When my oldest was just hours old, she received her very first compliment from a stranger. You see, she was sleeping, (as fresh newborns often do), when our nurse commented, “Ooooh, she’s a good baby!” I proudly and emphatically agreed. Yes…It seemed as though my husband and I had achieved perfection on our first try! Congratulations all around!
We left the hospital the very next day.
In the first days and weeks postpartum, it surprised me how frequently the question would come up. Friends and family (and strangers) all wanted to know, “Is she a good baby?”
As those days and weeks passed, my baby was changing. She was alert. She didn’t sleep constantly. She developed strong preferences and made them known with the most charming little scream you ever did hear. By the time she was a couple of months old, the question gave me pause.
The truth was, she didn’t sleep more than an hour or two at a time. She didn’t like it when strangers held her. She had intense separation anxiety. She wouldn’t take a bottle, and wanted to nurse alllll the time. And, sometimes, after all of her needs had been met, she still cried.
I dreaded that question along with all of the other super fun questions that people love to ask so that they can follow up with unsolicited advice. (Is she sleeping well for you? How is she taking to the bottle?) I really didn’t even want to answer truthfully. I didn’t want to be judged for my baby’s “bad habits”. After all, when we left the hospital, she was a good baby. I wondered if I had done something to create these issues? Was I doing it all wrong?? So…I mostly just smiled and said “We’re doing okay!”
What else could I say? I mean, that answer seemed more appropriate than, “Actually, Susan, this one turned out to be a complete dud. Better luck next time, I guess!”
Of course I would never say that! It’s completely ridiculous…and do you know WHY that response sounds so ridiculous? Because, in reality, we all know that there simply are no dud babies. Every baby is a good baby.
That’s the only way they come.
Babies have it ROUGH the first year of their lives. I know it seems like they’re getting a pretty sweet deal- ideally, all of their needs are being met, they can nap whenever they want, and they’re held safely and warmly in the arms of those who care about them. So well loved. But. Even the most attentive parent can’t possibly provide the level of comfort a new baby grows accustomed to in the womb: warm and safe in their mamas tummies, never knowing cold, hunger or loneliness, snuggly held and surrounded in the loving presence that they will eventually come to know as “Mama“.
Until, one day, they are welcomed into our very bright and very noisy world. They can’t communicate their needs. They can’t even change positions on their own. Sure, the first year can be hard for parents, but it can’t be easy for our little ones either.
Since having my second baby, who was only slightly easier than my first, I’ve totally ditched the idea and goal of a “good baby”. I’ve started answering truthfully when others ask about his demeanor. (Don’t worry- I have never described him as “a dud”!) On the flip side, I have quit asking those new baby questions when I speak to other moms, and instead, I tell them how sweet their baby is and just ask them how THEY are doing. And then… I just listen.
If your baby doesn’t quickly develop a circadian rhythm, or prefers mama to anyone else, that’s okay. It’s not because you’ve ruined her. It’s not because she’s difficult. It’s because she’s a baby, and she’s still adjusting to this new life. But she is good. She is a good sweet little baby who will learn and grow and change in a time and manner unique to only her.
Those hard earned smiles and giggles will give you some of the sweetest memories of your life.
The sleep will, eventually, come.
The crying will turn into words you can mostly understand.
The separation anxiety will fade into independence.
Soon, it won’t matter to anyone if he ever took a bottle, or even what was in it, because he’s going to turn into a toddler who only eats crackers and ketchup anyway.
The pressure is off. You’re doing great, and your baby is doing just fine, too. Every baby is a good baby. That’s the only way they come. And, just so you know..if you’re at all worried about it, I’m willing to bet, you’re a good mama, too.