When your babies are born in the heart of winter like mine were, you encounter some additional challenges–namely, the fact that it seems like it’s always too cold to take them anywhere, and when you do, you have no choice but to wrap them in layers galore. But there’s another reason why I hesitate to take my newborns out and insist on piling on the layers even when the weather is not at its coldest: the fact that people can’t seem to keep their hands off my babies.
Thankfully, those who have visited my home over the past month (friends, people from my temple who were kind enough to deliver food those first few weeks) have mostly had the good sense to either not touch the little ones, or ask whether it’s okay to touch them. But the few times I’ve had to take the babies out (mostly just to the pediatrician’s office, or to drop my toddler off at preschool), I’ve encountered people who have attempted to put their hands on my babies–and I say “attempted” because if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being overprotective.
For the record, I know we can’t/don’t live in a bubble. I sent my son to daycare when he was just 4 months old, thereby exposing him to the constant presence of unsavory germs. But there’s a difference between 4 months and 4 weeks, which is why I’ve been putting my foot down. Furthermore, both of my girls are really small for their age, and even though their size doesn’t necessarily make them more susceptible to whatever’s going around than larger babies, as my pediatrician said, it’s okay to err on the side of being overly cautious.
Now I have no qualms about telling strangers to keep away from my girls, kind of like how I used to politely but firmly insist that strangers not touch my stomach during my last trimester of pregnancy. (Really, why do people think they can do these things?) But it’s not so easy telling people I actually know to look but don’t touch.
As paranoid about germs as I may be, I’m also sensitive to people’s feelings, and the last thing I want to do is offend someone I care about. So I’ve been doing the “no offense” thing, where you say something, but you preface your statement with that caveat so that even if the people you’re talking to are inclined to get pissed or upset, they can’t express said emotions openly. I’m guessing my strategy works about half the time–meaning, for every person who gets where I’m coming from, there’s another who thinks I’m being an anal freak.
Here’s how a recent conversations along those lines went:
Friend: “Ooh, can I hold one of the babies?”
Me: “No offense, but I’d rather not have outside hands on the girls while they’re still so little.”
Friend: “Oh, but I’ll wash my hands first, silly.”
Me: “Oh, of course you will. But still…please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m just not comfortable with that. Thanks for understanding.”
Friend: “Oh…OK.” (Rolls eyes as I turn away)
Most of these exchanges have been unpleasant more so than anything else, but I had one friend who got offended that I “didn’t trust her” to hold my babies. I tried explaining that it’s not about trust, it’s about germs, but it took some coaxing to get her to come around. Either way, I’m going to keep standing my ground and just hope that the people in my life aren’t hurt or annoyed by my request that all foreign hands remain off my babies for the time being. And, I hope the aforementioned would-be baby touchers learn the importance of respecting boundaries.
Sure, there may be some parents out there who don’t believe in shielding their children to the same extent. But the way I see it, they’re my babies, and I have every right to be as uptight and protective as I choose.