As many bloggers have mentioned, it is National Infertility Awareness Week. When I check this blog’s stats, I discover that so many people who stumble across this site do so because they are struggling through infertility, and have questions about the drugs and the check-ups and everything else that comes with infertility treatments. Honestly, not a day goes by that I don’t think of my struggles. I actually wonder what sorts of hoops I would have to jump through if we ever wanted another child. The whole thing is daunting. But having gone through it, I feel just so – positive about raising these babies, and therefore the negativity I hear bothers me.
Which is how I came to this week’s blog topic. What makes a baby “easy”?
When you have a newborn (or two, or more) you really hope you have an “easy” baby. The number 1 reason for this is because you’re exhausted and you just need to sleep. Delirium takes over. So having a child that goes multiple hours in the middle of the night without needing to be fed fits many people’s qualifications of “easy”. Maybe this same baby also takes great naps – clearly he/she enjoys sleeping. Maybe they are great eaters, maybe they fall asleep without you having to bounce on a yoga ball while simultaneously singing 8 nursery rhymes. Maybe they follow a schedule. As a newborn, this baby would again be deemed “easy” by the parents and their family and friends. You’d smile and count your blessings and everyone else would think you really have it together and know what you’re doing. But as a newborn – this wouldn’t be typical. This wouldn’t be the norm. And it probably didn’t have much to do with you at all.
I had this baby. B was this baby. He didn’t cry too often, he stared off into space easily and allowed you time to breathe and think. At the time, I would’ve been the first one to call him “easy”. But really, he just “fit the idea”. He was the fantasy that people have that helped create the term “easy”. But he wasn’t easy. He was a baby – just, the way he was.
I also had another baby. C was the other baby – she had reflux. She was a preemie (they both were, but B was a very healthy one and quickly outgrew that status). She was so uncomfortable from her tummy troubles that she would cry. Most of her crying went from 4:00 pm – midnight. She had a long “witching hour”. She was extremely aware of new experiences and surroundings, which is why for a while, she cried in the bath and she cried in the car. Was C not an easy baby? By society’s terms, she was a “hard” baby (though some people have challenges much more extreme). But she wasn’t a hard baby – she just was a baby. Her own little self.
I did not have an easy and a hard baby. I just had two babies who, even as newborns, demonstrated the differences in their genetic makeup, in who they were. But it wasn’t hard to take care of C, and it wasn’t easy to take care of B. It just was.
Now, many months later, their personalities have stayed the same if not even heightened, but those other details have faded away. B does not love to sleep anymore. He does sleep all night, and for that I’m grateful. But today he took two 20 minute naps. That’s it, all day. He fussed, he even had a meltdown or two. Was he hard today? Well no – his fussing was his way of communicating to me that he was tired, that he was having trouble staying asleep, and that he didn’t know what to do with himself. But he also laughed hysterically every time one of the dogs came near him. He squealed with delight when I held his hands as he stood on his two feet and took some steps with my help (kid doesn’t even crawl, but he does this). He drank four 8 ounce bottles and wolfed down his solids. He flopped his lips with his fingers to make that funny sound. He wasn’t easy, he wasn’t hard. He just was. And C – C no longer has reflux. She eats. She sleeps. She is sleep trained – she puts the pacifier in herself and she strokes the wubbanub’s little legs as she falls asleep. She is extremely aware. She knows where you are when you leave the room, and even minutes later, has her eye on the exact spot you should return to, waiting for you. She watches as you make a sandwich, describing each step. She grabs your face and pulls it in for 5 kisses in a row (once she gets started…). Is she “easy”? No…but she’s not “hard” either. She’s just who she is.
You get the point. Now I want to point out that none of this means I don’t have easy or hard days. I absolutely do. Everyone does, and they should be expected. Today, with those terrible naps, was a bit of a challenge. I might even say it was a hard day. I was tired, I had a little less patience than I normally did. But that was ME. That’s how I was different. My babies were the same as always.
This post comes from a place where other people (usually those who do not have babies and haven’t in a long time, or ever) are so very quick to judge your children and tell you what they think your kids are like. You are free to agree or deny, but denying leaves you feeling defensive and vulnerable – or maybe it’s just me.
Because I have two babies, different genders and different personalities, it is so easy to compare them. There’s nothing wrong in my mind with comparing them on topics that have no emotional value, like how B has great gross motor skills and C has great fine motor skills. But when they are compared as “easy” vs. “hard” – that’s where I have the problem.
Someone recently commented that C “must be the high-maintenance one, right?” because she was fussing. Now, C was being held by someone she had never met before and had done great with him for over a half hour. But finally, she was tired of being in the position, facing out, being held by that person, and she was letting the room know that she needed a change. What is high-maintenance about a child who communicates? A baby who tells you she needs a change? But because I’m kind of a pushover in those situations and not nearly as assertive as I’d like to be, I neglected to say, “She’s fussing because she needs someone else to hold her, or she needs to play with some toys. She’s bored.” Instead I said, “No, she’s not high-maintenance. In fact, neither of them are and I’m very lucky.” I continued, “Actually, C really enjoys seeing and taking in what you’re doing, so I like to walk her around the house and point things out to her. B is usually fine with a few toys by himself for a while.” The response I got back was, “Well, that must be a lot easier for you then.”
Yes, I’m a little over-sensitive. But I’m just going with it. So, is C hard because she likes to learn about her world as I show her around the house? No, that’s not hard. That’s parenting. Is B easy because he can play by himself? No, that’s just B. I don’t like them being compared because my fear is that these stigmas will stick with them. Not for me or my husband, but by others, who remember C’s refluxy days or how B just slept all day. Things have changed about them, things have stayed the same. But they aren’t easy and they aren’t hard. They’re just my two babies, different but similar, who love to look into each other’s eyes and burst out laughing, bang toys together as they attempt to shake them, grab ahold of any buttons, zippers, or knobs they can find. They’re just babies. They just do whatever they’re going to do.
I feel better having written this, to be honest. But at the same time, I know things won’t change – there will always be people ready to tell you if you have an “easy” or “hard” baby, and of course if you have two babies, you must have one of each. I know better about my children – neither are hard, neither are easy. But they’re mine, and I will always defend them.