Here is another repost to make up for the dirth of writing content on this blog right now. It’s one of my old favorites since it’s such a little window into what my life is so often like… And I give away Baby Whisperer caliber secrets that all new parents should know. So if you have a newborn at home, this is a must read!
The other night, my three year old son, Oliver accompanied me to our neighbors’ house to help soothe their baby. Actually, I was being consulted for my medical skills (if you call squirting saline solution up an infant’s nose and then finishing the job with a plastic syringe “skillful”). As a mother of three small children, I tend to command a great deal of respect in the knowledgeable mommy department. Which makes me feel very important – when I stop laughing.
I may not be the best choice for Rich and Cathy’s parenting guru, BUT I’m the fastest aspirator sucker in the West (or East since I live in Virginia). Oliver had a stuffy nose from the day he was born until his first birthday. And then six months later I gave birth to the twins who had their fair share of snot – though nothing to match Oliver’s prolific booger production. Bottom line: I may have to call the nurse hotline to get advice on constipation or vomiting – but I know exactly to do about a newborn with a stuffy nose.
Ironically enough, they really did think that Jack (the adorable two month old baby) might have a more serious problem. And when Rich knocked on our door to ask me to come over because Jack was having trouble breathing, I was expecting to find a baby gasping for air – and possibly turning blue, since I have a rather overactive imagination about this kind of thing. Instead I found a placid baby staring up at worried adults and comically snorting out breaths.
The reason that I brought Oliver with me is that I had been at BlogHer DC all day and since it was a holiday, the kids were at home and noticed my absence. I couldn’t leave the room without hearing a panicked Oliver calling for me. Somehow leaving the house didn’t seem like it would bode well for a peaceful bedtime. It was decided that he would have to accompany me on my house call.
It was about 8:45 p.m. when we arrived – just about the time that I usually start trying to convince Oliver that it really is time to put on pajamas and not just some crazy idea I dreamed up. Although he can’t read the clock, he can sense an approaching bedtime like a tracker hearing hoof beats from a mile away. (Does that metaphor work? Not sure…a little awkward…but I’m keeping it.) This is when he generally starts his redirection routine: “Hey look! It’s Curious George!” or “Sammach [sandwich] PLEASE” or “Uh Oh! Pee pee!”). So you can imagine how thrilled he was with our impromptu excursion.
He was equally enchanted with “baby Jack” and did a lot of pointing and Cousin It-like babbling (Oliver’s version of talking) about him. And he happily watched as I examined my patient. Diagnosis? A lot of snot plugging up Jack’s nose. Prognosis? A very uncomfortable and sleepless night for everyone that lived with him. But a little saline and aspirator action would help.
Because I’m all about sharing my gift. I held the baby and made Cathy do the work as I guided her through the complicated process. Step one: have someone restrain flailing baby as you insert the saline bottle in the nostrils. Step two: hold the bottle over each nostril for approximately three seconds. Step three: wait a few more seconds for the saline to do its work. Step four: continue to hold baby’s arms – now that he’s most likely gaining Incredible Hulk strength and can beat you senseless with his fists – and use the aspirator to remove “the obstruction.” Note to new parents – saline for babies will drip, so you don’t have to squeeze the bottle. I made this mistake for an entire week of Oliver’s life until I finally realized that I was powerwashing his brain with saline.
It was only after we finished the procedure and started trying to soothe a hysterical Jack, that I noticed Oliver’s agitation. He was horrified by what we did to that poor sweet baby and hovered around us as if he was trying to figure out how to snatch Jack and make a break for the front door. And when I imagined the scene through his eyes, I had to admit that it probably looked like something that would happen in an alien abduction. It was definitely time to go home and watch some Barney.
So we said our goodbyes to the happy little family (translation: shell shocked parents and wailing infant) and made our way back. As soon as I closed our door though, I knew that it wasn’t going to work. Oliver just stood there, lips quivering and tears streaming, asking for baby Jack. What could I do? I took him back.
I didn’t even bother knocking since barely five minutes had passed, and sure enough, we found them just as we left them – trying to calm Jack down. Oliver gave me a “do something!” look – so I took Jack and did another one of my baby voodoo tricks on him.
When George was a newborn, he had bad reflux and upon the suggestion of another twin mom, I purchased the Itsy Bitsy Yoga Book. Apparently yoga poses help with reflux. Since George couldn’t exactly lower himself into a downward dog position, I had to read the book and do the little exercises with him. The only really useful piece of information that I took away from that chapter of my maternity leave was that if you hold a baby out in front of you with their head in your hands and their feet at your chest, and then quickly squat down and slowly rise up over and over again – the baby will be instantly soothed. It’s absolute magic.
While it did look ridiculous, my squatting routine did the trick after just a few drops. I continued while I spoke with the exhausted parents and watched out of the corner of my eye as Oliver relaxed. Since it seemed as if my work was done, I returned Jack to his mother and hustled Oliver out before the crying could begin again. No such luck. The wailing started as we were walking out the door.
This time we didn’t even make it into our house, Oliver charged back without me. I told Chris that we were returning and asked him to come with us. I don’t even know if Cathy and Rich were surprised to see us. All I could say was, “yeah…we’re back.” I returned to my squatting routine, Oliver found Wonder Pets on the TV and Chris opened a beer. We certainly do know how to make ourselves at home.
One problem with the Itsy Bisty Yoga soothing magic is that it’s impossible to sustain for long periods of time. This is the exact reason why people hate going to the gym. It’s hard. Unfortunately – Jack was a grumpy boy, and the minute I would stop, we would start crying. Since Oliver refused to leave Jack in his time of need, I was starting to wonder if we’d ever get out of there.
My solution was for Rich and Jack to escort us back to our house. This ALWAYS works when Oliver doesn’t want to come inside after playing with a neighbor’s dog. Now instead of fighting with him, I just ask the owner to come back to our house for a few minutes (maybe I should write a book – I’m just full of great advice!) So we applied the same principles to the crying baby. Have I mentioned that I live in a townhouse? This story sounds a lot less bizarre if you know that we’re only walking about 20 feet door to door.
Jack continued to be fussy at our house, and Oliver wouldn’t go upstairs with me. I couldn’t do one more squat if I tried. As it was, I was worried about being able to walk the next day. Chris said he’d give it a shot. Apparently – he is the secret weapon of our baby soothing service. He just held Jack close and rocked him while making shushing sounds. Within minutes, the baby was asleep. I was a bit suspicious and thought Chris may have learned that Ninja trick of pinching the side of someone’s neck to make them pass out… Either way – he seems to have a gift. Why he wasn’t using it on the twins when they were newborns and woke up every 20 minutes at night? I’m not sure. But it certainly did work on Jack.
It’s too bad that we don’t plan to have anymore babies, because DAMN – we’re good! But we really don’t plan to have anymore babies. I can barely control the ones that I do have. Who knows? Maybe Oliver absorbed everything he learned that night and will become The Baby Whisperer for his generation. Or more likely he’ll just cultivate an unusual fear of nasal spray and develop the disconcerting habit of entering his neighbors’ houses without knocking.