Don't Hold Your Baby

(Me with my oldest two children. My boy left for college yesterday.)

Years ago I worked at a large legal office. I was newly married and looking forward to being a mother. As I ate lunch in the breakroom one day, I visited with one of the secretaries who was due to have a baby in just a couple of weeks. She was telling me of her excitement that the woman who babysat her four year-old had agreed to babysit her new baby after her six weeks of maternity leave were over. But the babysitter had one condition that my co-worker had to agree to. "Promise you won't hold the baby very much during your maternity leave. I can't take on a baby that's used to being held all the time."

I was horrified. "You're okay with that?" I asked.

"Of course. I can totally understand how she wouldn't want to be tied down to holding a baby all day. I'll just make sure she's used to sitting in her car seat."

My heart ached for her baby. And for her. I'm the oldest of eleven children and all my life I'd loved holding babies. I couldn't understand how this mother would be satisifed not holding her baby very much or having a babysitter who didn't want to hold her baby. The babysitters' requirement would have immediately sent me looking for other childcare options.

Mothering is so full of hard things--labor and delivery, losing your girlish figure, puke and poop, fevers and teething, sleepless nights, tears, owies, worries about school and friends, waiting up for teenagers, helping with homework, teaching about life, integrity, the birds and the bees, struggling to have family night and scripture reading and family prayer with crazy, mixed-up schedules, load after load after load of laundry, the ache of missing children when they go to school or on their mission, worrying that they'll date and marry the right kind of person--the list literally goes on and on.

Because mothering is so hard, we need to relish the beautiful things so we'll remember them when our children grow up and leave home. I'm glad I enjoyed the sweet feeling of my sleeping babies snuggled into that perfect spot between my shoulder and my neck. I'm thankful I remember the precious outline of a little ear imprinted on my arm after I'd taken a nap with one of my babies sleeping on my arm. I love remembering the way my little girl would sit beside me, holding onto my upper arm with both of her hands because she liked how cool it felt.

I smile when I think about the twiddling of thumbs that is our special signal that we loved each other when we were too far apart to say the words--across a room, in a spelling bee or a ball game or a piano recital. I loved the smirk on my teenage boy's face as he sat on the stand, waiting to give a talk and I twiddled our message. We both knew he was too old for such silly things, but he did it back anyway. I love being the hand that my children squeeze when they're getting a shot. I love being there when they need to snuggle after a bad dream, a disappointing day, or just because we're watching "Jeopardy" together.

All these beautiful things and many others more than make up for the hard things.And let me just say that I loved holding my babies and no one could have convinced me that I shouldn't.

Now I'm shedding tears about my children growing up. As my oldest moved away yesterday, I felt profoundly grateful that he's going away knowing how much I love him and how much I like him, how much I'll miss him and how thankful I am that I was the lucky woman chosen to be his mom. He knows how I feel about him and that knowledge can give him confidence as he faces the world.

A friend of mine who just sent her last child to college sent me a quote that I think is beautiful.

"Don't worry if you shed a tear. That is good. Means you love him and will miss him. Means the end of a beautiful season in your life... or a stepping stone to the next season. The really sad cases, are the women who don't miss their children. Who don't miss mothering."


Mindy said...

How tragically sad about that mother not caring about her baby being held. Great post!

Mellie said...

That truly is sad that she was okay with that. Not only was she missing out, but her baby was as well. A lot of good comes from that close contact and attention in their first few years.

This reminds me of a book: "Mommy Knows Worst" It's full of absurd ads and horrible advice on parenting from the 40's and 50's, and one bit of advice was to hold your baby as little as possible because it might throw their spine out of alignment. (eyeroll)

Your thumb twiddling idea is awesome! I love it!

Tawnie said...

oh man. i am already sad. i wish i could know what i know now and start over again. and i would still have a lot tolearn. it'ss scary just sending my kid to jr. high? did i prepare him well enough to get through that?!!! and even worse, emily goes next year. ahhh!!!
great post. and excuse my lower case or mispelled words or whatever else is wrong with this comment. i just so happen to have a baby in one arm and like her being there. ;)

Leslie said...

after an already REALLY emotional day, i read this posting. and now i am crying again.

good posting. i love my son. he is my everything.

Lisa said...

caroline & i read this posting. she says "all i can say is that i am way excited for her book to come out". nice posting. cute picture.

Kristi said...

I loved the mention of all of those special moments that stand out in your mothering experience. Very sweet.

Scott / Lori said...

I am sitting here crying right now. I LOVE having my kids home and I can't stand the thought of my oldest hitting the halls of Jr. High tomorrow. I feel like I am throwing her to the wolves and hoping she climbs back out unscathed. We are blessed to be Mothers and I am grateful for that gift. Thanks for the reflections tonight.