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When Chase Was Born

Mom's Side: A Learning Process

I burst into tears right in front of her. How can I "enjoy my baby" when I can't even feed him? I'm a total failure of a mother, and it's only been a week!

Keith tries to pep-talk me, but I am in no mood. Ignoring him, I decide to try even harder. I nurse and pump around the clock and start taking an herbal supplement to stimulate milk production. By the tenth day, when Keith hears me groan as I haul out the pump, he says, "Stop."

"Anything is better than nothing. Maybe I could get an ounce today," I protest, pushing the pump's lever to max. It's a painful, humiliating process, one that only a mother would consider doing in front of another human being. But the Type A in me urges me on.

"Come here," he says, turning off the pump and giving me a big hug. "Let this go. You're still going to be the best mother in the world. Come look and see what you've done already."

Together we lie down on the bed and look at Chase, a perfect angel, swaddled in his blue blanket, sleeping soundly. I can't believe that this tiny person lived inside me for 40 weeks, and I stare at him in wonder. Other than having my husband's nose and feet, our son looks like a stranger to me. It's the best blind date of my life, a true love-at-first-sight experience.

My sense of humor returns and I stop taking the "Got Milk?" ads personally. As the weeks pass, my confidence increases. But Keith's been-there-done-that nonchalance and the continual comparisons to his first son, Adam, get tiring -- especially when I've been under house arrest all day with the baby. And if learning how to take care of Chase is not enough, the gadgets, like the strappy Baby Björn, are just beyond me.

So what if Keith's the one with the experience? As the mom, I'm the one with the instincts. It's just wrong to feed a baby in the horizontal position, a fact my husband refuses to accept until an entire bottle is projectile-vomited onto him. Despite my best intentions, an "I told you so" slips out. Mother Knows Best, I think smugly to myself.

Just as I'm getting the hang of things, I experience the big uh-oh moment every parent dreads. While we're away for the weekend and I am busy deliberating over which outfit to put on Chase, I hear a thud that makes my heart sink like an anchor down to the soles of my feet. I turn around to discover that he's wiggled himself right off the bed and dropped two feet to the floor, where he's landed smack on his head. Keith warned me this would happen eventually, but I never thought it would happen at 5 weeks and certainly not on my watch.

I stare down at my baby in disbelief. What should I do? Is it like a car accident, where you're not supposed to move the victim? My instincts take over, and I snatch Chase up and comfort him with soothing shushing sounds. Miraculously he stops crying after a few minutes. I call Keith and tell him to come home immediately. When he does, he demands, "How did this happen?"

"I don't know," I say, deciding that he wouldn't exactly appreciate the fashion-dilemma excuse.

As we rush Chase to a doctor we use in the area, Keith continues with the third degree. Luckily, the doctor assures us that he's fine and gives us signs to watch for, including vomiting and sleeping through his feedings.

Of course, Chase sleeps the entire afternoon as Keith, who is still angry and upset, and I, feeling like The Worst Mother in the World, sit quietly near him. I pump Keith for details about the time his son Adam rolled off the changing table at 11 months.

"A changing table is even higher than a bed, and he was okay, right?" I say, looking for reassurance.

"Babies are resilient," he says, softening. He slips his hand in mine.

We wait and wait, and finally it comes.

"Did you hear that?" I say to him.

"What?" he says, cocking an ear.

"Waa-waa-waa-waa-WAAAHHH!" interrupts Chase, in his trademark feed-me rooster cry.

Giddy with relief, we look at each other and simultaneously blurt, "I'm sorry."

I forgive Keith for overreacting, and he forgives me for making a mistake. I'm sure our roles will be reversed before the week is out.

"Parenting is humbling," he says to me as we rush to our son.

That, we both can agree on.

As I feed Chase, Keith wraps his arms around the two of us. I'm overcome with tears once again. But for the first time, the tears are not sad. I'm simply overwhelmed at the miracle of how intensely I love this little man who has so much to teach my husband and me about each other, and ourselves.