“Where are you going, Mommy?” My 8-year-old daughter asks me when I get up for the fifth time during dinner.
“To make sure the baby’s breathing.”
Most of the time our new baby sleeps in my arms or on my chest. All three kids clamor to hold her. I let them take turns but it’s hard for me to give her up. When she’s not with me I feel like an integral part of myself—an arm or a leg—is missing. When my husband James finally takes her, he invariably whispers, “Hello, baby. Let me take a look at you. I’ve barely seen you today.”
Though her oldest sister loves to hold her at dinner, it’s hard to eat with a floppy sleeping newborn in your arms and I’ve been finding muffin crumbs in her swaddling blanket, tomato sauce on her onesie, and parmesan cheese in her soft, fine hair.
So tonight when the baby fell into a deep sleep during dinner, I put her on the bed in our room (which is right next to the kitchen) with the door open.
Still, I can’t stop checking on her.
I don’t know if it’s postpartum hormones, if I’m programmed to feel this way by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, or if I’m just being neurotic, but I can’t stop worrying she is going to stop breathing.
“Go check on the baby,” I tell my 6-year-old son. He hops up, runs out of the room, and is back in a few seconds. “She’s sleeping,” he cries. “Why are you so worried about her Mommy? She’s always fine!”
“It’s hard to kill a newborn,” a mom told her daughter, a friend of mine who was feeling fearful after just having a baby. My friend found these words immensely reassuring and repeated them to herself often, especially after she accidentally banged her newborn’s head into a kitchen counter.
Even though I have three healthy children who survived being newborns just fine, I can’t stop feeling like the baby is so fragile, the world so full of germs, the weather so cold.
James, who is usually the designated worrier in our house, has been less anxious than I. But he, too, has been surprised by how inexperienced we both feel having our fourth child.
When you have something so tiny and precious, you have so much to lose.
Now please pardon me, I have to go check on the baby.