Your Real Life is Hidden

Friday, November 27, 2009

Is she a good baby?

This probably tops my list of questions not to ask a mother. Why?

*What the asker really wants to know is, does she cry a lot, does she sleep through the night, is she colicky. So why not just phrase it that way?

*Mostly because it implies the inverse is true if you say no. No, she's a bad baby. Have you ever heard a mother say that? And yet we expect to hear that if a baby is fussy, doesn't sleep through the night, won't go to other people, etc, etc.

*This is right up there with the whole "He's an easy baby" thing. So if you don't have an easy baby, you have what? A hard baby? A difficult baby? Do you really want to label your kid from infancy in that direction?

This all came to light for me when I was working with my Roots of Empathy class on Wednesday. Our topic was crying, and they asked if Niamh cries a lot. Well, I said she doesn't cry as much as she used to because we've mostly figured out what she wants when she fusses/cries. But she still cries. A lot more than Edmund ever did. So the instructor asked the class "Does that make her a bad baby?" Well, when you put it that way, it's very obvious. No, of course she isn't bad. She just has a need that I haven't figured out how to meet. She has different needs than her brother. She has a different perspective on the world.

So why I am asked this inane question every time I'm out in public with her? Why are we so eager to know the temperament (because that is what it comes down to) of every stranger's baby? To seek advice for one's self? To offer advice? To smile smugly and feel better about the baby who never cries and goes to bed easily and takes a pacifier?

I guess this bugs me because at first I really didn't know what to say about Niamh. She is SO different from Edmund. I'm learning now that this is a good thing and it means she has different strengths, which is good because she was born for a different purpose. It has been harder for me this time because my firstborn took a pacifier whenever it was offered, went to bed without a fuss, slept regularly at earlier hours at night (although he got up a lot more frequently to eat than she does), and if he cried for more than thirty seconds put together, I was climbing the walls FREAKING OUT because that was so outside of his personality and I needed to figure out what was wrong with him NOW.

And now I have Niamh. Niamh the strong. Niamh the determined. Niamh who is trying to stand up on her own. Niamh who can sit unsupported at the ripe age of almost four months. Niamh who rolled over at three weeks. Niamh who wants to be where the people are, who will smile at anyone who smiles at her, who giggles just watching her brother play nearby. Niamh who has taught me I don't know everything about newborns and infants. Niamh who has taught me to pray throughout my day instead of just when I think about it sometimes. Niamh the dancer--she danced in the womb and I know once she's vertical on her own there will be a rhythm to be tapped out. Niamh who is mostly very willing to nap when her brother does and give me a chance to sleep/blog (no promises). Niamh who doesn't think a pacifier is any replacement for Mommy. Niamh, my bright promise who will very likely change the course of history. I can promise you that there will never be another girl like her in all the earth. I don't think the world could take two forces of nature on this scale. It's already being taxed enough having both of us in the same room 90% of the time. :)

What do you think about the labels we give to babies? Have you ever thought about it?