Baby Talk

Man, I thought Zoe was unparalleled in volume, but this baby next to us at the pediatrician’s office– she was ALMOST as loud.

From the minute she let out her first whimper, you could just feel her parents tense up, like rabbits being stalked by a large cat… except in this case it was a very small baby. The second she made a noise, mom had a bottle out and in her mouth.

Oops. Bad move, mom. Then the screaming really started.

I felt bad for the parents, seeing myself just a couple months ago. As soon as a baby starts crying, everybody around you starts asking, “Is she hungry??” So you start to think it must be true.

This baby is very clearly not hungry. I don’t know how she could have made that clearer. Screamed, pushed the bottle away, turned her head in the opposite direction and arched her back.

Now mom is bouncing her, now dad is bouncing her, now dad has the bottle again shoved into her mouth. After a half hour of this crazy bouncing and bottle feeding, mom finally shoves a breast in her mouth. I took the baby’s scream to mean, “No thanks, mom. Still not hungry.”

To top it off, the pediatrician came out with, “Is she hungry?”

My best guess was overstimulated. Bright yellow walls, kids playing with toys, the TV in the background, and a couple of very persistent parents wielding bottles.

No judgment at all of the parents– goodness knows I did the same exact thing until I had a lot of help to learn otherwise– but it is a striking illustration of how our decisions are utterly ruled by fear. It’s every mom’s nightmare to be stuck in public with a screaming baby that won’t stop, so without even thinking, we automatically reach for the most convenient, the fastest option. Baby can’t cry with a bottle in her mouth so in goes the bottle. Well, most babies. Zoe and her new buddy are exceptions.

Fingers in the mouth for Zoe usually means, "Gettin pretty sleepy Mom"
Fingers in the mouth for Zoe usually means, “Gettin pretty sleepy Mom”

We don’t listen. Because if we listen, really listen, people are all the time telling us what the problem is– babies included. There’s body language, the environment, the whole big picture to take into account. The real irony is that if we taken several minutes to listen, we can identify the actual problem and deal with it much more efficiently that the “easy” way allows. The easy way out isn’t easier.

Course I didn’t say any of this to the unhappy couple next to me. Something about the timing didn’t seem quite right. And they also didn’t speak English. Figured the best thing I could do for them was keep my big mouth shut.

But really, all of life mysteries become that much less mysterious when we just listen– and we know what to listen for.

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