When Miss Rose was a new born she was almost permanently in my arms. Sometimes she would nap in her Moses basket, and sometimes she would lie on her baby gym mat, but mostly she was on me. She lived in a cuddle.
I carried her in a sling, often walking the dog with her strapped to my chest breast feeding and napping. I held her on my lap when she slept and cuddled her close singing and talking to her when she was awake. When we went to bed she slept under a blanket with me, cuddled up to me feeding and cuddling through the night.
When I was pregnant she was permanently hugged; floating in a pool of warm water, listening to my heart beat and my voice, gently rocking. She never felt pain of fear, never felt alone or cold. The shock of coming into the world where it is bright and hard, where it smells funny and the noises are loud and startling, must be the biggest shock in the world. For me it was important to ease her into it gently, make sure she knew that even though she wasn’t safe in my belly anymore didn’t mean she wasn’t safe and loved anymore.
I was regularly told I held her too much.
If I was pushing her in her pram rather than wearing her in a sling and she cried I took her out and carried her. From day one I was told she was manipulating me. I was told I would never get her to go in a pushchair if I let her start controlling me straight away. To them I said no, she is not manipulating me, she is cold or scared or sad and she wants her mother. She wasn’t manipulating she was expressing a need for comfort and there was no way I was going to deny her that comfort.
Many people told me that if she was crying but she was clean, fed, warm, comfy and not ill then to put her down and let her cry because there was nothing wrong with her. She never cried because there was nothing wrong. Ever. Maybe there was nothing physically wrong but she is more than her body. If she cried she was sad or scared or lonely. I held her, I cuddled her, I kissed her and rocked her. I never want to teach her that feeling sad or scared means mummy doesn’t love you. Surely needing cuddles for emotional reasons are even more valid than physical? Physical problems can be cured by a nappy change or some Calpol. Emotional pain needs love and cuddles and the assurance that if you need to cry you can cry, but mummy will never ever abandon you to do it alone.
Because I carried her, wore her, slept with her, and kept her on me most of the time I was told I was turning her into a spoiled hip hugger who would never learn to be independent. That she would only want to be carried all the time and I was making a rod for my own back. I’d like to remind them of that and get them to spend an hour in the company of this girl. This girl who walks off on her own without hesitation, checks back to see we are watching, then toddles off again. This girl who will be played with or picked up by anyone without panicking, who approaches strangers both adult and children with a smile, and who is happy playing with her toys by herself.
At the time it was frustrating sometimes. I couldn’t do many things because she was asleep on me and at times I felt trapped. But then it was over and she was off. Now I will pull her onto my lap for a cuddle and she will wriggle and squirm and get down to toddle off on her own and play with her toys or climb on something. She has learned to manipulate, she can throw one heck of a tantrum if she doesn’t get what she wants, and I have a very firm “no” in my angry mummy voice. But those are occasional, and there is a difference. Crying because I won’t let her eat dog food is different to crying because she’s unhappy. Crying because she doesn’t want to go in her carseat is different to crying because she’s in pain.
My advice is cuddle your children. Cuddle them because you can and because it is a beautiful thing they won’t always want it even when you still do. My friend recently text me a photo of her daughter asleep on her for the first time since she stopped breast feeding, she was thrilled. As they grow and thrive on independence these cuddles happen less and less and become more and more precious. No child was ever loved “too much”. No don’t spoil them, don’t give in to tantrums and don’t let them rule the roost, but know the difference. Know that sometimes everyone just needs to be held, kissed, and promised that no matter what mummy loves them.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!