It saddened me when I walked into the room. Carrie, a sixteen-year-old new mom, was gazing out the window - at nothing in particular. Just gazing out, not looking in, or over at the baby in the room. Grandma sat beside the exam table and patted the back of three-week-old Ricky, a healthy, full-term guy who appeared to be under the watchful care of his grandmother. I asked questions about the delivery and feeding. I commented on the little one's abundance of hair and his sweet nose. I mused over the wonder of a new baby. But Carrie still glanced out the window, unengaged by the swirl of attention her newborn was receiving.
Ricky began to squirm on the exam table, wrinkle up his face, and hover on the verge of changing from a calm to a fussy baby. As he wiggled he seemed, quite by accident, to hit the side of his face with his fisted hand. This movement triggered his in-born rooting reflex. His tiny mouth opened wide and clamped down on his first and second finger. He started to suck.
"Wow!" I exclaimed. "Look how smart you are to get that finger in your mouth all by yourself!"
Carrie was jolted by my enthusiastic response. She pushed her chair a few inches away from the window and turned her head a full 20 degrees in our direction.
I chatted on in my nurse-to-baby style, next noticing Ricky's eyes turning to focus on me. "My goodness! You heard my voice and turned right toward me! What other amazing tricks do you have?"
Carrie eased toward the exam table and, now, glanced down at Ricky. Her son demonstrated an amazing ability to get to and stay in that Ready Zone. His eyes were bright, his movements relaxed, and his shoulders dropped in an "I'm-ready-for-the-next-event" kind of look.
I picked up Ricky and encouraged Carrie to call his name. She did, at first tentatively, but with a bit more gusto after some encouragement. As I expected, Ricky slowly turned in his mother's direction, and then he looked into her face, contentedly.
A smile crept over Carrie's face as she looked down at her child. With some hesitation she received the newborn I gently placed in her arms. Carrie surprised me when she put her nose into Ricky's face and nuzzled for a moment. Ricky seemed to tilt toward his mom and into an awkward, but warm, cuddle.
Helping this new and fragile mom appreciate her baby's effort to connect made my day. "He's a real person," Carrie whispered.
"Yes, and he knows his real mother," I responded. Now, I didn't feel so sad.