I’ve realized that many people I meet want to “hold the baby” (including complete strangers) and most people think they are doing a new mother a huge favour by doing so. In fact, I have had no shortage of random women offer to “hold the baby”, including strangers at stores and at the doctor’s office. I’ve even had people come to my home unannounced (who never visited pre-baby) with the explicit goal of helping me out by holding my infant.
Very rarely do you find someone who truly wants to hold a screaming, crying or otherwise fussy baby for more than a few minutes. There are a few in this world and they are angels sent from heaven above. They are also generally related to the baby or closely bonded to one of the parents… With a few exceptions who tend to be the type to volunteer to be baby cuddlers in the nurseries of churches or hospitals. For the record: Mothers around the world love you. Don’t ever change.
If a baby is fussing he or she is no longer fun for most people to cuddle. People are begging to hold the quietly content freshly changed and fed baby who is ready to go down for a nap. Except that holding her when she is ready to sleep IS NOT USEFUL. When you are holding the baby and she is sleeping in your arms instead of being in her crib, instead of mommy taking a nap or getting laundry folded or getting cooking or cleaning done, mommy is now serving you food and tea and entertaining you because you can’t get up since you are “holding the baby”. You know, the baby who totally does not need to be held right now because she is dry, her belly is full, she has been soothed and she is sleeping.
Make no mistakes. I understand the desire to cuddle a cute little ball of warm pink baby. But please, let’s be honest about our intentions and stop the charade of “helping the mother”. I’m happy to indulge and give you baby cuddle time if you want it. I’m happy to have friends and family visit with the intention of getting baby cuddle time in. Cuddling babies is good for the soul. However, let’s not pretend that you are doing me a favour by holding my perfectly content sleeping infant and then passing her to me as soon as she starts to make any noises or movements. By the way… that grunting and squirming would not be an issue if she were in her crib. She would push out a good fart in a few minutes and go right back to sleep. But since you’ve panicked, started shouting across the room that the baby needs her mommy and must be hungry (she just finished eating 5 minutes ago), or have a dirty diaper (she was just changed… and trust me when I say I can smell baby poop from across the room), and you’ve started frantically rocking her so hard that she’s woken up out of her light sleep, and thrust her in my arms, she is now fully awake and truly needs to be soothed. Well, thanks so much for “holding the baby” and allowing me to take care of you while you did so. You have no idea how helpful that was. What would I do without you?
There are a few scenarios in which I, indeed, wish someone would offer to hold the baby:
Scenario one: I am out somewhere without a safe place to put the baby down and need to use the restroom. Yes, I could bring her in with me, but it would be nice to have a trusted person hold the baby so that I can have both hands free to pee and wash my hands.
Scenario two: the baby is fussing (yes, I have checked her diaper, fed her, checked if she is too hot or cold etc) and I would love to have two hands free to eat my dinner. Yes, it would be great if you could hold her and try to soothe her for a few minutes. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to hold a crying baby for the 5-10 minutes it takes me to test my blood sugar, inject my insulin, take my pills and wolf down a plate of food. The average is about two minutes before most people break. The few people who can deal with the ear piercing screams for the entire time are truly appreciated.
Scenario three: the baby has just puked, peed, and pooped on me at the same time (This is not a “what if” scenario. It happens about twice per week). I have spit up in my hair and down my back. I have urine and feces dripping off of my shirt. This is an awesome time to offer to hold the baby (perhaps while wearing some manner of protective gear yourself) so that I can quickly strip down and take a shower. Unfortunately, only a few very special people are up for this task.
Here is my secret: I love to hold my baby. I love to hold her when she is content and when she is screeching at the top of her lungs. I only have a short window to enjoy this stage of development. Before we know it she will not want or need to be held in our arms. I only get to do this baby thing once in my life, and I am enjoying every moment, even the times during which I am covered in vomit, urine and feces. You see, holding this miracle baby is not a chore or a bother that I need to be rescued from. It is a privilege denied to many, and I realize just how blessed I am to have this experience. All of it.