Thursday, May 21, 2009

Babies, Babies Everywhere. Do I Want One? No!

There's a mini baby boom, call it a baby boomlet, happening in my vicinity. The folks who live next door had their second child about a month ago -- a total cutie, from the photos (I haven't seen him in person yet), and a tiny thing indeed, since he showed up early, like mine did. The folks a floor below us just had THEIR second kid, while the folks a floor above us have twins turning six months' old. And our good friends at preschool just welcomed THEIR second kid. Another friend is well into the second trimester with HER number two. Meanwhile, back in New York, we have friends who are getting ready to welcome kid number four. Yes, four. We're talkin' a can't-go-anywhere-without-a-mini-van family.

I'm wildly happy for everyone.

But one thing I am not is jealous.

I have no baby envy. Not even an ounce.

All I have to do is hear one of the new babies around here cry -- that ear-shattering, wake-you-from-a-dead-sleep, "feed me/change me now!" kind of cry -- and I am magically transported back to the blurry, numbing days and sleep-deprived nights of early parenthood. Back in the day -- or night, as it were -- four years ago when Late Blooming Dad and I were going through this, I remember the blessedly merciful (if not exactly cheap) night nurse/doula telling us, "Sleep deprivation is the world's leading form of torture." (Well, this was before we all knew about those Justice Dept. memos "justifying" waterboarding.) After we no longer had any night-time help, and hadn't engaged any daytime help, I remember a constant tiredness so bone-deep that to be roused from those few precious hours because Thing 1 or Thing 2 needed formula, a burping, and a diaper change, was to seethe with resentment (of the babies, of one's spouse for NOT getting up), while blearily going through the necessary motions, and wondering when my "shift" would be over. Late Blooming Dad and I typically divided the nights into shifts, and while Dad was content to tend to the babies if he could catch up with episodes of "Nip/Tuck" via the web, with the sound low, I just wanted them to please, please, puhleeeese learn to sleep through the night. A skill which, by the way, they did not master for nine whole months.

I don't know what it's like to deal with just one baby, or one new baby when you've already got a toddler or preschooler in the house. I'm sure both situations have their challenges. But having to take care of twin babies isn't just twice the work. We're talking an exponential difference. Just to give you an idea of the survival tactics necessary for those first few months, we had a rule: if one baby wakes up and you feed that baby, you then wake the second baby up and feed that baby. If we ever disobeyed this rule, it was at our peril, for even with the two-feedings-in-a-row routine, whoever was up doing the feedings was busy for a good hour straight. If we'd waited to feed each baby on demand, neither one of us would have gotten more than a cat nap's worth of sleep every night.

Do I miss the peach-fuzz softness of new baby heads? Do I miss touching the fleshy folds of baby fat that invite so much squeezing and kissing? Do I miss that new baby smell? (You know, the fresh smell, not the "I need a change" smell).

Sure I do. But I've had my fill, and my share -- times two. That's plenty for most people, and was one more than I ever dared hope for. I'm quite content to get my fill of the new baby drug by holding my friends' babies for a few delicious moments, cradling their warm bodies and rocking their bundled little selves. Then I'm ready to hand those babies back ... and when my own kids finally nod off around nine-ish (nine-thirty on a bad night), enjoy the blissful quiet, and a nearly full night of sleep, until those little chatty voices wake me up around a quarter to seven and ask, "Mommy, what's for breakfast?"

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