There was a crying baby at the park this morning.
It was a newborn, so enveloped in the Baby Bjorn that no traces of pink or blue could be seen to give me a broader range of pronouns to work with. The mother tramped up and down the playground, following her gleeful two-year-old from swings to slide to sandbox. She bounced a little as she walked, jiggling the baby carrier, but the baby’s cries rang out unabated, loud and lusty with that little note of determination, like someone who has buckled up for an eight-hour car-ride with a few high-protein granola bars and a stack of mixed CDs. That crying was settled in for the duration.
Maybe that mother is starving her baby, I told myself, experimentally. Maybe that is a terrible mother who doesn’t know how to meet her baby’s needs.
But I knew she wasn’t. It was clear – abundantly, robustly clear – that the crying was not the mother’s fault. It wasn’t a crisis, or even a problem that needed to be fixed, a condition that could be cleared up with infant massage or Gripe Water or a dab of just the right topical anti-crying cream. The crying just was. The mother didn’t need to stop it, or fix it, or whip out a patented "solution" to it. She just needed to hold her baby and be there.
But what amazed me was that the mother seemed to know this: she appeared neither embarrassed nor panicked, just strangely peaceful as if holding this shrieking, wailing infant was the sweetest privilege in the world.