Friday, August 17, 2012

Maternal Instinct

Our daughter,  Carolyn, is expecting our first grandchild. It's so exciting! He's due any day. I'm trying to figure out the best way to help her once the baby is here.

I admit I am a little nervous.

I was actually born with maternal instinct. When I was a little girl, I loved to play with baby dolls. Pretty sure I got a new one for Christmas every year. I loved to change their little clothes and pretend to feed them from those little plastic bottles that looked like they really had milk in them when you tipped them up to those little doll lips. I'd wrap them in receiving blankets and I'd rock them to sleep and then lay them down in their little toy beds.

My sister and I loved to take our dolls out in the front yard and do their laundry. We'd wash their tiny clothes in tubs of water and hang them on the fence to dry. Drove our dad crazy. I guess he thought laundry of any size drying on the front yard fence was tacky.

By the time I reached babysitting age, however, the maternal instinct had dissipated. I didn't have any experience with real babies. Real babies made me nervous. My parents had had the three of us kids within about four years, so it's not like I helped with younger siblings. I did quite a lot of babysitting for one particular family, but when their son was a little baby, he was usually already in bed when I got there.

Phew. Lucky for him.

I remember once when Kent and I were dating. We went to see my cousins' new baby. They offered to let me hold him. I declined and they laughed. Kent, however, swept that little guy right out of his mother's arms and bounced him around. He was perfectly comfortable with a newborn baby. Knew just what to do.

When Carolyn was born, Kent had to show me how to hold her. I know, huh? I was pathetic. And after I took her home from the hospital, and Kent had gone off to work, I had to call up my mother-in-law and ask her to come over and help me bathe the baby. I was terrified to do it myself. Trust myself handling a living, breathing, wiggling little ball of soaped up skin? I was sure I would drop her and the baby people would take her back. Of course my mother-in-law was thrilled to come and help me. She had maternal instinct and she had put it to use raising seven children.  Probably why Kent is such a natural. He did have practice on younger siblings.

But I wasn't hopeless. I soon caught on and managed quite well with my new little daughter. The maternal instinct I had experienced as a little girl with my dolls reemerged.  And when the boys came along, I did just fine. Still, Kent was always better at calming our babies down when they were fussy and they all seemed to prefer him to me. Did this make me feel bad? Maybe a little bit. But it did come in handy at times. Like in the middle of the night. I could walk that crying baby around and around for hours and not be able to settle him down. I knew that if Kent would just try, he'd have him asleep in ten minutes. Worked every time and we were all able to get some sleep.

 And when our babies were big enough to indicate, I'd ask,

 "Who do you want to change your poopy diaper - Mommy or Daddy?" 

They always chose Daddy. And he acted like he'd won a prize every time.

 I tell you, I am married to the King of Maternal Instinct and the Best Dad Ever. All rolled into one.

It's been a while since I've had to take care of a new baby. I'm really counting on the old maternal instinct kicking in again so that I can be a real help to Carolyn. I want to feel confident as I take that baby boy in my arms, burp him (I forgot about burping a baby!), and change his tiny diaper.  I want to be able to keep him soothed and happy as I cradle his warm little body against mine so his mother can get some rest.  

 I want to be able to reassure her that motherhood is something she can do.

Then again, maybe she won't need much help.

She just might take after her dad.  

Carolyn when she was just a few days old

Carolyn and Kent


  1. I hope I am a natural. I also hope I have a sweet, mild tempered cuddly baby. That will make it easier. He is lucky to have you as a Grammy!

  2. You'll be awesome, glad you are close, wish I was but good to know they'll have you as needed! I'm starting to go crazy waiting!