Last month, when I brought my two-month-old baby girl to her doctor’s appointment, I knew she was going to have a few shots to kick-start her immunizations. Thankfully, my sister Erin was in town so she was able to come with me. Mike texted me while he was at work and asked when the appointment was scheduled, and I told him 11am. To my surprise, he walked in while we were still in the waiting room. We met with a pediatrician who reminded us of George McFly from Back to the Future; the George McFly of the past who was insecure and wanted to fold in on himself whenever he was around Biff or Elaine. A slight man, I thought he was going to fall off his stool he was trying so hard to make himself even smaller while he spoke to us. Regardless, Noelle gave him lots of smiles as he listened to her heart and checked her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. After he left us, a nurse came in with a tray of three needles and one medicine dropper. Mike held Noelle while she willingly lapped up the sweetened liquid vaccine. Then she inhaled and nearly choked, not coughing enough to my satisfaction that it was cleared from her lungs. We then had to lay her down on the exam paper-covered table for the three injections. I’m not sure if the nurse was so slow and talked between each injection because our three sets of eyes made her nervous, but I couldn’t even watch. One needle at a time was stuck into my baby’s chubby thighs while she screamed. I wanted to yank her up off the table, so she (we) wouldn’t have to endure any more. My sister looked at me with a “Hurry up, Lady!” look and finally the nurse dispensed the last needle. I picked up my screaming baby and then lost it. I couldn’t stop crying, even after comforting hugs from both Mike and my sister. It was so traumatic seeing Noelle purposely have pain inflicted on her, even though I absolutely know it was for her benefit. She quieted down almost immediately once I had her in my arms to feed, but I still streamed tears. For the next few days, I was hypersensitive to my wounded little cub. She was more clingy and fussy, and to be honest, so was I.
Now at three months old, Noelle is smiling in response to us, but still doesn’t quite get the novelty of Daddy play. She’ll often cry after soaring over Mike’s head, much to his disappointment she doesn’t yet want to be “Daddy’s hat,” or “Superbaby.” When she is too broken for him to console, he hands her over “to see Momma,” and passes her off to me. Almost immediately, she stops crying. I know it hurts his feelings, but I’m maybe just a little bit pleased, and then immediately chide myself. She needs her daddy just as much as she needs her momma. Even though she may not realize it yet, she is so lucky to have Mike as her daddy. It’s so easy to critique rather than encourage. Why do I need to check after he changes her, to make sure the diaper’s ruffles are out? Why must I hover while he gives her a bath, and cringe when he dumps water over her head? She is perfectly content. Why do I have to stick my wrist in the water he has prepared for her bath to check the temperature? Why do I need to argue about which is the best method of determining whether she has a fever? The biggest reason is probably because I’m hypercritical of myself. I prepared for motherhood with all of the What to Expect books, Baby Wise, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and several books on what is going on with baby each week. A few books contradict each other, which makes me sit in frustration wondering how and when and IF I should put my baby on a feed-wake-sleep schedule or simply feed at will. If she sleeps through the night, should I worry she isn’t napping enough during the day? Bumpers inside the crib are a suffocation hazard, but isn’t it also hazardous for her to knock her head on one of the poles or get a limb stuck? Do I put her in a sleep sack for nap time? How many baths a week should she have? Are massages really helpful, even though they don’t seem to calm her down? If she needs a “bedtime routine,” is putting on her jammies enough? Am I inhibiting her bone growth by only giving her the Vitamin D drops when I remember, which may only be two or three times a week?
It’s so easy to fall into the trap in thinking I’m failing her as a mother. Some days if she cries more than smiles, I feel utterly defeated. She’s growing, learning, eating, and sleeping (at least at night) all really well, so I guess I’m not failing. I just wish I could hear from her that we are both doing okay. She can’t talk yet to tell me, so I’ll settle for those belly giggles as she falls asleep on her way to Neverland.