I am hugely overprotective when it comes to newborn babies and germs. I never even allowed anyone who’d been in the same room as someone with the sniffles to come within ten feet of my babies. This goes double for kids near newborns. If a kid didn’t have to be near my newborn, then I didn’t allow it. And really, there was no reason for a kid to be near my babies until they were well past six weeks, so it was never really an issue. Obviously, having a premature baby during flu season and then having that child pass away from what would have been a survivable chest cold in anyone else only amped up my instinct to encase my children in a purell-doused bubble.
This cold and flu season has been especially brutal. Watching two of my friends’ newborns go through hospitalizations for RSV has made me want to birth this baby boy and then immediately run off with him, Michael-Jackson style. It does help me to know that this baby will (hopefully) not be born until cold and flu season is technically over, but my nervousness persists. I know I need to work my way through this, because in a few months I’m going to have a kid that needs to be near my newborn and I will quickly make myself insane if I let myself worry about this too much.
On the one hand you have my heart, which has been longing to see my children together for many years. And on the other hand you have my brain, which watches (you know, via my eyes) Annabel touch her feet, the trash, the dog’s butt, etc. Every day I have made it a point to talk to her about cleanliness and germs, and how babies rely on the big people around them to keep them safe and clean. Annabel always listens solemnly and nods, but then she goes and licks the bottom of a shoe or something. Kids are gross. I obviously don’t want to turn her into some kind of crazy germaphobe (ahem), but I just want to make sure that she understands the importance of a good hand washing before she touches her brother.
A couple of weeks ago, Annie and I went to my friend Tara’s house (of Tara and Baby Cait fame) to bring her lunch. My concern for germs near babies extends beyond my own progeny – I insisted about 87 times to leave Annie with my parents, but Tara return-insisted that it was okay to bring Annie around since Baby Cait has three older siblings. When we arrived at their house I thought for sure Annie would beeline for the baby, but of course she immediately ran off with her “husband.” I was relieved because I really didn’t want Annie around Cait – I just would have been absurdly worried.
Eventually, though, Annie did come creeping around when I was holding the baby. She didn’t get too close at first, I think she was intimidated by how small the baby actually was. But she grew bolder and started asking me if she could touch the baby. I said no. But Tara had other ideas and said, “Annie, do you want to hold Baby Cait?” The look on Annie’s face was priceless. She couldn’t believe she was going to get to hold the real Baby Cait. When I started to protest Tara reminded me that Cait’s older siblings hold, kiss, and touch her all day, and that Annie wasn’t going to do any damage.
Before we got Annie set up to hold the baby, however, she said to me, “Mama, I have to wash my hands before I hold Baby Cait!” VICTORY! DANCE! I took her to the bathroom and helped her scrub her hands (and maybe her arms and possibly even her face), and then this happened:
Annie was in Baby Heaven. She kept looking down at Cait, and then up at me and Tara like, “I can’t believe this is happening!” It was sweet and it finally melted the purell-doused bubble that has surrounded my heart for the last five years. Not to say that a germ-free zone around babies isn’t still important to me, but mayyyyyybe I remembered that there are other things that are important, too.