Hold That Baby

The announcement of my pregnancy plagued me with a virus that befalls all pregnant women. The infection commonly known as "well-meaning advice-givers." It strikes in the form of sisters, brothers, parents, in-laws, coworkers, and neighbors who thrive on offering up opinions on parenting. But I kept an open mind. Some of the advice earned a spot in my mind for future reference. But as my baby stirred within me so did my own natural instincts. They waved a flag of doubt when I heard, "don¼t spoil your baby by holding him too much." I also raised an eyebrow of skepticism to the recommendation to "let your baby learn to 'cry it out.'"

I reflected on all the recommendations as my stomach became rounder and I drifted through days filled with sweet dreams of motherhood. Then, wham, I was smack in the middle of horrifying-tortuous-I-think-I-am-going-to-die labor. Just when I was convinced I would forever exist suspended in a twilight world of eternal labor, it was over and a beautiful baby boy was laid upon my chest. My mothering instincts immediately kicked in. Those intuitions screamed, "hold that baby." So I did. I picked him up and hugged and kissed him and then kept right on with that pattern.

To the dismay of the advice givers, I held Jake all day. I held him through the night as I nursed him. God forbid, I even picked up the little cutie pie while he was sleeping, just to hold him and marvel at him.

The suggestion givers were not pleased. They bombarded me with stern warnings of critical damage I would be inflicting upon my baby. They were certain I'd create a clinging spoiled monster child who'd be screaming in terror, leg-locked to my body, when school time rolled around.

A tiny tremor of worry wavered in my mind, but I dismissed it, determined to hold my baby as long as the urge to hold prevailed.

Once a visiting guidance-giver heard Jake wake from his nap with a wail. Instantly, I bolted to his crib to pick him up. "Come on," she said, "he only cried for five seconds."

"I know," I said, patting Jake's back, "I feel just awful; my average time between cry and pick up is usually less than four."

She threw up her arms in despair. Advice-givers considered me a martyr on a mindless mission of mayhem. But I refused to believe comforting a crying infant would spoil him/her. I held firm to my belief that a baby first needs to learn dependence, comfort, and security before graduating to learning independence.

When I announced my second pregnancy, I was assured by friends and family I'd learn from my mistakes and wouldn't repeat the same ones the second time around. "What mistakes?" I wondered. I intended to do everything exactly the same, only this time with more confidence and conviction.

By the time Betsy was born, Jake, at nineteen months, had little time for lap-sitting. He had blocks to knock over, dogs' tails to pull, cereal boxes to dump out, cupboards to climb in, and general havoc to wreak. Betsy was held often and Jake was hugged, kissed, and snuggled whenever I could get a hold of him.

When my third child, Nicholas, was born, the advice givers waited in anticipation for me to quit that nonsense of holding those babies so often. But I soon discovered my lap had room for three and sometimes even a small dog, too.

What about the warning from the well-intentioned counselors that my kids would become so attached, getting them to go to school would be like pulling teeth? On their first day of kindergarten, I was the one who wanted to hang onto them and scream, "don't leave me!" They were fine; I went home and cried.

Now, my pregnancy days are over, and I've joined the ranks of the advice-givers. How couldn't I? After all, I've become an expert in the field and have mountains of helpful hints for any pregnant woman who dares cross my path. But the suggestion I give most often is "hold your baby all you want."

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