Baby number one came in pre-COVID times. My front door was revolving with friends, family, and neighbors. Each coming to express their congratulations, often bearing gifts or meals, and always, always offering to hold the baby.
Baby number two came a short while after, and while the number of guests we had was fewer, I always had family around, even staying with us to help as I recovered from my second C-section and adjust to life with two under 16 months. My mother and mother-in-law Mary Poppins’d around my house, cooking, cleaning, and of course, were always willing to and thoroughly enjoyed holding the baby.
Long-awaited and much-anticipated baby number three came around just as the heat of summer broke, during what I hope is the only pandemic I will experience in my lifetime.
By the third time around, the difficulty doesn’t lie in taking care of the baby but in taking care of everything else.
Everything, so far, I’ve heard about the third child is true, and then some. He is the calmest, he is the best sleeper, he arguably is the sweetest. He literally self-latches. But by the third time around, life happens a bit faster, the C-section recovery lasts a little longer, and the lack of sleep hits a little harder. I had the sweetest newborn alive, and two bigger balls of energy who had been quarantined together for six months unable to keep their hands off of each other, 97 things to do at every given moment, and no one to hold the baby.
If you would have told me before kids that it is impossible to wipe butts while holding a baby, I would have told you you’re right. But then again, if you would have told me that even though my children were fully potty trained, I would still be wiping butts for years to come, I would have called your bluff. Regardless, it’s possible. It’s definitely not preferable.
I’m pretty sure that in all of the newborn classes I took at the hospital, there was nothing covered in any of them about how to boil hot dogs, make grilled cheese, or scramble eggs while holding a baby. Either because they figured that content wasn’t relevant to moms to be or it wasn’t a safe practice so they shouldn’t promote it.
I wish it were something they had covered because when I had two hangry toddlers to feed and a newborn with zero neck control, it was certainly relevant to me.
Even though 80 percent of the reason we had number two was to entertain and play with number one, as a parent of toddlers, I can never escape playing with the two of them completely. Because it’s good to promote parent-child interaction while they are adjusting to having a new sibling, and also because if I don’t, they can be whiny . . . and after being awake the majority of the previous night, I’m not here for it.
I have played trains while holding the baby. I have built a marble tower while holding the baby, I have played catch with a very soft football while holding the baby.
And while many of these activities make holding the baby stressful, we have our quiet moments too. The hours I’ve spent walking around the house with him cradled in my arms. The hours I spent walking around with him outside, trying to keep him calm while we both take in some fresh air. And although I would have told you at the time it would have been nice to place him in the warm and loving arms of someone else, for just a moment, I am truly glad I couldn’t.
As only third-time mothers know how to do, I soaked these moments in myself. Knowing that in the blink of an eye, he is a month, and then a year. And before I know it, he will be chucking bouncy balls at my head while yelling “suuuuper throw!” Not because he is bad but because he’s four, and that’s what 4-year-old boys do. And although I will love him just as much, I know when that time comes, I would give anything in the world for a chance to hold that baby.
Originally published on Sammiches & Psych Meds