The months before my first son, Will, was born were some of the most stressful in my life. He wasn’t easy to get here, and I was worried sick for months that something bad was going to happen.
On top of that, I have a tendency to obsess when I am passionate about something, whether it’s working on a project, training for a race or becoming a mother. I am either all in or all out…nothing in between.
I read every baby book I could find, researching cribs, car seats, food, diapers and anything else I thought a mom needed to know to ensure success from day one. But there is one thing I forgot to factor into my equation: Will was a real live baby – not what I came to call Handbook Baby.
Handbook Baby is the baby in all the parenting books who apparently follows a schedule, eats and burps on command and sleeps through the night from the time you bring him or her home from the hospital.
Handbook Baby does not exist, and all I could think was someone without children had to have written these books.
Little by little, I learned to recognize Will’s cues and figure out what he and I both needed to survive our first year together. For me, part of that meant he slept on my chest for the first three months, and right by me for the next nine.
I could not bear to hear his cry, and if it weren’t for the wisdom and experience of my dear friend, Suzanne, Will and I would have had many difficult late nights of tears…both of us.
Suzanne came over just after Will was born, bringing us a homemade apple pie and some advice that I use to this day when holding restless babies. In fact, among my friends, we came to call this calming move, “The Suzanne.” It isn’t a complicated move, but it works to quiet crying babies almost every single time.
Holding your baby, simply stand with your feet together. Take a step to the right with your right foot. Bring your left foot over to your right foot. Then bend at the knees, like you would to sit in a chair but not quite that far. Stand back up and repeat moves to the left. Back and forth.
There’s something about the rhythm of “The Suzanne” that is almost magical. I’ve seen babies quit crying in under a minute. It worked for Will – and his younger brother – again and again.
My sons are now teenagers and twice my size. It was a sad day for me when I realized I could no longer hold them. These days, I like to find a crying baby in a restaurant and ask the parent if I can hold the little one for a minute. Most of the time people will let me, and “The Suzanne” gets passed to another grateful family.