05 January 2013

Babies need their moms. Duh.

I drafted this post a couple months ago and just came across it again. I’ll add the happy ending at the, um, end. 

Here is some of the weirdest and possibly worst parenting advice I’ve ever heard:
Get out and do something like eating at a restaurant, just you and your husband, soon after the baby is born. Do not take the baby with you! You must go without the baby! You must do this in the first few weeks of the baby’s life!

I’ve come across this in a number of places, even in parenting stuff that is otherwise refreshingly solid. (Most recently, I recall reading it in a Dr. Kevin Leman resource. I know he was trying to make some point or other about preventing, in effect, childolatry, but still. Sheesh.)

When my BabyOne was in his first week of postnatal life, grandparents came to visit, and we left Baby in their care so that we could go out, just the two of us…because I desperately needed to make a quick run through Target* to find a skirt that would fit me for Dad’s graduation, ordination, and installation, all of which were scheduled for the subsequent six weeks. Honestly, if I hadn’t thought it would be totally and offensively rude to my in-laws, we would have taken Baby with us. Dashing in and out of the dressing room, I was nail-bitingly, hand-wringingly, borderline hyperventilatingly anxious for the entire hour and a half that Baby was out of my reach. There’s no way that I would have left him, even in the care of doting and capable grandparents, for a frivolous or unnecessary outing.

This is not because I was some kind of superior mother,** but rather because I was neither physically nor emotionally equipped or inclined to leave my newborn at that point. And really, why should I have been?

So I was thinking about this again because there’s this thing coming up at church. It’s a thing that it would be kinda awkward for me to skip. It’s a thing that occurs over evening/bedtime hours. It’s a really good thing, and I would like to go and do my part, except that I have this baby who’s just exactly the wrong age. He’ll be four and a half months old at the time of the thing—too little (by his own standards) to be on a reliable bedtime routine; and too old to be socially acceptable at a fancyish thing that’s just for grownups. Also, he likes to nurse before going to bed, and often in fact will not go to bed without nursing and/or rocking. He likes me, and I like him. He is my baby, and I am his mom. That is what babies and moms do.

Unfortunately, it seems that very few babies nowadays get to do what babies do, to the point that most folks have forgotten what it is that babies and moms do. My baby is the second-last in the half-dozen crop at our church this year, and my baby is the only one who is not regularly left in the care of others—daytime, night time, feeding time, any time.*** Somehow, as I (pushing a stroller and/or wearing an Ergo) frequently encounter other new moms tripping lightly and baby-lessly about town, I doubt that the parenting advice our culture really needs is to get out of the house, without the baby, as soon as possible after the baby is born.

Most of the other moms who had babies this year will be at this event too, but I can guarantee you that I’ll be the only one showing up with my baby. So instead of looking like the normal one, who’s just fulfilling the biologically obvious aspects of her vocation of motherhood, I’m going (once again) to be the weird one. (I’m not at all against leaving my baby with grandparents for such an occasion—but bedtime is tricky; biological grandmas are hundreds of miles away; church grandmas will all be at the event; and if I’m lucky I’ll be able to find 2-3 teens who can be bribed to wrangle the older kids to bed. And I have no idea if my baby would take a bottle, anyway.)

All this rambling is merely to say: Babies need their moms. And moms, in less obvious but equally significant ways, need their babies. Going out with your husband can be a good thing. And at a certain point, even running to the grocery store without the baby(ies) can be a sanity saver. Bigtime. But don’t ever let anyone, be it guru, in-law, or every other mom at church, make you feel guilty for having a baby who needs you (and a you who needs your baby).

  *This was of course before Target was Totally Evil ;P
**(And I fully realize that my first-time-postpartum-self should not be considered normative for any woman, not even for my own subsequent-times-postpartum selves.)
***I am in no way passing judgment on anyone’s particular situation. I know that sometimes it becomes necessary for Baby to be cared for by someone other than his mother. It is sad that our world has lost our way to the extent that this sometimes becomes (or seems) necessary to many who would wish it otherwise, and that this seems Normal to so many.

Happy Ending: I went, and I was indeed the only one with a baby. Baby behaved, charmed everyone at my table, and fell asleep in my arms without me even having to sneak off to nurse him. Nice older lady found me afterward in the back where I’d gotten up to walk Baby to sleep, and she gushed kindly about how nice it was to see a mom with her baby. And I learned another lesson about how wonderful and supportive the people in this church family are. Even if they do think I’m weird :D. (More credit to them!)     


Rebekah said...

>>I doubt that the parenting advice our culture really needs is to get out of the house, without the baby, as soon as possible after the baby is born.

Understatement of the year. I love it when people make me feel like there's something seriously wrong with me for thinking it's fundamentally my job to take care of (like, ACTUALLY take care of) my own children. And it's even better that certain aspects of such care are in poor taste. The more biological, the badder! :P

Melrose said...

Funny because I was also invited to such an event at exactly the same time in my youngest baby's life. I too was the only weirdo that brought my baby and walked in the back to get baby to sleep. My situation didn't go nearly as well as yours but it didn't go horribly either. I had to walk the back clear until the end but he at least was happy so long as I walked. I too got several compliments but as everyone was seated for the entire event in this very fancy club I felt like I may as well have been marching in the front because I was the only one standing and the back wasn't very backish. :) Next time I'll just stay home and send them to this post if they ask why ;).

Oh, and what did I miss about Target?

Cathy said...

This is what babies and mothers DO. I love that. Great post. I'm glad you came across it and posted it.

Reb. Mary said...

Well, maybe if enough of us keep trying to be Weird as gracefully as possible, there will be more happy endings. Or at least we'll know that we've done our jobs, and the queasiness we incidentally inflict on bystanders at the mere thought of the biology of it all shan't be on our consciences :P