taking a 10-month-old to church
It's 9:00 in the morning. You're fresh out of the shower and drying your hair in the bathroom. You can hear the hungry baby whining in the adjacent bedroom. You nurse the baby with halfway dry hair, then hand her off to your husband to give her breakfast and get her dressed in the outfit laid out on the dresser, offering a quick reminder to not put her shirt on backwards again.
You finish getting ready and inhale some whole grain toast with peanut butter to a soundtrack of baby wails because it's naptime and she's being manhandled into her black and grey peacoat instead of the crib, and who in the heck decided on a mid-morning church service? Don't they know it's the universal baby morning naptime? Your husband buckles the baby in the carseat while you put some coffee in your purple travel mug because you'll need all the energy in the world to wrangle your child during the 90 minute service, especially since you lost precious sleep last night after waking yourself up screaming because you dreamed you were being kidnapped.
You get to church on time! Hallelujah, praise the Lord, it is in fact a miracle. You settle in while the baby happily babbles and smiles, content to snuggle in her mother's cardigan-clad arms while warily eyeing strangers from afar. She happy-shrieks and claps during the music and people turn around to smile at the happy baby. You beam with pride and offer up a prayer that she quiets down soon. Your arms start to ache after 15 minutes of bouncing a 20+ pound baby while standing, so you hand her off to your husband. She starts to fuss and you figure she's getting hungry, so you pick her up again and haul her off to the mother's room/teacher's lounge. She cries but refuses to nurse due to some kind of teething-related nursing strike (maybe? the jury is still out) that is bringing unappreciated levels of drama and frustration to your life. 1 minute later you walk back out to the elementary school cafeteria/sanctuary. All the mothers turn and watch and know it was Gracie-1, Mom-0. You walk back to your seat and shake your head "no" to your husband while eye-rolling. He grabs the baby out of sympathy and gives you a supportive pat on the back and a tense smile.
The music is over, and the pastor asks the congregation to "take a moment to quietly prepare your heart and pray," and as soon as all is silent, the baby lets out a shriek. You can't look at your husband or you both will erupt into hysterical laughter, but you can feel him shaking with laughter next to you. The man behind you is chuckling and you're just relieved he finds it funny too. The baby continues to squeal and yell and babble during all the wrong times. You try to quiet her with toys, but they make her even more excited. It is a proven scientific fact that your child is the most talkative during a church service. Her happy squeals turn to angry yells so fast it gives you whiplash. You take her back to the teacher's lounge and pray she'll eat. She cries and yells but finally gives in to hunger. You walk back to your seat and nod your head "yes" to your husband. You whisper to him that she got upset, but she finally gave in. "I know...we know. Everyone heard it," he says with a smile. You're mortified.
You glance at the clock. Church has to be nearly over by now, right? Wrong. The sermon hasn't even started. You give the baby her favorite kitten board book and she excitedly gasps for air the same way you would if you were staring at an entire cheesecake. You turn the pages for her and she quietly giggles. She grabs the book from your hand and slams it down on the tile floor. People turn around and stare. You ask your husband under your breath if it would be wrong to leave and go home. She screams. People turn around and stare. She throws your car keys on the floor. People turn around and stare. Your husband stands with her in the back and she's as quiet as a mouse. He sits back down a few minutes later. She tries to help preach the sermon. People turn around and stare. Some people smile, some people don't. You start to sweat. The pastor asks a rhetorical question, and the baby screams "YEAH!". People turn around and stare, and your head is buried in your chest to suppress the giggles. She continues to answer the pastor's questions with "yeah!" and you laugh so hard you start to cry.
People turn around and stare.
She starts to get fussy and rub her eyes. Bless her heart, it's 2 hours past her naptime. You grab the animal board book out of the diaper bag and turn it to her favorite page. She points at the panda, the lion, and the owl. Then she swiftly grabs it from your hand, launches the book past you, and it smacks the tile floor so loudly it sounds like a bomb went off. The pastor momentarily stops preaching, and the entire congregation collectively turns around and stares. "Come quickly, Lord Jesus" you utter under your breath while you drench your shirt in nervous sweat. You pull out the big guns: the sweet potato puffs. She eats them one after another, and soon her fingers are covered in puff goo. She rubs it on your pants. You clean it off and then wipe the goo off your husband's sleeve with a hot pink burp cloth.
She fusses and cries, and all three of you know nothing but a nap will calm her this time. Your husband takes her outside, letting you listen to the last 15 minutes of the sermon alone. It's so relaxing you almost feel like you're lounging in a cabana by the beach despite the hard metal chair. You notice a few people turn around to look at you. You're not sure if they're wondering why the baby is suddenly quiet or if their necks are now locked in that position after so much turning around. The sermon is over and you chat with some friends before walking to the car. The baby is momentarily calm but screams hysterically the entire drive home, which is twice as long due to unexplained traffic jams and hitting every single red light. It is an outlandishly difficult Sunday. "The Lord is testing me," you say. Every time the car slows down at a red light, the baby cries so hard she can barely breathe. By the time you're halfway home, you're starting to cry too. The sermon this morning was on suffering, and never has a sermon felt more timely. The string of swear words in your head is interrupted when you remember the powerpoint saying one of the reasons God takes us through suffering is to test our character. Whoops.
You finally, blessedly get home, feed the baby, put her the heck to sleep, and vow to never leave the house ever again. At least not before listening to that sermon one more time.