We leave for play group in about 80 minutes. I love going to Sam’s play group. Miracle of miracles, a bunch of women who were all strangers with nothing in common but delivery dates, and yet we all get along. This group helped keep me sane during those first few months of motherhood feeling isolated, at home alone tied to the glider and nursing nearly non-stop all day. At the time, Sam wouldn’t nap unless he was in my arms, so I was glued to the chair even during his naps. During play group, we were still stuck in chairs holding our nursing and napping babies, but we had company and conversation, which like I said, was vital in keeping me sane.
Now during play group the moms place babies on the floor to play. Most of the babies are now crawling around, not the two youngest yet – my Sam and a baby girl. They sit on the floor or crawl around, playing with toys and squealing and babbling happily. Sometimes at a play date I have put him down on a blanket. But at last week’s play group, I kept him on the couch with me nearly the entire time.
I think floors are icky. They are covered with whatever you have tracked in on the bottom of your shoes. That means, if you stop at an interstate rest stop and use the bathroom, you could be standing in the same spot where a trucker had a $12 hooker the night before. An unlikely example I suppose, but my point is that the floor is grimy, and then you track that around. Last weekend we took Sam to see the baby goats at a dairy. Baby goats are cute, but their poop could have e coli in it, which then gets tracked around on your shoes. Or even just filth like oil residue from parking lots. So I don’t understand how people let their babies crawl around on floors. Even worse is when I see babies pick up random items off the floor and put them in their mouths. There is a baby at church who does this; I inwardly cringe every time. I’m also bothered by the sharing of drool when the babies pass toys around. Such great potential for getting sick.
I don’t think of myself as a germaphobe. I know enough science to understand how viruses and bacteria are spread. Thanks to my biologist husband, I understand that there are microorganisms surrounding us. Some can cause illness; many do not. It does not help when parents bring their children near my son, and they say “Don’t worry, she’s not sick.” Do they not understand that their daughter may not be sick but can easily transfer germs from another kid to Sam? Do they further not understand that their daughter may very well be sick but the symptoms won’t become obvious for another three hours? But that harmless sneeze was already filled with the virus. But I’m not a germaphobe because my awareness does not interfere with anything I do. I just wash my hands afterwards.
I am a hand washer. Soap is our friend – and not that antibacterial soap either – that stuff just breeds stronger and more resistant bacteria. In my home, there is no such thing as a 5-second rule. Once it falls on the floor, it ceases to be food; it is now trash. We try to always kick off our shoes when we come home, but we can’t assume that others do the same in their own homes. When Sam plays on the floor at home, it is on blankets that I have spread out. I can do this because, remember, he doesn’t crawl yet. We have plans to get our carpets cleaned soon so that I feel comfortable letting Sam crawl around and play freely at home.
But last week, I started feeling really bad that Sam was only sitting and watching the other babies playing (on the floor of a dog-owning mom who does not worry about things like germs). Therefore, today, I will put aside my disgust for Sam’s sake, and let Sam play on the floor with the other babies, sharing lint covered and drooly toys. I hope he has a great time, and I will smile at his happy smiles while he plays.
Jack and I have wavered back and forth on this subject more times than I can remember in the past 9 months. Do we let Sam have a pacifier? I recoil from the idea of plugging up an unhappy baby’s cries with a pacifier. I’d much rather use holding, caressing, rocking, singing, nursing, really any number of loving methods to soothe my son. In those first few months though, I believe that infants have a desire to suck even if they’re not hungry. If we didn’t give him a pacifier then he would suck his fingers. I figured that later on down the road, it would be easier to break a pacifier habit than a thumb sucking habit. You can take away a pacifier more easily than you can remove a toddler’s pudgy fingers from his little mouth.
Jack was dead set against it though. He agreed with me about soothing our baby boy rather than shutting him up. He also hates seeing toddlers and preschoolers walking around with binkies stuck in their mouths, whining unintelligibly around a piece of plastic. He didn’t even want to start down that road. Jack felt much more strongly than I did about it, so I followed his lead on this one. No pacifiers.
First sign of pacifier trouble sprung up when my mother was staying with us. She came running from 700 miles away when I was 3 cm dilated and 75% effaced, kept me company while I remained that way for two weeks, was there when we finally had to induce, and was a lifesaver for the three weeks that she stayed with us after Sam was born. But of course every story has its bumps. My mom is an avid lover of a sucker. I was a sucker baby. Few photos exist of my first year that don’t show me with lips clamped around a sucker.
You can imagine my husband’s aggravation every time my mother kept trying to put a pacifier in Sam’s mouth. (We did have a couple of them as baby shower gifts.) Once I caught her giving one and she insisted that “he liked it.” It got to the point that Jack was angry not just because my mom disagreed on the subject, but that his mother-in-law was deliberately and repeatedly going against our wishes. Dangerous ground here, folks. On top of being exhausted, I had to negotiate the Battle of the Binky. Calm down my husband and get my mother to quit pushing the pacifier.
I kept telling my mom that we didn’t want to use the pacifier. I made sure that I always said “we” even though it was more Jack than me at that point. I didn’t want to let on to her just how much Jack was getting pissed off at what we perceived to be disrespect of our decision. Such a little thing to cause discord, a blue and white piece of plastic, but we certainly didn’t want to set any precedent of allowing our decisions to be steamrolled. Perhaps because it did seem like a little thing, perhaps because she was such an immense help and I loved having her there, perhaps that’s why I wasn’t as forceful as I could have been. I probably would have been more adamant had it gone on.
It turned out that I didn’t need to be any more forceful because this all lasted for a mere several days. We had to take Sam back to the hospital for a fever when he was just five days old. (A story for another day.) We were admitted into the children’s wing, and while there discovered that Sam wasn’t getting enough milk and he was losing weight. There had been problems with the nursing from the first day (again – a story for another day) and lactation consultants had been on hand to help in maternity. This time the lactation consultants were showing up for nearly every meal time, and one of them spotted the pacifier. (I don’t remember why the pacifier was there.) She picked it up in disgust and said, “This is really bad. You shouldn’t use this at all. It’s just going to cause even more problems for Sam. You’re trying to get him to learn to latch on and suck from your nipples, but then you’ve got this pacifier nipple that is a completely different shape.”
After the lactation consultant left the room, my mom picked up the pacifier and said, “I’ll throw away the horrible offending pacifier.” She turned to me and said, “I’m so sorry, here you are having all these problems nursing, and I didn’t even think, it didn’t even occur to me about the nipple confusion.” And she tossed the pacifier into the trash. True, it took a lactation consultant to get my mother to stop pushing the pacifier, but she did stop, and that was victory enough for me.