Baby and I are tight. Hopefully, one might even say securely attached. However, I might be a little too attached to my little one. I have a hard time being away from him. He, however, seems to do just fine without me. For the most part.
Once a week or so, Baby spends some quality time with Dad or Grandma, providing me with some quality “me time.” Unfortunately, this so-called me time usually involves running errands. While there is a certain level of bliss that comes from running to three different places in the time that it would normally take to run just one errand with Baby, it’s not exactly a spa day.
Ha. Even the concept of calling it a “day” is a misnomer. It’s more like one to two hours. The dreaded separation anxiety on Baby’s part has pretty much stayed at bay. I’ll say a quick goodbye and be off, and he happily continues his play. Sometimes there is a little bit of fussiness, but he’s easily distracted. The world is too exciting for a meltdown at this point. There’s too many dog toys to steal and chairs to climb.
Baby may be happily entertained while I’m gone, but he refuses to take a bottle or sippy cup. We’ve tried frozen milk, fresh milk, and water. We switched from the newborn bottle nipples that we never bothered to change to 6+ month nipples. We’ve tried four different sippy cups (including one with a straw). We’ve tried cradling him, sitting him up in his highchair, and holding him in our laps. He wouldn’t take it from Dad, from Grandma, or from me.
So when I’m out, my anxiety starts to creep in. When Baby’s awake with me, he typically nurses every hour after waking like clockwork. Whether he slept for 20 minutes or two hours, he would eat an hour after waking up, and then an hour after that, and again before going down for a nap or continuing the pattern until bedtime. So I’ll worry he’ll want milk, and that I won’t get back in time to feed him (hangry babies aren’t fun).
Baby used to accept bottles, but I honestly wasn’t much better then. We had a couple rough nursing patches along the way, which made me become a little paranoid. I wanted to nurse him over giving him a bottle whenever possible. This paranoia was the original reason I tended to venture out for only an hour or so at a time. Even when he would take a bottle, I would try to be back before he would have to. Now that I would love to stay out
a bit longer, anxiety sets in when I think about Baby becoming hungry.
This anxiety is compounded by the fact that I’m the only one who can put Baby down for a nap. I fully recognize that this fact is largely because I won’t let anyone else try. However, to defend myself on this point, when others have tried in the past it’s ended with lots of screaming and tears on Baby’s part, sometimes culminating in a nap, other times not.
There’s really one reason for why I hog bedtime. When Baby doesn’t nap well, he usually won’t sleep well at night, and then I’m the one who’s going to be up with him. And I really really like my sleep.
Well meaning people have told me that if Baby gets hungry enough, he’ll eat. Or that if he gets tired enough, he’ll sleep. And through this process he’ll learn to take naps and go to bed while other loving adults are there to care for him. This kind of ultimatum doesn’t sit well with me. Why put an innocent little baby through that if I can be there for him?
Yet I see other babies his age downing bottles and falling sleep anywhere, anytime, for anyone. Still, it’s never comparing apples and apples. Beyond being a similar age, often their day to day situations tend to be different. Every baby is different. Am I just making excuses? Maybe. But it’s what feels true to me.
So when I leave, I feel anxious. I miss out on attending dinners and parties with friends. My favorite pre-Baby pastime of reading or working from coffee shops has mostly disappeared from my life. I finally understand why Starbucks has a drive-thru.
At the end of the day, I know that this will pass. Soon enough Baby will be eating more and eventually wean from nursing altogether. In the meantime, I’m willing to sacrifice some “me time.” It’s not harming Baby to have an attached caregiver, whereas the anxiety when I’m away for longer periods of time cannot be good for my mental health or blood pressure.
I’m doing the best I can to keep in touch with friends along the way, and even make some new ones. I make a point of carving out time during the week for some one-on-one time with my husband to maintain our relationship apart from Baby. I fully believe that if I don’t take care of myself first, I will not be able to take care of Baby (or anyone else). For now, that just might mean curling up with a book or my laptop and a cup of hot chocolate in my favorite chair at home instead the neighborhood coffee shop. Starbucks can wait.
What parenting choices work for you, even if they’re not popular with those around you?