New mothers aren’t usually looking for a lot of unsolicited advice. Yes, those months after you first bring home a new baby are confusing and frightening, but as long as you’ve got a mother/doctor/friend with a kid/ a decent Internet connection, chances are you’re already tapped into the most vital info. With advice already coming from all directions, random tips from co-workers/strangers/your mother-in-law/ some random writer on a ladyblog are usually just annoying. But once in a while, you get an unexpected gem.
I had reason to share some words of wisdom with a friend the other day and I thought they were astute enough to pass on to all of you who may or may not be dealing with new babies. Months ago, before their now three-month-old daughter was born, some friends of mine bought tickets to a concert. “The baby will be able to be left with Grandma for the evening by then,” they thought. Well, they thought wrong. Turns out baby isn’t the cooing little bundle of joy that you tend to see joyously shaking a rattle in romantic comedies. Nope, she’s an intense (but still adorable) little screamer who likes to wail for hours upon hours every evening. As a result, my friend had to call and tell me that they were ditching their concert tickets because she didn’t feel comfortable subjecting her mother-in-law to hours of a screaming baby who can not be consoled.
And I know how she feels. My now six-year-old daughter was once that baby. For months we couldn’t have friends come over to visit in the evening because our daughter would start screaming at about 5 p.m. and wouldn’t stop until she passed out from exhaustion at about 10. Sometimes if we thought she was having a “good night” we’d try to go to a restaurant and have to take shifts eating while the other one was outside pushing the baby around in the stroller so that she wouldn’t disturb the other customers. This went on for a long time. We couldn’t count on her to be reasonably quiet in the evening until she was well over a year old.
Here’s where the unsolicited advice comes in. My daughter was about seven months old when I turned 30 and my husband dared to book a table in our favorite local restaurant and organize a bit of a surprise party for me. The baby got fussy, but as long as I was holding her and bouncing around she was calm enough that she didn’t bother anyone (I’m not a jerk — I would have left the restaurant if she was screaming). Still, I started to panic inside when a woman from a neighboring table got up and approached me.
“I can tell you’re having a tough time, but I wanted to let you know that your daughter is beautiful,” the woman said. She pointed at a very poised little girl sitting at her table. “My daughter is 10 now and she was just like this as a baby. All of this crying is because she’s very sensitive and very intelligent and she can’t handle the world yet. But believe me, by the time she is 10, she will constantly amaze you with the things she says and how deeply she feels things. The same things that made her cry as a baby make her an above-average kid and an incredibly strong woman. I know you don’t feel lucky now, but in a few years you will feel so lucky to have this kind of daughter.”
A little over five years later and all I can say is that this woman was right. My daughter was a the most difficult baby I’ve ever met, but she is a perceptive and imaginative six-year-old that amazes me every day. Every once in a while I see glimpses of the woman that she’s becoming and that lady in the restaurant had her pegged: I am beyond lucky.
So, I passed this on to my friend, and now I’m passing it along to you. Babies are difficult. But some of the best grown-up people I know are difficult too. The horrible crying fits will pass and you will be left with a child who feels things strongly and knows how to express herself. And before you know it, those crying marathons will be nothing by a anecdote to pass on to strangers.