I had the rare and precious occasion to hold a friend’s infant on Friday, and the experience made me remember my feelings of powerlessness in those first few weeks. I was surprised to feel so awkward holding my friend’s child, in ways I don’t exactly remember about Owen. Surely I grew confident in holding him in my arms, since that was all I did… I think what I remember is not the awkwardness but the successes (I carried him down the stairs to open the door; I propped him up in one arm to answer the phone; I strapped him into a baby carrier by myself, etc).
But of course, the newborn period is so very brief. The only people who get good at holding newborns are probably nurses in maternity and preemie wards (if you’re even allowed to hold preemies) – or mothers on their third? seventh? baby, or people with huge extended families – maybe by then the memory would stick.
When I was holding this baby, I remembered the obvious things, like holding his head, but sort of forgot what positions had worked best. Eventually I propped him up on my shoulder, which was Owen’s favourite place. Still, I don’t know if it’s because it wasn’t my chilld or just because I’m out of practice, but I felt just as clumsy holding an infant now as I did before I was a mother.
On the other hand, this baby’s parents? Experts. Baby dangling from an arm like a monkey in a tree, nestled and snuggled, fed and changed. Quite magical to see my friends in their newborn-parent cocoon. Cheers to them!