Before I had Mark, I was prepared for a number of baby-related duties, including breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, diaper-changing, etc. I also knew that I would eventually get peed on, spit on and poop on.
But no one had told me I would have to spend every waking hour with a baby in my arms.
I had heard new mothers complaining about the fact they didn’t even had the time to take a shower. “How hard can it be?” I wondered, innocent and still child-free. “Just put the baby in the crib, walk into the bathroom, turn on the water, make it quick and voilà! Return to baby feeling clean, fresh and happy!”
Yeah, well, it’s not always that easy. I learned it the hard way.
Mark was a Velcro baby. “Velcro” as in perpetually glued to me. Velcro as in “put me down for a minute and I will scream on top of my lungs.” Velcro as in “don’t even think of eat, shower, use the bathroom, mommy.”
It drove me crazy.
At first, I loved having him in my arms. I couldn’t get enough of it. Plus, let’s face it, the first few weeks are a steep learning curve for everyone—the baby is adjusting to the outside world, and the parents are adjusting to the baby’s (lack of) schedule and their new duties. We are all a wreck, exhausted and focused on the baby’s needs, focused on making it through the days and the nights.
We soon discovered that Mark hated not being held by either Feng or I. I couldn’t leave him alone for more than a minute, and even if I was physically around, like twenty centimeters from him, he’d scream until I would give in and pick him up.
I couldn’t even go pee—I still did though (ahem, basic human need!), as fast as I could, to the sound of his screams. Talk about stressful.
I tried several tricks, like leaving him with a tee-shirt I wore and had my scent, putting a musical teddy bear besides him, or talking to him explaining I would be back shortly. I tried letting him cry, and I cried a lot myself, out of frustration, tiredness and yes, anger. “How do other people do it?” I couldn’t help wondering.
If I could make it to the kitchen downstairs and back without him turning crimson red with anger, I’d congratulate him.
It rarely happened, though.
I ended up putting him in the sling and doing my usual chores with him strapped to me. Cooking, cleaning, working… he just slept against my chest and at least, I had both arms free. To cook and eat, Feng and I had to take turns: one of us would hold Mark and the other would eat, then we’d switch. Fortunately, Mark didn’t mind Feng holding him.
After a while, I got pretty frustrated with the situation. I mentioned it to the doctor during Mark’s routine one-month visit. “Ahem… is it normal that we can’t leave him alone for two seconds?”
The doctor looked at us, bemused. “Well, it’s a baby, what do you expect?”
Take that and suck it up, dumb new mom!
But talking with my friends and my family, I realized that not all babies were Velcro babies. Sure, you can’t leave them alone for long. But you can put them down in a bassinet, a crib, a baby seat and as long as the parents are around—in the same room—most babies don’t scream to death. They nap, stare, play… you know, do baby stuff.
I was a wreck, especially considering that Mark was barely napping during the day. Two- or three-month-old babies can’t do much. You can’t really play with them, and peekaboo games don’t really fill up the day or leave you feeling productive and happy. I also wanted some time alone. It was a visceral need—as much as I loved Mark, I just couldn’t stand having him glued to me all day long. I wanted some freedom, a bit of me-time.
Eventually, we started going out more and putting him in the stroller. This way, I could breathe a bit. He learned to enjoy being on his back and on his tummy, little by little. We still had to be at arm’s length but we didn’t have to hold him all the time.
Mark is still a bit of a Velcro baby. He certainly wouldn’t complain if I’d hold him all day long but considering he is now 9 kg, it’s not really an option anymore. Little by little, he getting more mobile and he is exploring the world, playing with his toys and whatever he finds amusing. He is still clingy but not as much… he is growing up.
But still… it’s been a long road!