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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Learning how to look after Leti

The Farmer and I had the opportunity to babysit our granddaughter Leti for the first time. It was the busiest five hours in our recent history.
Anastasia and Andrew arrived an hour early to settle Leti in for her visit. Annie fed and changed her baby before she left, and left two bottles of mama’s milk behind. Theoretically that is more than enough for a four to five hour stay. Then she decided to leave us a can of formula “just in case Leti is doing her nervous eating.” I thought that was funny – a baby getting nervous and snacking to settle herself. But Mama was right.
Leti slept in her bassinette for the first hour. When she began to fuss I picked her up, checked her diaper and tried dancing and jiggling her around the room. Then I remembered that, like her mother before her, Leti does not often appreciate being danced or jiggled. She likes to be held still. She’s not a candidate for one of those vibrating baby chairs and she doesn’t need to be rocked to sleep. That movement seems to make her nauseous.
Her mother was the same. The first time I went out to dinner and left Anastasia with a sitter, when she was about two months old, I forgot to tell her caregiver how to settle her. I was just so excited to be getting out of the house that I made sure she had enough milk and knew where the diapers were and I left. Margaret was the kindly old grandma from next door – she had run a home daycare and looked after her own grandchildren for so many years that I felt quite confident she would be able to handle all the troubleshooting and problem-solving on her own.
These were the days before cell phones. But we had left the phone number of the restaurant where we were heading, so Margaret could find us in an emergency. I was just getting used to being out on the town without a baby strapped to me when the server approached our table, phone in hand.
Margaret actually sounded quite calm, which was remarkable given that there was the obvious sound of a furious baby screaming in the background. It wasn’t a hungry or scared or pained cry. It was Annie’s angry cry.
“I’m so sorry to bother you. I have tried everything and I cannot get this child to stop yelling and go to sleep. I know she must be exhausted. I tried rocking her, walking her, putting her in the swing and dancing her around the room. Do you have any hints?”
“Yes, sorry. I should have told you. Just put her on her face in her crib and walk out of the room. Make sure the monitor is on, and close the door behind you.”
“Really? Wait. I’ll try it while you are still on the phone, if you don’t mind.”
I heard the sound of the screaming growing more distant on the other end of the line. I pictured the two going into the nursery, Annie being placed in the bed on her stomach, her toys tucked in around her…then I heard the door softly closing. The crying abruptly stopped.
“Well. That worked. I guess she just likes to be left alone! Enjoy the rest of your evening.” And she hung up the phone.
Leti opened her eyes and looked, startled, at my face. The same colouring as her mother, and likely a similar voice…but not the mama. I snapped a photo of her obviously confused expression. Then the nerves must have started because she demanded a bottle. And within half an hour of finishing that one, another. I changed her diaper after each feeding and when she asked for the third bottle I realized we had to start on the formula.
“Stop feeding that kid, will ya?” the Farmer commented. “You’re going to make her sick!”
I explained about the nervous eating and grandpa had to admit, it seemed to be the only thing that settled her. About twenty mls into the formula, Leti passed out. The excitement mixed with the heaviness of the milk to put her to sleep. She was blissfully dreaming of her mother when the real one arrived to bundle her up and take her home.
Grandma’s first babysitting event went well, and we got to know each other a little better. Lesson learned: always have plenty of snacks on hand.

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