A Sick Baby Wants Her Mama

It is an irrefutable fact that babies need their mothers, but when babies are sick, they want their mothers. My baby finds comfort in the warmth of her mother's body circling hers. She puts her little hand on my arm and clings to it before drifting off to sleep, making sure I don't move away. When she half-wakes and looks at me, she smiles, plops back down into the pillow, and closes her eyes. She is too tired today to do much more. It is only a stomach bug, but I am staying close to her despite the presence of other caregivers - her dad, nanny, aunts, grandma - because she wants me and no one else.

I know from experience that she will never stop wanting me to be near her when she is distressed or sick or sad, but we won't always have the same circumstances to indulge ourselves. She will grow up and I won't be able to enclose her completely within my arms, both of us huddling under her favorite blanket. She will be in school and wait in the office of the school nurse, welcoming enough with pictures on the walls, a water dispenser in the corner, but it won't feel completely comforting. The wooden hard-backed chairs will seem cold, the floor will squeak against her sneakers. But she will be a big girl and swallow the Tylenol that the nurse gives her before going back to her classes until the end of the day. She will go off to college, live in a small match-box of a dorm room, or in an off-campus house full of roommates. She will sit alone in her bathroom if she gets a stomach bug, she will cry, she will wish for her mom to be there. She will have friends, however, who will take care of her, and bring her oatmeal and warm milk in bed. She will be grateful for having them in her life, but she will still miss her mama. I know this, because I lived through it all.

After being in labor for three days, when my water finally broke and I went back to the hospital for the third time with the hope of getting admitted and, by consequence, an epidural, biting down on my lips and silently crying as the car lurched and halted during the morning rush hour traffic, my eyes heavy, dazed with a combination of pain and morphine from the night before (which had not worked), I wished for my mother to be there. I wanted her, or no one at all. At the hospital, when the admitting nurse, no doubt irritated from her shift and probably burnt out and disillusioned, said to me, "Well, you're having a baby, you're supposed to be in pain," I thought two things: 1) I wish I had the strength to punch you in the gut right now, and 2) I want my Mama. When I heard my husband snoring behind the curtains and had still not been given an epidural five hours after being admitted, and when my nurse (the really, really nice one) put me in a hot bath to help the pain, I still just wanted one person: my mother. When it was all over and I held my baby in my arms, I wanted to be held by my mother, too. Instead, I had to tell myself that her voice over the phone had to be enough. At home, with my new baby, I frequently hid in my bathroom and cried for no reason at all, or for many reasons - sleep deprivation, the realization that I was actually a mother now, feeling no good at being a mom, wanting a massage, et cetera - and the crying was always accompanied by the same litany: "Mama, mama, mama, mama."

She is here now, my mother, giving me a few weeks of her year, away from her home just for her first-born who is still her baby despite having a toddler of her own. She cooks in my kitchen, soaks 5 almonds in a porcelain cup every night, peels them in the morning and gives them to me with the belief that they will improve my memory. She irons my clothes when I am in a rush, asks me if she can oil my hair, massage my back. I say no. I am too old for all this. I need to take care of my baby, but I sure do appreciate all the help. I still want my mother in more ways than I understand, but I can't bond with her the same way. I reason with her and it sounds like arguing. She gets angry with me, like she did last night, "For god's sake, have a bit of tolerance!" I am no longer able to have relationships that are burdensome. I find it easier to walk away from people who do not have a positive presence in my life rather than letting them linger for "old times' sake." She cannot come to terms with this. I am not her little girl anymore. 

I know Jahan and I will get to this point one day. I will be puzzled by her, not by something she does, but by all of her as my mom is often bewildered by me. I know my baby will not stop wanting me, but life will get in our way. I will not be able to take her in my arms and stroke her hair. She won't cling to me with all the will in her little deflated body whenever she becomes sick. And it may not be possible for me to hold her hand through the most important journeys of her life - I hope that's not the case, but it may happen. For this and many other reasons, like the fact that holding my baby is the best feeling ever and providing comfort to her is highly rewarding and satisfying for me as a mother, I choose to coddle her endlessly when she is sick (and otherwise, too). She gets to sleep next to me. She gets to hold on to my arm all night. She gets to wake up in the middle of the night, kiss me, and go back to sleep again. She is the queen and her mama is at her disposal for one simple and profound reason: A sick baby wants her mama.