Even though my baby was in the car with me now after work, I felt frantic with anxiety. Everything felt off kilter. I hadn’t been able to cuddle Niki all day and my body ached with longing. Pulling to a stop in my driveway, I scrambled out from behind the wheel and opened the car’s back door. My six-week-old daughter contentedly gave me a big smile as I unbuckled her from the car seat. I scooped her into my arms and rushed into the house.
In the living room I sank down in my rocking chair and lifted her out of the blankets. Peace and calm settled over me the minute I put her against my left shoulder. She happily nuzzled my neck as our heart beats become one. I sighed with relief.
There never was a question of ‘if’ I’d return to work after Niki’s birth. I HAD to return to work. Finances dictate how many people live their lives. My husband, Arnie and I were no different than many others.
Shortly before my six week maternity leave was over, I had looked at newspaper ads for babysitting services and picked a woman who lived nearby. When I interviewed the lady I found that she babysat other children and had a fenced yard. As a first time mother who never had babysat in her life, I figured this woman probably knew more than I did about mothering.
That first morning when I went back to work, my heart nearly broke as I lifted my warm, sweet-smelling baby out of her crib. She was still asleep and cried a little because I had disturbed her.
When I carried Niki into the babysitter’s house, I was dismayed at not being greeted at the door. My already jangling nerves were further unsettled by seeing several people sleeping in the shadowy dawn-darkened living room. Who in the world were they? The sitter came out of her bedroom and lifted my baby into her arms.
Giving last minute instructions and wanting reassurances, I backed away. I had to report to work on time, but I didn’t want to leave this precious child behind. I sobbed all the way across town to the hospital parking lot. Every spare moment during my workday, I thought about and missed Niki.
In the following four days, I became more and more concerned about having to drop Niki off at the babysitter in the mornings. After work I’d discover that her bottles of formula in her diaper bag weren’t always given to her. One day only one diaper had been changed. Even more worrisome, I never found out why there were always strange people sleeping in the living room. At work I was not only missing her, but also actively worried about her safety.
Using references from other mothers, I quickly searched for and found a new babysitter. This did not make me feel better about leaving Niki behind when I worked because I missed holding her, but at least I knew she was in a safe home.
Through the years since Niki was a small baby, I have often remembered and treasured that first evening after work when I held her. All the stress of the day fell away from me. Since then, I’ve noticed that holding a baby, even when it isn’t mine, knocks down my stress level.
My daughter Niki, is now the mother of eight children. Supplied with a steady stream of grandbabies to cuddle, I feel rich. The clean baby smell of their skin is sweet, better than the scent of any flower. With skin softer than silk, even their fat rolls are cute in an adorable way.
My daughter Tammie, is four years younger than Niki, unmarried and works as a librarian in a big city. Born with several very serious medical problems, I often felt that my cuddling her as a baby helped save her life. Now that she is an adult, Tammie still benefits from cuddling, except now she is the one doing the cuddling. She likes to sniff the scent of a baby, stroke the little one’s soft, warm skin and feel their small heart beat against hers.
Every few weeks Tammie calls and says, “Mom, I’m coming home for a visit. I’ve talked to Niki and have arranged for us to get together. I’m in need of ‘a baby fix’.