We have seven children. Many people think that means I’m an expert about the right thing to do with any child. I tell them that I have seven individual children. God gave me no clones. Sometimes the same approach won’t even work consistently with the same child, let alone all seven of them. Every time we’ve added a child to our family it’s been an entirely new and different experience. This means that sometimes I still need to ask for advice from somebody else, just like I did with the first child (although admittedly not quite so often as I did with the first child).
So when our sixth child started biting me while she was nursing and then laughing uproariously, I called the local La Leche League leader in our town and asked if she had any suggestions (putting the baby down and walking away was almost impossible for me to do; it hurt so much, and it didn’t work with her anyway).
You should know that our sixth baby was a _much_ prayed for child. There is a six year gap between her and the next child. During that six year gap I had one miscarriage which took me almost four years to recover from emotionally. I had approximately 40 menstrual cycles come and go, every single one of which was greeted with tears as I learned, yet again, that I still had not conceived. I learned later that four of our five children were praying for us to have another baby (the one of the five might have been, but she’s nonverbal, so I wouldn’t know). In fact, some of them were praying for twins. I wrote about this locust plague of grief and discontent here yesterday.
So, this baby, this sixth child, was born into a home full of hearts to adore her, arms to hold her and lips to kiss her. The only time she ever touched the floor or left our loving arms is when she insisted on it. Otherwise, I held her, or, they could pry her from my arms, her big sisters held her. More than one person told me that they had never seen a mother have so much fun and joy with a baby (although people who had known me with my other babies were able to tell them that I’d been the same way with the older children). Everyone of her siblings was nuts about her- the only sibling rivalry was the fight to hold the baby.
Now we will return to our story about the stage when this delightful baby was nine months old and discovered that when she bit while nursing, Mummy made the most incredible noises and faces, and it was the funniest thing this baby thought she had ever seen in her life.
As I said, I called the LLL leader in town to ask for suggestions. She asked how many children I have, and her first (and subsequently only)idea was, “Wow. Does your baby, like, ever get held? She probably just wants attention.”
I explain cheerfully that this baby is never lacking for attention, gets more love and affection than any other baby I’ve seen except her older sisters, that I hold her, dance with her, cuddle with her, snuggle with her, co-sleep with her, and that if for any reason I ever stop, one of her siblings jumps in.
And Ms. Yuppy LLLLeader says, “Yeah, but, like, six is so many. Are you sure she’s getting enough attention?”
“Yes,” I repeat, a little less cheerfully. Indeed, I do not know how that child could possibly have had more attention than she was getting. And I pointed out that her next sibling up is six years old, and say again how precious this child is to all of us and she says something like, “Well, gee, I don’t know. I don’t see how you have time to hold her. If it’s not just a need for extra attention I can’t think what it would be. I’m sure she’s not doing it to be mean, though.”
I know that. I never suggested she was. I realized that a 9 month old cannot really put herself in another person’s place and could not know that what amuses her hurts me. I know that small children see everything from their own point of view; if they are hurt, they think you are. If they are tickled to death, they are sure you can see the joke, too.
But I hung up the phone with the feeling that this woman was utterly convinced that:
a. my baby was not ever held except when bfing (so why would she bite, thus ending the session if she had this unsatisfied need for extra attention?) and
b. I was an idiot for having six children, and
c. I probably did think my 9 month old was maliciously biting me to be mean. After all, from her tone it was obvious she thought only women with the I.Q. of a bowl of yogurt would have six kids.
We did figure out a solution to the biting thing without Ms. Yuppy’s help- realizing the baby did not know that biting hurt, I watched her very carefully when we nursed, holding her hand in mine- as soon as she got that gleam in her eye, I quickly put her arm between us. She chomped down on her own arm and realized that this biting human flesh thing wasn’t quite as pleasant an experience as she’d previously thought.
Oddly enough, in spite of being held all the time, our little honey baby learned to walk one week before her nine month birthday, and she learned to run about two weeks later. She is the First Year Girl, and she continues to provide light, laughter, and drama in all of our lives. We tell people that God made us wait so long to get her because he knew it would take this many people in the house every day to keep her from killing herself, and we steal another line from a friend of ours and say that when God breathed the breath of life into this one, he breathed just a little too hard. But we wouldn’t have her any other way.