I should have known there was more in store for us after our first daughter came along. She was what some might call an “easy baby”. Born after a quick and textbook delivery, she opened her eyes wide. Cut off from her food source with a scissor’s snip, she searched, mouth open, head turned upward, for her new form of sustenance. Polite at the hospital, she graciously slept in her glass bassinette as all myriad of friends and strangers came to call, waking only to feed and bask in the glow of “newborn babyhood.” Once home, she cried a bit more, but was quickly soothed and slept through the night at seven, and then ten, months with only minor prodding from us.
With all this “experience” under our belts we welcomed our next daughter three years later. Hey, we knew what we were doing right? Wrong. While we were walking around bliss-filled and cocky, someone changed the players and we quickly found ourselves in a level 2 game with level 1 skills.
She arrived after a rockier start, cord around her neck, and baby-poop in her lungs, sleepier than her sister. A thread of concern circled my heart as she showed little interest in me, struggling to open her eyes before being whisked away by the nurses for a “cleaning up”, aka suctioning the heck out of her lungs and warming her on a tray. Three hours later, alone in my room I had to almost beg them to bring her to me. A half hour later she was in my arms, wide awake, vociferously voicing her objections to life. Alarmed, I looked into her face, all wrinkled and pinched against life, and wondered what drug they had fed my once-too-sleepy baby. Now that she was “on” I was at a loss how to turn her “off” again. Against my inner nursing mother’s judgment I popped in the free pacifier and held it there against her thrusting tongue. Ah, momentary silence.
And so it went.
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By the time three weeks had gone by the moments of quiet were replaced by hours of howling. We had wore a path around the house, jostling and patting, soothing and shushing this new being, this new child who could cry – no scream - for forty minutes, pass out and wake up twenty minutes later to do it all again. Our pediatrician, wise old parent that he was, pronounced, “She has colic” and prescribed “a sitter” for when the going got too tough. “Tell the sitter ‘she is clean, she is fed, she will scream’, and head for the door.”
And several months into our new lives of infant gas drops and vibrating bouncy seats we did just that. Thank God for our dear sweet “Ger Ger”, sitter extraordinaire who trod the same worn out paths we did, wrapping K up tight in her blanket to mimic life in the womb, all the while keeping our three-year-old entertained with craft projects galore.
Months turned into years, and our fussy baby became a darling, but headstrong toddler, a strawberry-haired leprechaun with a quick wit and a short fuse. Woe to the parent who drove the mini-van, and the sister who sat beside her, as she let loose her feelings about whatever was ailing her – lost toy, missing pacifier, non-existent pb&j sandwich. Patient as Job himself, my eldest would hold her hands over her ears and mutter, “Mom can’t you make her stop crying?” while I tried to steer and pacify at the same time. Never once did this “easy baby” ask, “can we return her?” She loved her sister unconditionally and that served them both well, especially when it came to discipline: “Mom you can’t put her in time-out on the stairs, she is only two!”
At her three-year well-baby visit, the doctor marveled at her strong personality and depth of emotion and then opined, “She is a feeler. The world needs feelers.” And then added, for comfort I suppose, “They say your easiest baby is your hardest teen and your hardest baby is your easiest teen.” Carrying my apparent future Peace Corp volunteer to the parking garage, I found myself wishing for and dreading the teen years all in one breath.
But now the teen years are here and I have lived to tell the tale of life with the “feeler” (part I), and it has been a good life indeed. A life full of patience (especially for her little sister); compassion; emotional depth (“how searing is your embarrassment?” may I ask); contrition (always delivered sincerely after the last door slam); reticence replaced with pleasure in one’s self (“I am glad I served the homeless dinner”); humor and glue (that holds our family unit together, sandwiched right in the middle, reminding us always how important it is to feel, feel, FEEL life).
She’s a feeler for sure. And the world needs feelers.