uterus, they were lulled to sleep by our constant movement. Is it a wonder that our dry, loud, well lit, open-spaced world frightens them?
The good new is, ladies and gentleman, that it is a passing phase. Older babies do cry to communicate their needs but they also use body language, cooes and smiles. The newborn’s survival instinct to shout at the top of her lungs at the smallest inconvenience will slowly fade away, alongside the remaining shreds of her parents’ nervous system. As you tend to your baby’s every need, she learns to anticipate your care. She understands that she is not alone and that you will be there for her. As she grows accustomed to her new environment, her constant sense of urgency will disappear.
My point? You do not need to be the baby whisperer to care for your child. She learns to be a baby at the same rate you learn to be a parent. Just be there for her, and you both shall make it safely to the joys of tantrums and potty training.
Ayalla is a mother of a baby and a toddler. A retired scholar, new blogger and an aspiring writer, she lives in the far far (far) north of Quebec. Check out her blog here.