I was a brand new mom in a brand new neighborhood about as far removed from my college friends as one could be. Having a baby definitely changed my life and began a brand new Chapter.
I hadn’t made a lot of friends who were also mothers so I was thrilled when a neighbor called and invited me to a coffee she was hosting. It would be a great way to meet some moms and make new acquaintances.
When you have the newest baby and walk into a room full of mothers and pre-schoolers, all of a sudden you realize you’re the popular girl at the party. Not with the mothers… With their kids.
There’s something completely fascinating to a little kid about a baby. Maybe it’s seeing someone so much tinier than themselves. Maybe they imagine what it was like to be so small. Maybe they simply feel good to realize they are older and smarter than at least one other person in the room.
Whatever it is, it happens.
The littlest guests at the party were mesmerized by my baby girl. They stood on tiptoes, trying to see her in the carrier. Their moms had warned them, no touching, and they didn’t. But their eyes didn’t miss a breath or a sniffle or a wiggle.
Like I said. They were completely mesmerized.
It wasn’t long before Julie started to squirm, waking up from her morning nap. Her fans were ecstatic when she opened her eyes and started looking around. I knew if she was awake it wouldn’t be long before she’d need a change (no problem) and a feeding (uh-oh). I was breastfeeding at the time and asked the hostess if it would be ok to slip into a bedroom, give her a change and feed her. Of course, she said.
Then I realized there was another factor to consider.
Julie’s new fan club surrounded both of us like gnats. We weren’t going to slip away easily without them following us. They’d become little baby groupies.
I returned to the other moms and tentatively said, I . . . uh . . . breast feed. I’m not sure how you’d like me to handle it around the little guys. Um . . . And they aren’t about to let me out of their sight. So . . . ah . . . I just want to be sure it’s ok for your kids to be around when I do?
The mothers fairly beamed. That’s just the best thing! Wonderful! Lovely! Absolutely no problem! they said in unison. We’d love to have them see the experience!
I knew by that last comment I was in the company of some fairly liberal mothers.
Off we go to find a bedroom: a now-howling Julie, me, and the groupies. This was the most action they’d seen all morning and they weren’t about to miss a second. A person could slip out of Alcatraz easier than getting away from those three and four-year-olds.
They were nose to nose with each other and Julie, all of them getting braver by the second. I had “help” changing her—-someone making faces at her, another handing me a clean diaper, another finding the tube of ointment in her diaper bag, someone stroking her cheek, commenting on her little toes. Thrilled when she’d latch on to their finger and squeeze.
And a million questions: Why is she crying? Did she poop in her diaper? Do you think she’s looking at me? Can she play with us now? and the one I knew they were so anxious for—-Can we help you give her a bottle?
So there it was. 6 pairs of eyes, looking at me so hopeful for a turn to hold this little baby or at least help with her bottle . . . and there was no bottle.
I wish you could have seen the looks on their faces when I said, She doesn’t have a bottle.
Incredulous, horrified, puzzled, disbelieving looks. Whoever heard of a baby not having a bottle?? they must have thought.
At that age those little minds are starting to problem solve and to them a hungry baby without a bottle was a big problem. They looked at me rather accusingly, got right to the point and worriedly asked, But how are you gonna feed her?
By now Julie was wrapped tightly in her blanket, not crying, but making those kind of baby scolding noises letting me know she wanted to get this show on the road. I had to give the fan club just enough information to answer their question but not so much that it overwhelmed them.
I looked at my audience, took a deep breath, smiled and told them this:
Something really cool happens when a mom has a baby.
What? they asked.
The mom’s breasts get special milk just for the baby and that’s how a lot of babies eat—-without a bottle.
By this time, I’d cuddled Julie close to me, subtly slipped her under my oversized shirt and she was nursing happily. Those 12 little hands were stroking what little hair she had, patting her back, watching, listening. Once again totally mesmerized.
One of them said quietly, almost reverently, Wow. That’s cool. Yeah. Cool, they all echoed.
And I thought. You’re right. It IS really cool.
I relaxed, quite proud of myself. This wasn’t any big deal. They aren’t traumatized. They’re satisfied with my explanation. Pretty good way to handle this, I thought. Motherhood is going to be a cinch! A regular walk in the park! I’m already great with the three and four year olds. How much harder can it get?
Oh Lordy. My naiveté.
We all sat quietly for about a minute and even a minute might be an exaggeration—-they were three and four year olds, remember?——and then a little boy who had been watching very intently, considered this newly discovered phenomenon asked, Does she eat anything else?
I smiled at him —— thinking, I love their inquisite little minds, I love this teaching part, I love their innocence——and told him, Yes she does.
Like what? he asked.
Well, sometimes at night before she goes to bed she gets a little baby cereal mixed with milk. It helps her sleep a long time.
Anything else? he continued.
Sure. She’s just big enough to be able to have some applesauce. So sometimes as a treat she gets a little applesauce during the day.
He looked at Julie. Then he looked at me. Dead serious. No smile. And with the perfect logic of a four year old asked me one more question.
You mean there’s applesauce on that other side?
And I realized maybe this wasn’t going to be such a walk in the park after all.