“Your baby hates me,” you proclaim as you hand her back to me, gingerly, as if she may spontaneously combust at any moment. I giggle awkwardly as I receive my child. I never know quite how to respond to that proclamation in the moment, as many times as I’ve heard it.
My baby doesn’t hate you. Please do not feel awkward and offended that she took one look at you and immediately the corners of her lips traveled downward and her eyes started welling up. It was nothing personal. She is still learning about this big bad world and social conventions might be a little beyond her ken at this point in her life. As far as I can tell, her whole world revolves around mama, daddy, and big sisters. Everyone else is strange and scary. She is too little to know any better.
It is important to keep in mind that all babies are individuals and have distinct personalities, even at such a tender age. Some babies are very social, and smile at everyone and let anyone hold them. Some babies only feel comfortable with their family members. Some, like my eldest, didn’t want ANYBODY holding them (it made for a very long first few months until she was mobile). Some don’t like it if you get too close to their faces and speak too loudly. I remember exuberantly greeting one of my neighbor’s babies (because she is just so dang cute!) and this nine month old child frowned at me and held up her hand right in my face to stop me. I couldn’t help but chuckle and tell her mother that her babe was pretty advanced to make her message so clear at such a young age. “Don’t shout at me so close to my face. I don’t like that,” she was telling me with her simple hand motion. Babies sometimes need their personal space too.
I know, it’s a difficult thing to remember. Babies are just so adorable! With their impossibly large eyes and dimpled hands and feet, you feel the inexplicable urge to exclaim loudly and squeeze them! But some of them don’t care for that. If I take a moment to think about it, I probably wouldn’t care for it much either.
Feel free to hold my baby, tell her how cute she is, and tickle her little feet. And if she cries, take it all in stride. You’ve done nothing wrong. Trust me, she won’t hold a grudge. The beautiful thing about babies is that even though they may get upset more easily than the rest of us, they also forgive effortlessly and without hesitation.
Final note: If you are a complete stranger, do not touch my baby. Please just admire her from afar. It’s nothing personal, it’s just weird for us moms to witness that kind of thing. We don’t know whether to rudely slap your hand away or just abandon our baby to your tender mercies. I’m sure 99% of strangers are completely normal people. It’s that 1% that keeps us up at night.