I love holding my baby. Holding my baby is one of the sweetest pleasures that I have ever known. Holding my baby fills my heart with an almost unbearable joy. The sweet smell of his tiny head tucked into my neck, the perfect fit of his wee body tucked in tight against my chest, his breath rising and falling with my own – this is bliss.
It also makes my arms hurt.
My first baby – my sweet, fearless tornado of girl – is not and has never been a cuddler. She has striven for independence and freedom from the moment she shot – eyes wide open – out of my womb. We have had our moments of physical bonding, she and I, but not nearly so many as I would like. I have craved her embrace, and I have, more often than not, been denied that embrace. So it was that I wished, with this child, for a cuddler. I wished for a cuddly snuggle-monkey of a baby; I wished for a clingy mama’s boy who would press himself against me and not want to let go. I got what I wished for.
My little man is a perfect marsupial. He clutches, he clings, he cries when he is compelled, under anything but the most agreeable circumstances – another yielding set of arms, a toasty blanket, a full belly and deep sleepiness – to leave the comfort of mommy’s embrace. He curls his little arms over my shoulder and grips me with his little fists of steel; trying to remove him from his perch on my body is like trying to loose a recalcitrant parrot from a branch made entirely of crackers and peanut butter. And I love it, I do – I sometimes stand with him in front of the mirror, turning just enough to see the contented look on his little face and the grip of his fists on my t-shirt and I thrill to our bondedness, our two-ness – but as I said, it hurts my arms. And my neck, and my back and some of the muscles beneath my ribcage and also the boobs, when he pumps his little legs against my chest in order to push himself further up my shoulder.
I love it, but it’s exhausting. Physically exhausting, and more than a little mentally and emotionally tiring. Unless he’s sleeping, I can’t fix myself a sandwich or a drink or go pee or – and this is the most challenging – pick up or hug my tornado, who has all of a sudden decided that she is a cuddler, and why can’t she cuddle Mommy now? I have mastered the art of one-handed typing, but there is no such thing as a one-handed cuddle. And that’s hard.
I want to put him down. I want to settle him down beside me, just for a little while, just for some stretch of time that is not the middle of the night, so that my arms can rest and I can stretch and move freely. So that I can go get a sandwich and some tea and a cookie maybe and also – sweet merciful heavens – go pee and take a shower and let hot hot water run down my neck and ease my aching muscles. So that I can crouch down and wrap my tornado-girl in a totally unrestrained bear hug until she wriggles away and I am left, arms dangling, empty, free.
At which point the emptiness of my arms will become too much to bear, and I will pick him up again and he will glue himself to me and we will stay, locked together in our love, tired and sweaty and sore and happy.
No, I have not figured out how to use a sling. I have been trying. I have been failing. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get him in and get him comfortable. I am desperate. I need to figure out how to keep him close and free my arms, all at once. Short of sewing up Velcro jumpsuits for the two of us, I don’t know what to do. Suggestions?