Saturday, October 2, 2010

Maternal Instinct! ...Paternal Instinct?

We all know that mom's just KNOW. Whether you needed a shoulder to cry on or you were standing in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open for the millionth time even though she always yelled at you for it, somehow, our moms had that instinct. That we needed her, that we were in trouble, that we were lying. It never made sense to me as a kid. Now that I'm a mom myself, I can see everything involving Caitlyn with laser focus.

At first, it's the hormones. Your body knows what your baby needs from minute one. If you tried to actually think about everything your baby needs from you from the moment they are born, your head would probably explode because it seems so overwhelming at first. The first few weeks of Caitlyn's life, I was surprised by the way my body just took over. My boobs went to work, gradually making more milk as Caitlyn needed it. They would leak if she cried, if I held her or smelled her. My boobs knew what their job was.

Even my sleeping patterns changed. Caitlyn was never what I would call a fussy baby, and even her first night home from the hospital she slept 4 or 5 hours at a time. But my body wouldn't let me go into a deep sleep. I was exhausted. I should have been out cold. Normally, I'm a heavy sleeper, nothing wakes me. But from the minute Caitlyn came home, just the sound of her moving around even a little bit is enough to wake me up. That actually surprised me. I feared that she would scream for hours before it woke me up.

Like I said, the physical changes were automatic and immediate. But now I notice a different kind of instinct. Maybe not even instinct necessarily. I think part of it is a hyper-awareness of every little thing Caitlyn does and wants and needs. Or maybe that's exactly what instinct is. My point is that I know her and I can anticipate her needs and moods with surprising accuracy. If she's fussy I can look at her or listen to her cry and know exactly what she wants. I notice the nuances of her personality and the subtlest things seem ridiculously obvious to me. I can even do it over the phone. If my husband or sister calls me while I'm working and tells me that Caitlyn is fussy, I can have them tell me what she did in the last couple of hours and pick up on what's bothering her in a second.

This is not a special talent or anything. I'm pretty sure every mom has it. The thing that I find odd is that my husband has no sort of paternal instincts, it would seem. I mean, the instinct to keep her safe and to love her are there, of course. But nothing else seems easy to him. When she cries, he doesn't know why or what to do. He doesn't even have an idea. If a bottle or a diaper change doesn't fix the problem, he's at a loss. And even when those things do work, he's pretty much just blindly trying to find a fix. He can't look at her and hear her cry and say "oh, she's hungry", he doesn't notice that she shields her eyes from the light when she's tired. He doesn't recognize her annoyed cry when nobody is paying attention to her and all she wants is someone to play with. And when he can't figure it out, he gets frustrated and gives up. His logic is "she is fed and changed and she is still crying. I've done all I can and eventually she will stop if I just leave her alone for a while". He actually does the same thing to me when we are fighting. He thinks if he ignores the problem it will go away. After 5 years, you would think he would realize that chicks just don't operate that way. Ignoring us only pisses us off even more.

And there are other little things I notice too. She's about to be 5 months old. Every aspect of our existence for the last 5 months has revolved around filling the needs of this tiny human being. Her needs are pretty straightforward. The bottom line is to keep her comfortable. That means fed, clean, amused and not in any pain.

The other night I came home from work and he tells me she's been crying for the last hour. I pick her up and she is sweating. It was one of those nights before the temperature dropped back down, when the humidity was super high and we were waiting on a storm front. It was roughly 80 degrees in my house. Caitlyn was in a long sleeved sleeper with a onesie underneath. Isn't that just common sense? He has this idea in his head that she's running like 10 degrees cooler than an adult for some reason. Even when I stripped her down to her onesie, flipped on the air-conditioner and had her calm and comfy within 5 minutes, he argued with me that she was "too cold".

And he doesn't know what kind of wipes to get her. I sent him to the store the other day because we were running out. I'm not particularly picky about most things, but I've consistently used the same wipes for the last 4 and a half months because most wipes give her a rash. So he comes back and he's got the wrong ones. "She will be fine, just use these". And now she has a rash, of course. I guess I don't understand how he doesn't know. It's been 5 MONTHS!

I don't know where I was going with this exactly. I guess I just find it sort of strange, because mothering my child isn't something I had to think about ever. It just happens. Is it just him, or is this a guy thing? Tell me my husband isn't just an emotional retard.