Is he a good baby? You ask, as you ring up my groceries.
It’s 5PM on a Friday. I’ve been waiting in line for quite some time, and my two girls are getting ready to have meltdowns. I’m holding my baby boy in my tired, aching arms because for some reason he decided he didn’t like to ride in the sling today, and he is too young to sit up in the carriage.
I know you are trying to make conversation. I know you are reaching out to me, a stranger, because you think the baby I’m holding is adorable. I know you are trying to be nice.
I know all these things, and yet I still have to grit my teeth and pause before answering. You have no way of knowing that you just asked me the question that I despise the most.
When my girls were infants, I never minded that question. They both fit society’s idea of what a “good” baby should be; neither cried very much and were very content, and both slept through the night starting at four weeks old.
But my son? At three months old, he is what the revised version of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding calls a “Sparkler”: a baby who is “doing, fussing, and demanding all the time.” My son never seems to be content. He’s always fussing, always demanding to be held, always needing some kind of input.
My son does not fit society’s view of a “good baby”.
But then…does that make him a bad baby? No. I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as a bad baby. All babies are good babies.
To be asked that question all the time can be draining. I have a friend who, when asked this question about her lovely infant daughter, will sometimes reply “Well she’s a bit of an arsonist but we are trying to break her of that habit”. Why can’t our society just accept babies as they are, as nature designed them, instead of trying to turn them into scheduled, convenient packages that fit into our lives exactly as we want them to?
Having a baby whose problems were not solved by bringing him to the breast; having a baby who at times I can not calm, not matter what I do; having a baby who cried so much at me that at times I took it as a personal rejection…it hasn’t been easy.
But he is not a “bad” baby. He’s my baby. He’s my baby with his own strong personality. He’s my baby that I love to hold, even when he is fussy. He’s my baby that I will wake up in the middle of the night for and stay awake, just to watch him sleep peacefully. He’s my baby that I kiss and hug, bury my nose in his hair and breathe in the wonderful baby smell.
Is he a good baby?
It’s 5PM on a Friday night, and my arms are so tired that they feel like they are going to fall off. You are smiling at me, waiting for my answer.
Yes, he is.
Then I bury my nose in his hair….and breathe deep.
Shelly is a homeschooling mom of three and birth and postpartum doula. She blogs daily at Adventures of a Breastfeeding Mother.