A New Baby
No, not mine. But I got your attention, didn’t I?
Our closest friends have a newborn, and his arrival has changed all of us. We don’t have any local blood relatives – all of BabyC’s grandparents and aunts and uncles live at least a plane ride away. But these friends are family. They live just a few blocks from us, and we are the kind of friends who drop in on each other without calling (or texting) first. This baby – we’ll call him Little Sprout – is their first child.
BabyC and I visited Little Sprout at the hospital on the first afternoon of his life.
I watched BabyC closely as she met Little Sprout for the first time, curious to see how she would welcome this new member of the family. BabyC is very close to Little Sprout’s mom and dad, and I wondered how she would feel about being second fiddle to a new baby.
Little Sprout, being a newborn, cried within a few minutes of our first meeting. BabyC looked immediately concerned, demonstrating that the innate human response to an infant’s cry is to do something, right away. BabyC turned to face me, started mimicking Sprout’s cry, and emphatically signed “milk” to me as if to say, “Mama, do what you do and help this baby!”
I thought, “Well, I’ve done this before. Sure thing, let me hold the little guy.” I picked up Little Sprout and tried my best to soothe him (but no, not offering milk), but he continued to wail. BabyC echoed his wail and continued to look worried. I handed Little Sprout over to his mom, and BabyC watched as she began to breastfeed him.
I observed as BabyC processed what this meant. Her dear friends had become parents, and it was their job to care for Little Sprout. After this first day, when Sprout cried, BabyC pointed at his mom and signed milk to her.
Over the last month, we’ve seen Little Sprout nearly every day. BabyC has quickly learned the basics of newborn care: milk, poop, sleep, and cry. At home, she asks about Sprout often.
“Baby Sprout is home with his mom and dad.”
“Yes, Sprout does poop a lot. All babies poop a lot, and we have to change their diapers often.”
The arrival of Baby Sprout also inspired us to pick up BabyC’s first realistic-looking baby doll. Baby Doll came with a stroller, and BabyC pushes her all around the house. She really loads up the stroller, hanging bags and hats from the handle, and piling the stroller with blankets on top of Baby Doll. (She’s a new mom, and she still thinks that she has to load up the entire nursery when she goes out. Cut her some slack.)
She also changes Baby Doll’s diaper quite often, because as we all know, babies boop a lot. And sometimes Baby Doll’s diaper changes require a LOT of wipes, like a pile of them on the floor to get the job done. Sigh.
Best of all, in my mind, BabyC has taken on the responsibility of feeding Baby Doll. When we picked her out in the store, BabyC couldn’t wait to hold her. I pulled her out of the box so that she could play with her while I finished my shopping. Waiting in line to check out, Baby Doll started crying (typical baby behavior, right?), and BabyC pulled up her shirt and started nursing on the spot. I’m so glad that Target has become more comfortable with nursing in public, because BabyC was not showing much modesty. (Actually, nobody ever bats an eye about breastfeeding in public here in Eugene, doll or not.) I have also walked into BabyC’s bedroom to find her sitting in our rocking chair, where we usually breastfeed, nursing her Baby Doll while reading a book. Sometimes, Baby Doll needs to eat in the hallway, too. This is true feeding on demand, folks.
I have been impressed with BabyC’s level of care for Little Sprout. She is clearly empathetic when he is in distress, and she’s practicing the basics of newborn care. Seeing BabyC with Little Sprout has made it obvious that she really is not a baby anymore. She’s a toddler – and an independent, outspoken, and caring one at that. I can’t go on calling her BabyC forever. Her new blog alias will simply be “Cee.”
Sprout’s arrival and BabyC’s response to him has made us think more about trying to have another baby soon. It still overwhelms me to think of caring for a newborn and a toddler, but now I can actually imagine how we might make room within our family for a new little one.
When we were pregnant with BabyC, Husband and I started thinking about an “ideal” child spacing. We both agreed that we wanted two kids (Me: “Well, at least two.” Husband: “Two.”). Husband thought we should space them as closely together as possible, so that they would grow up being close friends. I wanted them a bit more spaced out. I wanted time to really let BabyC be a baby, to enjoy being with her and giving her my full attention for a few years. I wanted our second child to have enough distance so as not to grow up in BabyC’s direct shadow but not so much distance that they couldn’t relate to each other. I’ve said for a while that I think three years is a good inter-child spacing, and Husband has basically deferred to me on this decision. But now, I’m feeling antsy. I also know that it may take me some time to get pregnant, because it did the first time around. We can only plan so much, and then we have to leave the rest to a little physiological roll of the dice.
If you have more than one, how far apart in age are your children? Do you think there is an ideal spacing?