Life Signs

One of the things that I don't like about motherhood is constantly checking to see if my child is still alive. You know what I'm talking about if you're a parent. From the moment you find our you're pregnant, you're constantly checking up on things to make sure that your offspring is still alive---and I'm not even a person who worries, so if this happens to me, I know that it's as bad or worse for most other people. During the early pregnancy, you just have to look forward to those heartbeat visits, and in the moments before the doctor finds the heartbeat, you hold your breath and wonder, is it really still in there? Later in the pregnancy, you all of a sudden realize that you haven't felt your baby move in x amount of time, so you drink juice or you jump around or you poke your belly and wait for the reaction.

The night that Gulliver was born, the nurse gave me a nose-sucker and told me to suction stuff out of the baby's mouth if he stops breathing or starts choking. Then she wished me a good night and turned out the lights on her way out of the room. What? You think that at least in the hospital it's still the staff's job to keep your infant alive. What else are you paying them for? But then you're stuck with a nose-sucker and no idea what to actually do with it if your baby suddenly stops breathing.

At home the first month or so, I'd wake up in a panic in the middle of the night and wonder if my baby was still alive. In semi-conscious confusion, I'd start patting down Murray and look at his face and chest to make sure he was breathing, before I'd realize that I was holding and scrutinizing an enormous baby. Then I'd turn to the other side of the bed and find Gulliver and watch his wee baby chest to make sure it was still moving up and down. Once, I even woke up in the middle of the night, concerned that my baby wasn't properly swaddled, and once again inspected Murray up and down to make sure that his blankets were tight... before realizing that that giant baby wasn't a baby and wasn't even swaddled at all.

Now that Gulliver is almost 6 months old, my is-he-alive panics have calmed down a little. Usually now they just occur when I realize that I've been working uninterrupted for a good chunk of time and haven't heard a peep from the napping baby. So I leave my computer to go check on him, and invariably during that awful 30 seconds I consider what it would be like if I got to the room to find a dead baby. That's the worst part about this whole thing is that I actually imagine my precious baby dead. And 30 seconds, or 20 seconds, or 10 seconds, is long enough to know that if my baby is dead, I will forever regret working on whatever it was I was working on instead of saving my baby's life when he needed me the most.

But invariably, I go into his room and find him exactly where I left him, and because Gulliver is my perfect angel baby, he is usually wide awake, looking up at the ceiling, strumming his fingers, and generally pondering his wee baby life. When he sees me, he smiles (or he startles) and then I scoop him up into my arms and give him a big hug.

The other night, Gulliver woke up at 3:00 a.m. and I nursed him back to sleep. When he was done, his entire body went limp and my is-he-alive panic kicked in. As I got my face closer to his chest to hear or see breathing, Gulliver kindly let out a long, slow toot. He loved me enough to let me know he was still hanging in there.

In other non-morbid baby news, Gulliver is making great progress. It didn't take him long to determine that bulldozing was an ineffective means of travel, so he has learned to roll. He is also doing great at sitting up unsupported. He can sit for several minutes, or until he loses his balance, at which point he just can't get himself back up yet. He also is quite the chatter and loves to make this Popeye face while jabbering away. This is especially entertaining in Sunday School. I'll upload video footage soon, I promise. New as of this week is a baby need that I hadn't anticipated. We've gotten good at determining what he wants, but lately, as I'm holding him, I'll notice that he's bouncing around a bit and making I-have-a-baby-need noises, and I think, "He has recently napped, he's recently eaten, he has a clean diaper. What else could he need?" And then I realize that what he needs is to be put down on the floor where he is free to roll around and play with his toys. (He will do this for hours now as I work.) This big step (or roll) towards independence is both exciting and heart breaking. First it's him leaving me for his toys, and next thing I know it, some undeserving ho-bag will marry him and take him away from me forever.

(Note to the undeserving ho-bag reading this 20 or 30 years from now: You won't be so undeserving if you make sure to come by often to visit, phone frequently, and bring your children over to play with me. Also, he laughs when you wipe his butt. You ought to try it.)

Gulliver under a chair. He played under this chair for about 45 minutes while I cooked and cleaned the kitchen. He would alternately lift the chair with his legs and squeal. Good times. Why buy expensive toys when the furniture is exciting enough?

Sitting up! He loves this "fridge farm," which is in French and English. He also enjoys sitting in front of the little gym instead of lying underneath it. New perspectives are fun.

Playing with The Boy's beard. I am glad these two are bonding, especially since Gulliver's middle name is The Boy, in honor of his uncle. The Boy is really doing great with Gulliver and it's obvious that he really loves him. When The Boy came over last week, I immediately handed Gulliver off to him, and he didn't mind at all! And later, he was voluntarily playing with Gulliver. They respond very well to each other and I'm sure will be great friends.

Gulliver is the equivalent of four 5-lb sacks of potatoes. Or a 20-lb sack of flour. (Incidentally, Gulliver also weighs as much as a 20-lb bag of feathers.)

Gulliver sleeping watched over by his motley crew of friends. Gulliver has also started reaching for his pals when I take him out of the bassinet or crib. How cute is that? He likes his hard toys, like his wooden car, but as soon as he gets a soft friend, he grabs it and squeezes it to his chest and shoves it in his mouth. His favorite toy (who really knows these things?) is his Ernie, who I keep with me at all times in my bag. (Because even when I'm not with Gulliver, I love to look in my bag and see little Ernie looking up at me.) One of the funniest moments last week was in church, when Gulliver was being well-behaved (as always) and things were pretty quiet, and then I pulled Ernie out of my bag and Gulliver saw him and got excited and laughed and grabbed him and put his nose in his mouth. We suspect that Ernie was a favorite from a very early age due to his red nipple-shaped nose.


--r said...

great post! very timely for me, as i had one of those panic moments this morning.
gulliver sounds like the ultimate combo - cute AND well-behaved. i bet he sits around polishing his halo when you're not looking.

Jordan said...

My ypanic moments calmed down quite a bit...until she started sleeping on her stomach. At that point I would flip her over every 30 minutes or so because I just knew that sleeping on her tummy would cause her to die in the night. Now it's how I find her at least twice a day.

jeri said...

I always panicked when I would wake up after a full night's sleep - wondering what awful thing happened to my child for them to not wake up 6 times. Now the panicky moments occur when I'm wandering through 3 adjoining backyards wondering where the heck Bart has gotten to now.

daltongirl said...

I still check Lola's (15 yo) breathing in the middle of the night--not every night, but frequently enough that I wonder if I'm psychotic. My mom told me she did this with all her kids until we were out of the house. We are bigger worriers than you are, so maybe you'll be done checking life signs by the time he's 10. Or maybe not.

Sarah said...

It gets easier with each kid! I promise! First one you worry. And then after the second one, you're just not as concerned anymore. I don't know why. Nothing against the second child, but for some reason you just don't worry as much.

AzĂșcar said...

The panic moments subside, but don't go away.

Every time they wake up later than normal I think to myself, "What if they're dead?"

Cafe Johnsonia said...

Oh, yeah. The panic about them being dead. I have that all the time.

You are so funny.

Vanessa said...

This did get better for me at least as they got older although if they ever sleep in just a bit I am so worried they are...I won't even type the de-- word. Scares me.

I didn't find I worried less with the second one...maybe by the third I guess ;) Although even with my little brothers I would always be worried something was wrong and wake them poor mother...

KJ said...

About the is-my-baby-alive-panics:I hear ya sistah.I have a 2 year old (he's almost 3) and I still keep a baby monitor in his room! My baby is too big for the bassinet next to my bed but I can't bring myself to put him down the hall in his crib. And about the rest of your post: darling baby. I can't stop laughing.