Friday, November 30, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Wonder

Click the icon for more information about this amazing exercise in writing and invitation to community!  Here goes...

 Five Minute Friday


When I was little, I read a book about animal intuition called “Animals who know when their owners are coming home” – or something like that.  It has always mesmerized me, stories about dogs and horses saving their owners’ lives out of intuition, sensing danger, domesticated animals sensing human emotion.  Amazing.

I experienced this firsthand when I was in labor.  I liked to think throughout my pregnancy that Luna and Apollo knew that I was with child, but when I was in labor, I knew for sure that they were in tune with what was going on as they didn’t leave my side.  When we left for the hospital at four in the morning, they surely knew something was happening, and when we got home from the hospital four days later, the dogs (super stoked to see us) looked at my belly, smelled my crotch, looked at the car seat, smelled the baby... then looked at us like “ok. This makes sense.” and proceeded with the regular greeting activities of bringing us toys and wagging their tails incessantly.

Ever since then, I have marveled at how they are around Penny.  These creatures, over 60 lbs each and always ready to romp and roughhouse, are slow and gentle, tender and delicate with her.   Just the other night Dan laid Penny across Apollo’s chest and he lay so still and allowed our four-month-old to tomahawk chop his face. 

What a wonderful phenomenon.  Dogs and babies.  Who knew.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moment of Weakness

Tonight was going to be the night that Penny left our bed and slept in the portable crib (in the corner of our room) for the first time. I spent all evening emptying it of the dresser items it had been housing.

But I'm not ready.

that's an empty portacrib and a baby in my bed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bottle Service

We've got a kid who will take a bottle, like a champ, anytime, from anyone.  I've heard all babies are different, so we take no credit whatsoever for this fortunate coincidence, and instead consider it a blessing that PJ took a bottle without a struggle.   However... maybe we did do something right?  Here's how it went for us.

air drying all my pump stuff after sterilizing it on the stove.

Knowing I was going to have to go back to work in late October (after 12 weeks), I started pumping at home in mid-September.  This accomplished a few things: established a really steadfast milk supply; built up a frozen stash; got me used to pumping before it was crucial; and gave us the opportunity to introduce a bottle to PJ casually, well before we were under pressure to do so.

(I'm actually pumping right now as I type the first draft of this post... TMI?)

I bought a great portable pump (Ameda Purely Yours, highly recommend it) and really had no trouble getting into the whole pumping routine.  It's a little awkward at first, I mean, you've got an electric pump suctioned to your boobs.  It's kind of hilarious.  But it totally works.  Let me be clear... I hate pumping.  I try not to complain about it much (well there was that time last week that I forgot my milk storage bags and had to pump-and-dump at work... threw a pretty big tantrum that night about pumping).  But I do it for the baby, obviously, and I'm super thankful that I am able to pump so that my child gets all breast-milk, all the time.  Did I mention I hate pumping? I would much rather be nursing than pumping any day, but such is life!


When I first started, I would pump just once a day at night time.  PJ would go to sleep around 7pm (ish), so I would pump around 10pm (ish) before I went to bed knowing she wouldn't wake up hungry for another couple of hours.  There were a few nights where she surprised us and slept longer than expected and I would wake up in the middle of the night to a sleeping baby, and I would pump again just to relieve the pressure.  (I don't really do that anymore, but it really helped keep the sheets dry a couple months ago).   That's what worked for me to build up a small frozen stash.

Daddy gives Penny Jane her very first bottle, 8 weeks old.
Bottle Feeding

It was really important to me that bottle-feeding PJ not be a source of added stress for our family when it came time for me to go back to work.  I wanted to try it out well before stay-at-home-mom doomsday came, just in case we ran into any issues.  The first time (image left), at eight weeks old, she was NOT into it.  In retrospect, I think she might have been over-tired, the milk too cool for her liking, and the bottle nipple just not the right size for her mouth. It was a little bit discouraging, but we simply said "we'll try again another day."

After that, I purchased some wide-nipple bottles.  [It is incredible the variety of bottles that are out there, I was overwhelmed at the store.]  I went with Nuk to be consistent with the pacifiers that she likes, this seemed logical to me.

She took her second bottle from my mom about a week later, and ever since then, she has taken bottles without complaint.  Phew!  We gave her a bottle once or twice a week before I went back to work a few weeks later, just to keep her used to it.

The Emotions

I myself have never given her a bottle (why would I?... I've got the boobs) so Dan, Nana, Grammie or babysitter Amanda would have to share their techniques if I was going to post about that.

But I've been in the room to watch her take a bottle, and the grandmas have sent me plenty of mid-bottle picture texts since I went back to work. Little Penny seems to like it just as much as nursing... if not more. She can look around as much as she wants, and she doesn't have to work as hard to gulp it down. From a baby's perspective the whole drinking-from-a-bottle thing is a pretty good gig.

Gah. This is so hard for me. I felt quite relieved when I knew that she'd be perfectly able to be fed by other people. Ahh the flexibility it gave me to go places alone and not have to rush home before she got hungry again. Ahh the peace of mind knowing that when I went back to work we wouldn't have a feeding crisis. But oh how I felt sad too. It was the end of the era of just me and Penny, where she needed me and me only.

Long before ever leaving her with a babysitter, or setting her down to sleep in her crib; before dropping her off for the first day of kindergarten; before letting her spend the night at a friend's house; sending her off to college... Watching someone else feed her a bottle was like I was 'letting go' of her in the first small way of her life. I cried about it later when I was by myself.


I think I've mentioned before that we haven't put Penny on a Schedule (with a capital S). This is a blessing (her Schedule doesn't control our lives) and a curse (my pumping regiment doesn't always parallel her feeding times on days I go to work). Right now I take one day at a time, I think once we have a better routine, she will naturally settle into a schedule of her own.

Just one day at a time.  Pumping as I go...

My little pumping station in the "Lactation Room" at work.
(I've also pumped in the car,  at other people's houses, and even in bed)

You might also like my post on Breast Feeding: Expressing Myself and Other Lactational Matters

Monday, November 26, 2012

All Over Me

This evening Penelope Jane spit up on my face. Who knows why... I was just holding her up above my head, putting pressure on her stomach, right after she ate half her dinner. (Ok I totally deserved it).

All I could do was laugh. And laugh. And laugh. And she smiled and smiled and smiled.

I handed her over to Daddy so I could shower off. I got clean. I put some pants on. I gave her the other half of her dinner.

Then she spit up all over my shoulder and down my back.

Two showers in half an hour, a first for me! Another rite of passage for a new mom.

"I just spit up all over mommy's face,
now I'm watching what she's gonna do"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thank you.

I noticed this morning that as of today, this blog has been visited over 15,000 times. I can't believe it.

Thank you to all of you who read my words. I hope they continue to inspire you, make you think, make you laugh and smile, make you relate, or make you disagree enough to put me in my place with a comment!
"Thank you!"
Mobile blogging while nursing
in the front seat of my car before
my husband's birthday lunch. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Guest post: "Coming From a Place of Love"

At the beginning of this month, I shared a lengthy post about strangers touching babies, and shared my thoughts on guidelines for appropriate conduct around other people's infants.  (full post: Strangers and Friends, Touching and Holding).  Follow up to this, a friend of mine from college, who has an infant son of her own, sent me her story and thoughts on the same subject.  I really wanted to share it with you all.
Coming From a Place of Love -Aarika Anderson Elter
When I was pregnant, the thought of a stranger touching my baby induced near-rage. The audacity of someone touching my child without asking! I was the pregnant lady who purchased the stroller-cover and planned to battle the germy world with 24/7 baby mittens. You can imagine my surprise then, when none of this really seemed to bother me once Luke was born.
I quickly realized the reason for this shift is because I recognized early on that the attention "comes from a place of love."

There was the grandfather in the grocery store who touched my sleeping Luke on the head (snuggled into his Ergo, no less) and said so gently, "How old is your son? I have two boys of my own." In that moment, I thought less about where his hand had been and more about my connection to him as a parent. There was the waitress in the pho restaurant, who after admiring Luke and doting over him our entire meal, asked if she could hold him on our way out the door. I said yes. I realized there was complete stranger holding my son, but in that moment, I thought more about the smile on her face, her comments about her own children and my connection to her as a mother than anything else.
This doesn't mean that I never experience discomfort or the "mama bear" instinct when it comes to my baby. I do, but I try to put it into perspective. There was the not-so-well-kept woman with her own children at an outreach event where I was working. She grabbed Luke's hand and proceeded to tell me how adorable he was. I would have preferred she hadn't touched him, but she didn't need to know that. I thanked her for the compliments while I held Luke's little hand and walked out of sight to sanitize. She didn't mean any harm and I wasn't there to judge. I understood that both her comments and her actions came from a place of love, she was a mother too. I also try to remember this perspective when I encounter strangers (or even family, friends) offering unsolicited tidbits of advice. It is sometimes annoying, sometimes irritating and sometimes even infuriating, but I try to remember that it's all well-intentioned and it comes from a place of love.
Until I had a baby of my own, I had NEVER, EVER, had the desire to touch a stranger's baby. Now, when I see babies (the smaller the better), I do feel the urge to touch and hold them. This urge is strongest when I'm at work and away from my own son. I miss him desperately and in that moment, any baby would do. I think it's just a motherly instinct that we want to touch, hold, love babies.. Although I still have never touched a stranger's baby, nor do I plan on doing so, I try to remember this when Luke and I are approached. I don't know their story, but maybe it's the mother with grown children, the grandfather with children and grandchildren out of state, the parent who lost a child, or a women who desperately wants a baby of her own. In that moment, I have decided that any attention, affection, touch - Luke is lucky to have it, germs and all.

I hope that when I'm 80 and I might mistakenly touch a stranger's baby without thinking, that mother understands that it comes from a place of love.

I certainly will think of Aarika's story the next time a stranger looks longingly at PJ and wants to touch and hold her!

Aarika Anderson Elter is a dentist in the Tacoma, WA area, 
where she lives with husband Ryan, son Luke (9 months) 
and their two pit bulls, Kahlua and Ace.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adoption and a Thanksgiving Story

With Turkey-day 2012 quickly approaching, and National Adoption Month in full swing, I wanted to share a story with you of my first Thanksgiving with Daniel in 2010.

Our First Thanksgiving Together

The first Thanksgiving that Daniel and I spent together was just two years ago. We were engaged. This holiday was the first inter-mingling of our families as my future in-laws (Dan's folks and sister with her family, the Langs) came from California to spend Thanksgiving at my parents' house here in Phoenix. 

In tow from California came all the kiddos, six to be exact.  Four of them were my future-nephews, and two of them were foster kids, a brother and sister, who had literally just joined the Lang Gang a few weeks prior.   Hunter age 7, Hayden 5, Hyatt 3, Holden 2, Huxton 1, and Hope just four months old.  

Their vehicle? A big white van full of car seats.  Their parents?  Rock stars.   

My family is no stranger to children, and we always have a ‘more the merrier’ policy on holidays.  So it was no surprise to me that my crew immediately took to the Lang kiddos, foster kids and biological kids alike.  

My uncles played ball in the grass with the older boys.  My folks busted out the Brio Train set in the family room for the younger ones.  They all took turns feeding blueberries to Nom Nom the backyard bunny (may he now rest in peace) and putting coins in the vintage slot machine in the basement.  My aunts took turns holding the baby girl, who then could barely make eye contact and was loving all the attention.   

Our huge extended family is accustomed to big crowds every holiday, but add the Lang Gang to the youngest cousins on my side (their last name? Lang! Crazy, I know) and I think this was the most young children we'd ever had at any family event.  And, oh boy the kids brought so much joy to the household.  For me, in my heightened emotional state [ever planned a wedding?] the sentiment of my family coming together with Daniel’s family on such a special day was overwhelming already, and the added delight of having all the babes in town was almost too much for my heart not to burst right out of my chest.

Everyone was joyful.  Everyone fit in.  It just made sense. 

“She has four already and she’s adopting two!?  Wow, what a woman.”  


“Wait, which ones are adopted?”  

It was hard to tell.  And it didn’t matter.

As my family started to piece things together, you might have heard chatter:

How lucky this boy, two years old and never seen a bicycle in his life, now placed in a home with four brothers.  How lucky for him to have instant camaraderie, and more toys with wheels than he could have ever dreamed of.  How lucky, this baby girl, to be placed in a home with a mommy and a daddy who love each other and who nourish their children mind, body, and soul.   How lucky for her to now have five big brothers to stick up for her throughout her whole life.  How lucky these two, to get to be together when they had previously been fostered apart.

How lucky indeed.  

The alternative for them would not have resembled the life they would ultimately share as part of the Lang family.  

But really... how lucky us. 

The truth was that all the kids made Thanksgiving more wonder-filled for us grownups than it probably was for themselves. And it sure didn't matter who came from whose tummy.  A short conversation with that little boy, with his indiscernible gibberish and sweet wide eyes, was enough to fuel your joy tank for a whole week.  How lucky us grownups that we got to hang out with them, play with them, see the day through their eyes.  

What a special weekend it was for Dan and I, getting to have so many of the people we love in the same house for Thanksgiving.  And that day the two foster kids, my niece and nephew, joined my family as I joined theirs. 

Thanksgiving 2010 set the tone for me in my new life as an aunt.  My four biological nephews I had adored from the day Daniel told me about them.  But these two new kids, they were special.  They joined the family when I did.  I was new too.  

How lucky am I that I get to know them, snuggle them, learn from them, love them, watch them grow.   How lucky me that I got two more to call me Aunt "Shooley.”  

Last year (2011), Dan and I got married.  And last year, Holden and Hope were officially adopted into their forever family.  I say this now with even more conviction than I could have two years ago.  How lucky us.


November is National Adoption Month.   Whether or not you feel called to adopt a child yourself, it's a wonderful thing to be aware of and to support.  I’ve learned through observation that the immense reward from Adoption does not come without waiting, heartache, trial, surrender, challenge.  My sister-in-law Christina speaks of these things openly and honestly in her writing and in her ministry.  I encourage you to check out their story on her blog, The Lang Gang Loves.

May Your Thanksgiving be Thank-filled!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mommy in the Middle

Hours of nighttime wakefulness were common for me when PJ was a newborn and didn't know her nights from days.  Now she sleeps solid chunks at a time with very short periods of wakefulness in between.  She's a "good" sleeper.

Yet, tonight marks the second night in a row that I've been awake more than asleep.  Why am I up so much?
I'm afraid to move.  

I lie here stiff, moving my arms only enough to tap tap tap on my iPhone, using the Blogger app to draft this post.  On one side of the bed, there's a baby who has just outgrown her nest and loves to squirm and sprawl.  She must maintain a certain distance from the edge and from any pillows, so her mattress real-estate is a larger plot than one would expect for a twelve-pound human being.  On the other side, there's a six foot six man bundled up in multiple blankets, already pushed so far toward his edge of the bed its a wonder he doesn't roll off.

And in the middle, there's me.  

I'm so alert not to elbow the little one in the head or knee the big one in the back.   When I do doze off it's only a doze and it's only temporary.  But she, she is still too small to cuddle safely amongst the pillows and blankets.  And me, I'm not ready to move her to her crib.   And he, he MUST get a good night's sleep, the man works longer hours than I.   We three in a bed.  Ahh my insomnia!

People told me when I was pregnant that I would never enjoy the same careless deep sleep.  Can this be true?  Never??

our little sleeping bed hog

Worry Not, 4 normal things about babies

Inspired by some recent momversations (yep, just made that one up)... here are four peculiar things about babies that I wish someone had told me that I didn't need to be concerned about.

1. The dry flakey skin.  Regardless of what lotions and oils I used, PJ had some serious dry skin when she was a newborn, and then again at about three or four weeks old. Something about the transition from the womb to the outside world and the phases and layers of the skin. Regardless, it's normal. And it goes away.

2. The eye goop.  While not all babies get it, PJ has it pretty bad. It's the same stuff that adults would call having 'sleep' in their eye, but green and way more, uh, persistent. Our pediatrician said if it hasn't phased itself out by the time she's one, then we might look into it further, but until then it's nothing to worry about. Just keep at it with warm, wet (clean) wash cloths and good ol' fashioned breastmilk to the eye.

3. The weird-looking, shape-changing, almost-translucent sometimes-purple belly button.  This one probably weirded us out the most. It looked like it must be a hernia the way it would bulge out whenever she cried or grunted. But... totally normal. And now, she is over three months old and her belly button is starting to look more like you would expect it to.

4. The long periods of time between poops.  Ahem... I mean bowel movements. Once PJ reached about two months, she started having BM's less frequently.  Just this week she set a personal record of 13 days without pooping.  For exclusively breast-fed (EBF) babies this is very common.  I have several mommy friends whose babies have gone twenty-something days between poops. Talk about saving on diapers. Apparently, EBF babies don't get constipated, it's impossible; they just don't have much waste.

"Who are you calling peculiar?"
At the end of the day, if there's something that I'm just not sure about, I never hesitate to call our pediatrician. I figure, he has heard it all before and he coaches new parents all the time. But it's nice to know when other people notice the same curious things about their little munchkins. If nothing else, gives us things to chuckle about later. Maybe this made you chuckle or maybe it will save you a phone call to your pediatrician some day!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Stay

My very first Five Minute Friday!  Click the icon for more information about this amazing exercise in writing and invitation to community!  Here goes...

 Five Minute Friday


Hours and hours I spent in my dorm rooms playing, practicing, trying until my fingers almost bled.  Learning guitar, running from everything else.  My poor roommates -- hours and hours I played.  Boys failed me, so I turned to music -- one of the only things I knew I could count on, a constant in my life.

The guitar riff.  Everyone recognizes it.  Lyrics.  "You say I only hear what I want to..."  This song I learned perfectly, and sang it just like her, you know, the girl with the glasses from the end of that movie.  I only performed it a couple of times, mostly because I was too shy to sing in public, mostly because I wasn't that good.

Once a boy told me I sounded amazing, singing that song.  That ego boost, acceptance, lasted a little while.  It would take years for me not to need a boy for self esteem.  Years and phases.

Now my fingers can hardly manage guitar chords, but they change diapers quite well.  Now I sing lullabies.  Now no more boys, just one man.  So much has changed, grown, since "Stay," but a song like that always brings a memory.

[time's up!]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wait, next Thursday is Thanksgiving? (Cranberry recipe)

Some Thanksgiving kitsch for you.  Courtesy of my folks.
I guess it's customary for mommy bloggers to post recipes this time of year.  I don't really cook much, but I do have one recipe that I have prepared every year for Thanksgiving dinner ever since I was old enough to bring my own contribution to the giant family potluck.

When I was a kid, the family joked on holidays that everyone better get their cranberry sauce before I got to it, because I could eat the whole can.  My cranberry binge-tendency has since been tamed, but I still love all things cranberry to this day.

Recipe credit goes to my mom's best friend, Cindy.  It is delicious to eat plain, or spread on top of turkey or turkey sandwiches.  It seems to be well-liked by all (except those who just don't like cranberries).

Cranberry (Walnut) Relish
(serves 20-30 people, tastes great left-over)

  • 1 package raspberry Jell-O (the SMALL box – if you can’t find the small box, get the big box and only use 2/3 of the Jell-O after you prepare it)
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 large (or 2 small) apples, with peel, slice and remove core/seeds (I use green granny smith, or yellow because I like my relish to be colorful!)
  • 1 large (or 2 small) orange, with peel, slice and remove seeds
  • 1 c. walnuts (optional – I don’t use them because I don’t like nuts, but some people do!)
  • 1/2 c. baby carrots (also optional, you can use this instead of walnuts to make it crunchier, or go without!)
  • 1 c. sugar

  • Prepare Jell-O as directed on the box at the bottom of a large bowl. (this will take several hours, so plan ahead! Best to do this the night before)
  • With food processor (or other heavy-duty chopping device), chop up cranberries, apple slices, orange slices, and walnuts/carrots into fine crunchy bits of goodness. Blender can work but is not ideal because you want them to be crunchy/chopped, not mushed.
  • Put fruit on top of Jell-O in bowl.
  • Add the sugar and stir all the ingredients together until consistent throughout.
  • Chill for a few hours before serving.
I hope you will think of me when you dish up your cranberries next week!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Universal Underground Sharing and Caring Movement

Last night in an effort to establish some sense of order in my closet and make room for some winter clothes, I packed up my maternity stuff (except for several items that I still wear, who am I kidding...)

As I was doing this, aside from the nostalgia for pregnancy, I was overcome with gratitude in the memories of the friends and family members who loaned or gave me maternity clothes.

I had one friend in particular who gave birth to her youngest son about six months before I got pregnant.  After him, she was "done" and so, offered me all her maternity clothes.  Just gave them to me.  The only request was that I not give them back to her if they didn't fit, I was to pass them along to someone else.   I was beside myself.   It was in this gifting that I found that her favorite Pea in the Pod dress would soon become my favorite dress as well... and how wonderful that this dress came to me with a story, worn through four beautiful pregnancies before mine.

Later I would start to understand that this sort of extraordinary generosity is evidence of a greater trend in womanhood. A movement.

Thus was my initiation into the Universal Underground Sharing and Caring Club of Mommies.  This club has no leader, no meetings, no website, no official rules.  Its existence is fueled by the human race's natural propensity for community, and the kinship that connects all women who have participated in motherhood.

You can find its members bringing meals to one another's houses. Trading, lending, giving; accessories, gear, advice. Sending gifts. Hanging out in breastfeeding support groups. Or babywearing groups. Commenting on blog posts written by someone they barely know, or don't know at all.  Grandmothering children that are not even related to them.  Babysitting on short notice. Sharing a laugh, relating -- truly relating -- to life anecdotes. The good stuff.  And the unspoken ritual that starts it all for many is the sharing of maternity clothes.

To be clear, you don't have to be a mother, or even a woman, to participate in club functions. But Motherhood is the common loving thread throughout the unstated mission.

I have been overwhelmed with support in my pregnancy, birth, parenthood, and blog.  One of my greatest joys comes in hearing from other women that they read a blog post and had a "me too!" moment, or want to hear more of what I have to share.  

I feel so blessed and fulfilled in my new role as a mom, and that goes even beyond my role in my family.
My identity in the world has been transformed.  

In a month when many folks are sharing the things they are thankful for, this club that I totally made up is mine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day in Maricopa County

You thought this was going to be a post all about my political opinions (yes, I've definitely got some!).  But not today.

In this post I want to share how I made my Election Day a whole lot easier.

I didn't vote.

At least, not today. I voted last week from the comfort of my couch.

As much as I can appreciate the All-American experience of going to a polling place, standing in line, marking the ballot inside that voting booth and proudly sporting an "I Voted Today" sticker on the way out... I'm so glad I took advantage of the mail-in ballot option. Getting out to the polls today would have been too much for this new mommy / working woman. I'm sure other busy moms also have a challenge finding an extra hour or so in their any-given-Tuesday schedule to get to the polls.

Sign up to vote early:

You can request an Early Ballot in any given election, but why not vote early every time? If you want to join me and other Arizona residents (Maricopa County) who opt to vote early in every election, you can sign up for the Permanent Early Voting List here*.   Just download and print the request form, complete it, then mail it in.  Mail-in ballots are super easy, and you can take time to do the research as you vote from your own home.  I also heard they get counted sooner, which is kind of cool if it's true.

If you don't live in Maricopa County, Arizona, why not do a quick web search and sign up for the Permanent Early Voter list in your own area.  Maybe do it tonight while you are in a voting kind of mood.

And for those of you who still like the experience of going to the polls, more power to you!

Happy Election Day and God Bless America!

*Here is the long navigation for those of you who like to know how you got where you are:
Visit the Maricopa County Recorder website: 
Select "Elections and Voter Information" 
Click on "Permanent Early Voting List & Signup Form"

Monday, November 5, 2012

Strangers and Friends, Touching and Holding

It's Instinct

Ever watched footage of a mother animal (read: bear, dog) protecting her little animal babies?  Stuff goes down...

Us parents are protective of our babies.  We secure them in car seats, we wash our hands before we hold them, we bundle them up when it's cold.  And we would never ever ever knowingly put them in harms way; in fact we might be overly cautious avoiding harm to our babies.  Especially us new parents.

Because we aren't wild animals, us humans can't just growl or bark at anyone who comes near our babies.  Monitoring appropriate conduct between 'other people' and our baby, while being socially reasonable, can be a delicate dance.

Stranger, Danger?

For me, there is a primal instinct that kicks in when other people get too close to my baby, especially people outside my circle of trust.  Adrenaline causes a heightened awareness of my surroundings.  Any small-talk or food I may have been enjoying instantly becomes obsolete.  All I can focus on is Penny's well-being and any outside stimulus that might threaten it.  Other shoppers in the line at the grocery store, kids at the park, walkers by in the mall -- basically anyone wielding strong perfume, sharp jewelry, sharp fingernails, potential clumsiness, a loud laugh, a loud cell phone, dirt, boogers or germs of any kind -- is a potential threat.

Don't worry, I play it cool and act natural around these minor threats, but I am always on alert.  I think this is because I have had quite a few strangers come into my personal space and physically touch Penny, probably more than the number of strangers who touched my belly when I was pregnant.

I remember the very first instance:

Penny was about a month old, and Dan and I went on a "date" to a relatively nice dining establishment.  We enjoyed our first dinner out while the little lady slept in her car seat on a sling next to our table.  When our waitress brought us the bill, as she proceeded to tell us one more time how precious Penelope was, she reached down and stroked Penny's cheek with her hand.

Did she just touch my baby in the face? 

She touched my baby.  On her face.


Did SHE, a complete stranger with who-knows-what germs on her hands, just TOUCH my tiny infant baby ON THE FACE???

I couldn't even eat my dessert I was so shaken up.  Oh I was upset.

You could always buy a sign for your
stroller or car seat that says:
"It's OK to make me smile
but passing germs is not in style.
Please don't touch."
But... really?
Did Penny get sick? nope. Injurred? nope. Did she even wake up? nope.  But she COULD have.  I admit that the fire that sparked inside me may have been more than a bit irrational, but I couldn't help it.  It's instinct.  So now I'm always on alert.  And coincidentally, we haven't gone back to that restaurant...

Staying On Top of It
Without Losing Your Cool

With complete strangers who take the initiative to go ahead and touch babies out of nowhere, it's best to catch them before it happens.  Perhaps the most proactive approach would be to put a "No Touch" sticker on baby's beanie... but I haven't resorted to that.   I keep an eye on their hands and insert mine if they start to reach.  I also have no problem saying "That's a little too close for germs." if they lean in beyond my comfort zone.   With little kids, I always say to them, "Would you like to tickle her feet?" to steer them away from the face and hands.  Bottom line though, if it comes down to it, I'll have no problem losing my cool if it means protecting Penny.

Playing 'Pass The Baby'

Babies are perfect, innocent, sweet-smelling little bundles of awesomeness... who wouldn't want to hold a baby?  No mother wants to be rude to someone who is magnetized by the awesomeness of her baby.  Nor would she ever want to deprive anyone of the rare opportunity for just a few minutes of that Oxytocin-induced serenity that comes from holding a baby.

However, "Can I hold your baby?" can lead to "(...awkward)".  Sometimes it's just not the right place and time to hand the baby to someone else.  Maybe mama isn't comfortable with the person asking, maybe it's not a good time or a good place to pass the baby around, or maybe mama just wants to have her baby all to herself.  And that's OK.

Saying No Nicely

I try to be reasonable about other people holding Penny.  If it's the right environment and timing, and I trust the person, I usually have no problem handing her over.  If it's the wrong person, place or time, I try to take the honest, assertive route whenever I can.  "You know, now is just not a good time."  or "I don't want her to wake up." or "I'd rather just keep her right here since there is so much going on around us."

In rare extreme circumstances, sometimes I have to make up an excuse.  "She's getting really tired and might fuss if I hand her to someone else" comes across a lot nicer than "You smell really bad and I don't want whatever bacteria that's causing your body odor to get on my baby."

I also tend to offer: "Would you like to hold her?" in situations where I am totally OK with passing Penny around, that way the other person doesn't have to even ask.  And, if it would help me out for someone else to hold her, I will always always ask.  For example, "Would you be comfortable holding her so I can re-tie my shoe?"

Advice for the Well-Intentioned 'Other' Person

Just gotta get your hands on that baby? Some guidelines for baby-touching:
  • Let mama know that your hands are clean (if they aren't, go wash them first!), it puts us at ease a little bit.
  • Generally speaking, baby's feet and top of the head are the best places to make contact.
  • Baby's face and hands are off limits.  Never ever touch a baby's mouth.
  • Never ever kiss a baby who is not in your immediate family.  It's creepy.  And the most likely thing to pass along your germs.
  • If the baby is a brand new newborn, resist the urge and just admire from a few feet away.  

Wanna hold the baby? Guidelines for asking:
  • Try saying "If there is a moment that works, I'd love to hold her" instead of putting mama on the spot with "Can I hold her [now]?"
  • Let mama know that your hands are clean (if they aren't, go wash them!)
  • Don't play it off like you are doing mama a favor by holding her baby for her.  If mama needs you to hold the baby, she'll ask you to.  Don't beat around the bush.
  • If you know you are headed somewhere hoping to hold a baby, leave off the strong cologne, perfume and lotion, this might help your chances! 
  • If mama says "No," that doesn't mean she doesn't like you, and it doesn't mean you won't ever get to hold the baby again.  It might just be a bad time or place.  Please don't be offended.
  • If you are a complete stranger... Unless you are a fireman, police officer, doctor or nurse in the line of duty... No, you can't hold my baby.

General guidelines for appropriate contact and conduct around other people's babies:
  • Always wash your hands first (have I drilled this one in enough?)
  • Respect mama's boundaries, stated or perceived.
  • If you are sick, stay away. (this should be a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised!)  Same goes for if you just smoked a cigarette... really bad for babies.
One last thing... 

Here is a great video on how to hold a baby... just in case you need a refresh before the next time I hand you mine!
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