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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mister Baby: The First 100 Days

It's been a month and one day since we bravely brought Mister Baby into our household. Since then, I've shed many tears, both of joy and desperation. I've had two other kids before - how can this one be so difficult? I wonder to myself. People ask how I do it, and I tell them one simple word: Caffeine. 
People also say that a woman quickly forgets how much childbirth hurts, and that's why she decides to have more children. I say we quickly forget how difficult the newborn period is, and erase the sounds of those ear-piercing wails and unpredictable spit up episodes at 4 a.m. We also forget how the baby only cries at certain times of the day, like when you want to do something important like eat, use the bathroom, or sleep. It seems like my child only gets fussy when I'm attempting any of these things, and yet, if I had nothing to do all day but sit and twiddle my thumbs, the child would sleep through a 50-piece marching band for four hours. 
I've forgotten about the "witching hour" in the early evening, where settling down to bed takes about four hours, and where no amount of holding, rocking or breastmilk seems to do the trick. Then, suddenly, Mister Baby poops out and falls asleep in an instant. After several tries, you know he's really ready for bed when the arms go up over his head and he's down for the count. Then and only then is it time for me to even consider crawling into bed - too soon, and his Baby Radar will go off and he'll smell me in his sleep, and start sputtering like an old car running out of gas. Or he'll just be settled into bed after a particularly grueling couple hours of fussiness, only to poop in his sleep. Usually this happens after I've just crawled into bed and closed my eyes, thinking only of my comfortable bed and pillow. The minute I hear the telltale gastrointestinal warning bell, my eyes fly open and I stare at the ceiling, thinking "Oh, crap." Literally. 
But then I look at my other two children, seeing how they can brush their teeth by themselves, are learning how to read on their own, and do just about everything else themselves, too. The mantra of my two-year-old is "Me! I do it!" and while her independence allows me more time to tend to the baby, it comes with a price: she's not my little baby anymore, and soon Mister Baby won't be, either. Everyone tells me to relish this time and know that it won't last, for good or for bad - we won't be getting up at all hours of the night for him to eat, but neither will he be a cute, cuddly little 10-pound bundle of joy completely dependent on me for everything. Soon he, like the others, will be riding around on his bike at top speed, waiting for the school bus, and asking me endlessly for another glass of milk or another snack. Somehow I will be ready for it, and as my children grow and change, hopefully I will with them, trying and exploring new things right along with them. I envision play forts and bunk beds, dress up clothes and camping out in the backyard, and smile. Even though something in me doesn't want them to grow up and get bigger, watching them grow and learn and change will be just as much fun. And at least until they turn 16, I might start picking up a few extra hours of sleep along the way, too.