The Husband and I are childless. We are aunt and uncle to a total of 16 (I married into The Brady Bunch) but we are rarely the only adults around. We are not usually The Adults In Charge. Yes, for nearly a year, we lived in the same household as our five year old niece and her father and it was fantastic – I took her swimming pretty regularly alone back then, but, you know, she can communicate in plain English, is fully toilet trained, and feeds herself. There was also a full time lifeguard and a plethora of other adults, mostly parents, at the pool, so I had a soothing safety net should I accidentally light her on fire.
Our Big Challenge a few weekends past was being entrusted with a tiny human. Alone. By ourselves. On one hand, it was quality time with the six month old nephew X for the weekend – exciting! On the other, it was responsibility for a six month old for the weekend – terrifying! He was delivered to us all bundled up and snoozing, smelling like warmth and giggles with a backpack of stuff. When his big black eyes fluttered open, he went from sleepy to cooing and giggling. We were wrapped around his little fingers in moments.
He liked to hang out in his excersaucer and have us make faces. He laughed, drooled, stared wide-eyed at our antics. We are skilled at making funny faces, especially when accompanied with even funnier sounds and finally, we’ve found someone who really appreciates us. I do this at work, and all I get are strange stares from the programmers. We goo-d and gah-d, armed with one page of instructions from his grandmother, a phone number, and the backpack full of stuff. The backpack actually made us wonder if we were suddenly keeping this child for a week – so much STUFF. Naive we were.
After two quick phone calls to verify a few details on the “baby cheat sheet” – when IS bedtime? Our sink is smaller so are you sure we bathe him in the sink? How much food is 1/2 inch in metric? – we were off. He was fed, bathed, and only protested when moving from the warm water through the cold air to a warm towel. He cuddled into the towel and into the crook of my neck, and I was aflutter with warm butterflies. The Husband started off as a mass of nerves – he’s grown better at holding the little ones but they still make him nervous with their little breakable bits. Telling him that they’re rubbery with cartilage only makes him more nervous. He did well – by the end of the evening, he was enjoying bouncing X and being rewarded by laughter.
Bedtime came, and after a very gurgly stomach and some really smelly gassy output (holy man – how can such a little thing put out so much bad smell?!), X fell asleep quickly just before 9 in our bed. His stomach gurglies seemed painful, so I msg’d Super Dad (my brother) and he suggested baby anti-gas. The Husband, at 11pm, went out to the drugstore “just in case” where the pharmacist concurred with Super Dad. I sat on the couch under a blanket, warm and fuzzy, content at how lovely and satisfying the evening had been.
Silence shattered at 11:05 with screams that denote murder. The Husband arrived home and brought up a quite professionally made bottle, and with that and another terrifying gaseous emission, the little guy was sound asleep. The Husband has a gift with the making of bottles. We tiptoed and whispered and dared not wake X, so each of us decided to take a couch downstairs rather than transfer him out of our bed.
The Bomb went off at 1:15, 3:00, 5:00. I started to doubt that the bottles were solving a problem – it seemed that it would satisfy him only to have him squealing within hours, big tears running down his cheeks. We would pick him up in the darkness, put him on our shoulders, pat his back until the horrible gurgly sounds from his stomach diminished. Just after 5, I fell asleep next to him once he was content, rubbing his side and too exhausted to lumber back downstairs. Between the anti-gas dosing, a fuller extent of burping, and possibly my lulling snoring in his ear, he actually slept for an extra hour until his eyes fluttered open at 8am. I awoke next to an adorable gleaming infant who smiled brightly and wiggled all his appendages. The demon had been exorcised by the morning light.
He is beautiful and awe inspiring in the daylight.
The moral of the story: He is fine, possibly teething but fine. We lived, cared for him well, and no blood was spilled. Most importantly, when a baby’s caregiver says “Please, for the love of god let me have a night of rest”, do not be fooled by a cooing package of warmth: assume that you will put to bed an angel and be up all night with a demon, to rediscover the angel again when the sun returns.
And the best feeling in the world is the nuzzling head and happy sighing of a cuddled little person.