Hard to believe I’ve been changing diapers for 2 years already. I mean besides my kids and grandkids. Changing diapers at work though make up such a small percentage of what I do, I’ve got to tell you, I was totally unprepared how I feel about this job. Not only the job I really enjoy, but more how I feel about the babies.
|Can’t show any babies from work so here’s one of Shannon with my Dad in 1971..|
Some of the first babies I took care of will be turning 3 soon. I had no idea the huge impact they would make on my life. Watching as they start holding up their heads during tummy time, cooing, smiling-drool included. Always. Rolling over, first baby foods, transferring toys from one hand to the other, sitting up, sippy cups, the list is endless. Then comes the scariest 2 months. Usually after they’ve mastered crawling. They start pulling themselves up on anything nearby, your moving leg, the gate to the kitchen, another-wobbly-almost-walker. Quickly changing from hanging on for dear life, to just letting go, whether it’s appropriate or not. Yikes. A few spills, bumps and bruises. This scary time is kind of hard to be around, but it’s a big part of their development, and we can’t impede it, but I sure set them down a lot. Only to have them get right back up. As it should be.
|Joshua and Daddy in 1976…|
I was surprised by the strong feelings these babies invoke in me. Part nurturer-protector-advocate. I’m all in where they’re concerned. Oh they can be frustrating at times, like any parent knows. Teething, runny nose, earache, maybe awake several times during the night so their day is prone to be more fussy-filled. We all have those days, but babies can only convey their displeasure, pain, frustration or lack of sleep one way. Crying. Loudly. To. Get. Your. Attention. Now.
|The legs-the bottle-the rubber pants! Adam, 1980…|
When I started in the infant room at the Daycare/Preschool/Montessori, we had 6 babies. It wouldn’t be long before we had our full quota of 12 babies (and a long waiting list. Yes, we’re that good) in the room most days. One of the first new babies after I started working was a little brown eyed boy I’ll just call ‘EM.’ I’m sorry I can’t show you how cute he is but you understand the importance of confidentiality. Trust me, he’s adorable. EM was in our room for about a year, so went through all the exciting, exhilarating, scary, cute “firsts” most babies experience.
EM was brought in everyday with an older sibling tagging along who would then jet down the hall to one of the preschool rooms. He was maybe 3-1/2 at the time. Our staff lunch room is right next to the double doors which lead outside to the playground. Each class is suppose to line up quietly by the door, waiting for a teacher or aid to open the floodgates, I mean door. One day I was on my break when EM’s brother was horsing around, eager to run off some pent up enegy. As he’s goofing off, his eye caught mine, sitting at the table. His eyes got big as saucers, a frown appeared and he said accusingly, “what are you doing here? Who’s taking care of my brother? You can’t be in this room. Go back to EM!” The protective older brother. I hastily explained EM was just fine, the other gals were taking good care of him.
|The exquisite Ari, 1994…|
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as workers, we don’t have favorites. Some babies care not which one of us holds, feeds, diapers, cuddles, rocks, or plays with them. They soak up the attention from whomever is taking the time to fill their needs at the moment. But. There are other babies who gravitate more towards one worker. Don’t know why. Maybe we remind them of someone in their short lives already. All my co-workers have experienced this several times. EM was my first. He chose me. He liked everybody, but for some reason I was that special person to him.
|The Handsome Hoopster, Landon and me in 2000…|
The babies invented a quirky way to let you know “you’re IT,” for them. We have this plastic covered, foam turtle which is about 4 feet in diameter. One of the babies will seek help from a couple of their cohorts. All slyly get in the turtle whose side is about 6 inches high. One casually starts snapping their chubby fingers while they belt out that old Grease tune, “You’re the one that I want-woo-woo-woo, you’re the one that I want.” The babies have applied for patent rights, but the idea has been stolen and renamed flash mob. I’m here to tell you, it was our babies in the infant room where it all started. Truth.
|My talented singer-dancer, Peyton 2004…|
When I think of those extra special moments since I started working, one that stands out was with EM. He was 8 or 9 months old and I was giving him a bottle and rocking him to sleep. He was laying in my arms, drinking contentedly and getting very sleepy. I was quietly caterwauling one of my-off tune-songs when I felt EM’s little arm, which was behind him on my back-patting me. Pat-pat-pat went his little hand. Makes me cry to think about it. (Although reflecting back, EM very well might have been trying to cover my mouth, but it was out of his arm’s reach. Poor baby).
|Darling towhead (like his daddy was) Graham in 2010…|
And then there’s the head butts. EM was the first to give me one, but he hasn’t been the last. This is explained somewhat like butterflies who just know how to migrate 6,000 miles in the right direction. Weirdest thing. I’m always busy tending to the needs of another baby. EM would just crawl up to me while I’m in a rocker or standing and gently head butt my lower leg. I glance down, “I know you’re busy, but um, don’t forget about me,” he’d seem to say with a small smile. How is it that at least a half dozen babies since EM have done this to me daily after they’re about 9 months old? Some kind of kinky secret baby code?
But as time goes on, we notice the older babies are getting bored with our toys and room. They’re really ready to move on to the next room, The Wonderful Ones. Engaging toys, stairs to practice on, (yikes) tiny grocery carts to push around, more complicated gadgets for slimmed down fingers. We start slow, letting them go over for a couple hours at a time. We have an adjoining door with a small window, so we can see how they’re doing. We dare not go in because they usually start crying when they see one of us until they’ve been there a few weeks. Then suddenly it’s the other way around. They don’t want to be in our room anymore-boring. Circle of their young lives already.
|Great granddaughter Jovi on her first birthday checkup…|
I don’t venture out in the halls much. I’m in our room, when it’s time for my break, I walk to the employee lunchroom, heat up my food, eat, brush my teeth, use the restroom and it’s back to the baby room. Period. Once the babies have left our room, I don’t see them often. After they move, maybe a couple months later, I can walk into the One’s and nearly get knocked over by squealing toddlers, giving hugs. Which feels absolutely worth it’s weight in gold. This feeling lasts the entire day.
|The Hubs, John in 1948…|
EM has been gone from our room a year now. He recently turned 2 and graduated again to the Toddler room down the hall a bit further. I haven’t seen him in 3 or 4 months. I occasionally ask his teacher how he or one of the other toddlers who were my babies are doing? Last week I was heating up leftover spaghetti for my lunch. EM’s teacher walked in the kitchen to get something from the freezer. Glenda had 2 kids with her (not EM though), one who was in our room. He gives me a shy smile, nothing more. I offer to carry the snack back to her room while my food is still in the microwave. As we walk through the classroom door, she takes the food and I scan the room. There’s EM, valiantly trying to let someone squeeze into a 2 toddler seat when there’s 3 of them. He looks up and spots me. His face breaks into an ear to ear smile and he runs full force into my arms. Not a second of hesitation. (Oh, I know her, she loves me. And I still love her!) The best. Thee. Absolute. Best. After being gone from my care for over a year.
|Mom, me 8 months, and Mona in 1951…|
We got a new baby not long ago. A stunning baby girl. So tiny. Her mom comes to visit and was talking while she fed her baby. “What is that song you sing about Sixpence,” she asked? “I never heard of it before. I love the simple tune, it’s very comforting.” (She was very kind not to mention how horrible I sound since I can’t carry a tune, and I’m deaf). I explained about my antique toy, Sing a Song of Sixpence Pie and how the song was sung to me when I was little, then I sang it to my kids. Now I sing it to our babies. Mom then said, “Denise, I want you to know I hope you’ll sing these songs to my baby.” I assured her I will indeed sing all my songs. Another ‘aha’ moment. New mom will never realize the significance (to me) of her nonchalant request to sing to her precious baby. Doesn’t get any better than that (besides the back patting, head butting, or leaping into my arms-a year later)
|My antique (1953) Sing a Song of Sixpence Pie…|
The ‘crew’ in our room often talk about the importance of our job. Though the babies will not remember us after a while, we realize the impact they have on us while they’re in our care. I did not however, realize I might actually have a somewhat lasting impact on any of the babies. Over a year later. Adding another layer to the meaning of my life. Yes, that was huge. Thanks EM…