Sensitive boys

In the days where we only fantasized about having kids, our hope was that, as a gay couple, we’d be able to provide a special angle and insight that would make our kids more sensitive than others.

Right now it seems to be true, but not in the way we’d imagined.

The sensitive newborn

Since he was born, Gus has been to the hospital once and to the doctor just about every week. At yesterday’s visit, his doctor kindly assured me he’s a very healthy baby and that sometimes newborns have a lot of issues to work out before they settle. Then she joked, “We’ll leave a space for you for next week.”  Ha.

Gus has sensitive skin and a sensitive stomach. The skin thing is a fact, and the stomach thing is my own middle-of-the-night and any-time-of-day observation and diagnosis.

His sensitive skin is responsible for a raging diaper rash since birth. Only in the last two days, after extreme care and over $60 in creams has it subsided. Then, on Saturday I started noticing some redness in the folds of his extraordinarily chubby neck. By Monday, this too was raging— an inch-wide, hyper-red, puss-filled ring strangling him. A $50 minuscule bottle of powder later, he may or may not be on his way to healing.

Maybe a sensitive stomach is common in newborns, but it is new to me. Gus’s straining, screaming, grunting, and wailing is, at times, unbearable. For everyone in this house. I think even the bats living in our walls have fled to quieter homes. It is so bad that I, a milk and cheese-loving Midwestern gal born and bred in Wisconsin, cut out all dairy from my diet for nearly a week.

Then, after a particularly sleepless night of stomach sensitivity, I woke to find Gus’s belly button popped in a hernia. That bleary morning, I poured real milk on my cereal.

The sensitive two-year-old

Here is where things get complicated. With a newborn there is only so much you can do to make the crying stop. But parenting a two-year-old is like navigating a “choose your own adventure” story in which nine out of ten paths result in a total emotional breakdown.

But then, maybe a breakdown is good? Maybe it’s better than some sort of deal where you, as a parent, think you are doing things right, when really the kid has manipulated you in such a way that he’s getting what he wants and you only think you are enforcing some important, yet-to-be-explained rule?

I don’t know. But right now, Otto is sensitive to ev-ery-thing. Which spoon he has. What socks he’s wearing. How the milk is poured on his oatmeal.

He is caught in a space of wanting—no, needing— to do everything for himself and needing me to carry him like a baby. Any little “error” I make with him, every little miscommunication, every wrong piece of food I put on his plate completely dissolves him into a loud, sloppy mess.

And all of this is making me sensitive, too. With a partner who is deep in the muck of a very busy work life, most of the parenting and household responsibilities are on me at the moment. The sleepless nights and the tear-filled days are thinning my own skin like the raw, weeping folds of Otto’s neck.

But then, for the love of all things good, there are the miraculous moments where everything is just so. The fifteen minutes where Otto quietly plays in his crib and Gus softly marvels over black and white shapes.

It is here, in these short breaths of respite, that I find myself soaking in thankful disbelief. Somehow I get to be a mama. A  mama to these two beautiful, funny, sensitive boys.


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