For the first time in my life I finally had a productive Valentine’s Day this year; not in the romantic sense unfortunately but at least its the first year since hitting puberty that I’ve not been sat at home moaning about the state of my love life.
No, this year I agreed to babysit one of my closest friend’s beautiful baby boy so that she can take her mum to Cirque de Soleil. Let me tell you, I was terrified as hell. When she asked if anyone was available, I agreed without hesitation AND without giving full thought to what I was actually agreeing to do.
Now its not like babies hate me. I’m not as bad as others who make babies cry if they so much as stand within 3 feet of them. I get on well with babies and I’m a nurse for crying out loud, I’ve spent numerous shifts earlier in my career in the neonatal and paeds unit (not voluntarily, always because I had no choice but hey, I did it). Its just that no one has ever shown so much faith and trust in my ability to care for another individual before.
Fortunately, my friend Cat also agreed to be my partner in crime for the night so I at least had back-up. And it turned out alright – he was the most behaved baby boy in the world – but I have to say I now have so much more respect for mothers the world over and my own mum. These people should be sainted, given awards, lauded, recognised for their silent contribution to humanity for more than just that one day a year.
Anyway, I just wanted to share some of the few things I learned while babysitting.
Babies are heavy.
I don’t know why I’m just realising this now when part of our responsibilities as nurses in the delivery room is to weigh the cute tiny humans. They weigh something like 8-10 lbs when they’re born and they become exponentially heavier as the months pass. And when they cry, carrying and rocking them is just about the only thing that will calm them down – apart from feeding them of course. I truly felt like I had a workout the day after.
I can change diapers like a champ.
This totally surprised me. I was amazed at myself. I changed the baby’s nappies for a grand total time of 5 minutes and I only had to take a second to figure out which way was up. And really, I don’t know how or why but babies just don’t smell. Even when they should. Babies have world-class pheromones.
I can feed myself but apparently not babies
I had a moment of panic an hour into babysitting duties. My friend was running late and I had to take care of Caleb on my own for the first hour or so. I was feeling so smug because I got him to sleep and I was just sitting there chilling and watching The Night We Met on Netflix (predictable but fun, no need for brain cells – perfect for babysitting night lol). And then inevitably the baby becomes hungry and I had to feed him with the expressed breastmilk his mum so helpfully prepared before she left.
And he wouldn’t suck.
I couldn’t believe it. I must be the only person in the world who can’t feed a baby. I tried everything, every position I knew, but he just wouldn’t take the milk. He was crying and I wanted to cry because I was feeling like such an idiot. I knew instinctively that he was hungry but I didn’t know how to get him to take the milk. Thankfully, my friend Cat arrived just in time. I buzzed her in and handed the baby over in record time and she had him drinking in minutes. Clap, clap, clap, CLAP.
It takes a village.
On the heels of the feeding incident I now realise how difficult it must be to do that on your own, raising kids I mean. We only babysat for three hours but Cat and I knew that we couldn’t have done it without the other. Forget about the fact that we needed to take turns carrying and feeding the baby so that the other can have dinner or a bit of a rest, I think that goes without saying. But no, I think its just the comfort that comes with knowing that there’s another person in the room, another pair of eyes, someone else to help you make the important decisions; it’s a big comfort to simply know you’re not alone.
I now understand why couples with babies will think carefully about where they want to settle; some will probably move closer to home because you really need that support system. If I’m ever blessed with a child, I’ll also be adopting my mum who is a champ at all things babies. I now have so much more respect for single mothers – they truly are unsung heroes. Kudos to you guys.
Babies will make you realise your capacity to care for another individual
I don’t know if it was just because it was V-day and I was feeling more maudlin than usual, but caring for Caleb that night genuinely made me feel like there was nothing I wouldn’t do for this baby. And whenever he smiled because I was putting Aveeno cream on his cute little face, I felt like I hung the moon on the sky. I guess that’s why I always think that having a baby is a big decision and you have to be sure you’re ready and you’re at the right state of mind for it. Because having one means losing your right (and desire) to only think about yourself. There’s lots of challenges, lots of sacrifices, but the rewards must be amazing.
Anyway, it was an awesome night. Thanks Katie for trusting me with your beautiful baby boy. As I said, I’m available for babysitting duties anytime. And I promise to get better at the feeding thing.
Now I’m going to call my mum and tell her how much I love her.