When I was pregnant, my husband and I watched the documentary film Babies. It's a fascinating look at how four different babies are raised in four different parts of the world: Mongolia, Japan, Namibia and San Francisco, California. Each baby is followed for a year, and while there is no narration or any substantial dialogue, we found ourselves rooting for the little tykes, and admittedly developed a favorite along the way.
The happiest baby of the lot by far was the Namibian girl. We watched as she and her siblings played games like "Rock" and "Stick." They sat in the dirt, right next to the family dog. Her mother handled her confidently, slinging the baby over her back as she worked, not appearing to be worried that the sun may be too hot on the baby's head, or that a fly was buzzing a little too close for comfort. She played with her baby heartily and the family laughed often.
The baby's mother didn't have a vibrating chair or a Boppy pillow or stuffed animals that make soothing ocean sounds. She had her own, loving arms and strong legs and soft breasts, and with these tools alone, cared perfectly well for her baby.
I, too, have these things, and I've felt pretty darn good about my ability to soothe our son myself, without many "modern conveniences." I bounce, rock, sway, sing, rub, pat, coo, feed, swaddle and hold with skill, and usually, our baby responds beautifully -- by dozing off or quieting down -- safe in his mother's arms.
Elrod's paternal grandparents have come to town for a visit, and his schedule is a little off from his typical day. He was cranky at unusual times, and nothing helped. He screamed and screamed and then -- when my back was turned -- he magically hushed. I turned around to see what had happened. Was someone trying a new hold? A new way of baby-joggling I'd not yet learned?
There, in his mouth, was a bright blue pacifier. And he seemed to love it. He happily sucked away, soothing himself and falling asleep, as if someone had pushed a button. Or given him a lot of Benadryl.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have pacifiers in our home. I registered for them and even picked up a couple myself. I'd yet to use them, though, as I was waiting to master the art of breastfeeding before introducing them, but I'd not put up any signs alerting others to this possibly neurotic, new mommy decision.
So I did what any new mother would do. I hid them. Should anyone ask where they are, I'll say, "Hmmm, they were here the other day." And that will be the end of it.
Only it wasn't.
Later, as the family tried to sit down to dinner, little Elrod was once again unhappy -- loudly unhappy -- and someone had the idea to put him in the automatic swing. The one we registered for. The one, like the pacifier, we'd yet to use. And again, he loved it. He fell right asleep.
And I fell apart a tiny bit inside.
This freaking swing had pushed me aside. It did my job -- swinging my baby to sleep -- better than I did it myself. It was a cold, robotic substitute for warm, flesh-and-blood Me. The pacifier was replacing my breast, and now this swing was mocking me with its chirping bird music and its little animal mobile above my fascinated baby's face. I hated Swing. Swing could suck it.
But then I realized (or was it rationalized?) I need to take care of Me. I had surgery three weeks ago, I still tire easily and I deserve a meal and a rest and a deep breath now and then. My husband and I deserve, and need, time with each other, even if it's only for 15 minutes over reheated leftovers.
And if Pacifier and Swing are the ones to give me those things, then maybe there is a place for them in our home right now, after all. Maybe Swing isn't mocking me. Maybe Pacifier is just misunderstood.
It's still early -- our son is just a little over three weeks old. In time, these "modern conveniences" will likely have a more prominent place in our home. But for now, when they make their rare appearance, I'll try to remember that they could never replace a mother's loving arms, strong legs and soft breasts.
It'll be nice to remember that. Because I can't remember where I hid the pacifier.