On my nightstand is a book describing the benefits of giving baby massages. Supposedly, my gentle touches on her skin would be like tender words spoken into her ears. The cover is soft pink and gray, and the baby on it has bright blue eyes and a rosebud for lips. I also have a book describing optimal feeding and sleep patterns. The author of it stresses the importance of play time preceding sleep time. And I have a book explaining signs of illnesses for which I should seek immediate help.
In addition to reading books, Danith and I attended an infant CPR class and a Baby Basics class, where we, with seven other couples, practiced changing a diaper and bathing a life-size baby doll. (I was relieved to learn that a newborn does not require a bath daily.) At night, when I can’t fall asleep, I quietly (so not to wake Danith) shop on-line for organic swaddles on clearance. Since the human race hasn’t decreased in population, I surmise that the chemicals in our clothes and in our food can’t be that harmful, but a part of me still doesn’t want to chance the risks. So, organic onesies and burp cloths for the baby it is! I also check in with friends, asking for recommendations for items such as baby tubs and co-sleepers. I received many different suggestions on both, which resulted in several weeks of deliberation before I was able to make my decisions.
I understand that many correct and right ways exist for caring for a baby. When I was about five years old, I saw a mother turn the top drawer of her dresser into a “crib” for her newborn. As a teenager, I babysat for a couple who fed their three sons formula straight from the refrigerator. As an adult, I knew a mother who gave her daughter a “rub down” after each bath, which was comprised of a generous slather of lotion and gentle massages. I also know of mothers who are adamant about feeding their children only breast milk. All of these babies thrived. I believe their mothers, although different in their care methods, loved and cherished them wholly. I’ve been imagining these days of preparing for our living baby for so long, maybe even by the hour in the last three years. But after months of preparation and pep talks from my friends, and of knowing what I know about the multitude of right ways for caring for a new life, I’m still worried. Do I feed our daughter warm formula or room-temperature formula? What if I try all the formulas on the shelves and on-line and she refuses them all? What if I misinterpret a GI issue for colic? What if I allow her to sleep for too long? And what do I say to her about Daffy and Kiri?
Until the last couple of months, I hadn’t considered having to explain Daffy and Kiri to our living baby. Danith and I still have a few years to work on this, but the desire to do it right from the beginning is constantly in the back of my mind. What is the right way? What does it look like…sound like? Few books on this topic exist. I can’t imagine hiding Daffy and Kiri from our new baby, so how can we help to weave them into her life without scaring or scarring her? I am worried that she might become afraid of death and that the quality of her life might suffer because of that fear. Also, I am worried about her feeling as though we are forcing her passed siblings on her, thrusting them at her, pushing them down her throat. I am afraid this might cause her to question her place in our lives or feel that she is living in their shadow. So how many framed pictures of Daffy and Kiri may we or should we leave up, and how many times in a day may we or should we say their names?
I go through most days apprehensive about how I will care for our new daughter. I see myself fumbling with the bottles and struggling with the car seat. I see myself staying up in the middle of the night to check on her breathing. I see myself second-guessing putting up Daffy’s and Kiri’s Christmas ornaments. Many mothers have walked on this path that I’m about to embark, and they triumphed. What did they have in their arsenal of methods and techniques for help? What is the common denominator among these successful mothers? It’s got to be love, right? That innate and instinctive love. I will remind myself that most mothers — especially the ones who walked the earth before the existence of books and classes and the Internet — prevailed in caring for their babies due to their love for their babies. Thus, love will guide me. I will have to rely on that — the love I have for our baby — to guide me in finding the right ways to care for her.