I dreamed I had a practice baby. When I woke up, still pregnant, I was terrified.
A day after Garry was born, I stepped outside the hospital doors with a new baby in my arms. It was hard to believe they thought we could handle this on our own. I kept wondering why the nurse didn’t come home with us. The assurances of a 24 hour parent help line were not reassuring. These people actually wanted me to raise my child without first practicing on another baby. I knew that thousands of people around the world did this every day. Yet, I felt inadequate without an instruction manual.
The hospital group kindly gave us gifts of a knitted baby hat and an African violet. I said, “Thank you,” but I thought, “What, you now expect me to keep TWO things alive?” That plant didn’t make it past the first month.
At just a few weeks old, I brought Garry along when helping a friend move out of his apartment. I didn’t lift anything and mostly went for walks around the neighborhood with my son strapped to my chest. I was moral support. That night we ate gourmet pizza., loaded with pepperoni and jalapeno peppers.
The next morning Garry was fussing, crying, and generally unhappy. I thought, “Of course, my good, easy baby turned into a screamer on this particular day.” Later that afternoon, his aunts and uncles and cousin were coming to visit him for the first time. I tried to nurse him and thought he’d go right to sleep. It didn’t soothe him, and he even seemed to cry harder. What a bad mother I was, not even feeding my baby right.
By the time our guests arrived, Garry and I were exhausted. Garry’s face was puffy and red from hours of crying. At times he wound down a little and just sputtered squawks of discontent like an old car engine. Then, with renewed strength, he’d bring forth another round of straight-from-the-belly wails.
Luckily, his family saw past everything else and just admired his cuteness. They scooped him up and took turns cuddling and rocking him. He gazed at their new faces one by one and was distracted for a few quiet moments. That gave us a chance to talk.
My sister-in-law sighed with relief when she found out about last night’s dinner. “Oh no, that hot pepper oil went right into your breast milk! Poor, poor Garry and his tender tummy.” So, it wasn’t a giant temper tantrum, thank goodness!
That moment, I realized that my first born was now my practice baby, in real life, and not in a dream. My little baby had his first major stomach upset and it was all my fault. I knew I’d make mistakes, but I didn’t think it would happen this soon. I figured it would be more like the kind damage I could appease by starting a fund to pay for his therapy as an adult. This mama thing was already much harder than I thought.