The destination for my first stroll after giving birth was down the hospital hallway to the nursery. I paused at the big window and saw about 15 bassinets with babies neatly swaddled. No clue which was mine. As I approached the door marked “Nursery,” an ancient nurse who had clearly seen a lot of life, barred the entrance. Her name tag read, “Miss Peterson, Senior Nursery Aide.”
“Let me see your i.d.,” she said as she lifted the wrist where I wore the plastic bracelet.
Dropping my arm, she said, “Okay, you can come in. First time, isn’t it?”
Without waiting for an answer, she walked down the hall. I followed her through a door with a sign that read, “SHHHHHHHHHH! BABIES SLEEPING.”
Once inside the room, I started to read labels on the closest bassinets.
“No, no” she said. “Yours isn’t there. Those are the A’s.”
“What does A mean,” I asked, disappointed that mine was not in the top group.
“Always Anxious,” she said. They’re the screamers, especially the boys. She was right. All of the blue bassinets and most of the pink ones contained crying babies.
Feeling a little relieved, I started towards the quiet side of the room.
“No, no,” she said. “Those are the C’s. “
What’s a C? I asked.
“Calm, cool and cuddily.”
Now I was getting a little worried. She moved to a bassinet in the middle of the room and stopped.
“Here,” she said. “This one.” She leaned over, scooped up the sleeping bundle and placed my son in my arms. I held him for a few minutes, filled with the emotions of a first time mother. Miss Peterson just stood there watching, possibly to make sure her baby was safe.
“So, this is the B group?” I finally asked with more than a little trepidation.
What does B stand for? I asked her.
“They’re a little bit of both. Sort of the normals. You’re lucky.”
Seeing the expression on my face, she began to explain. “Honey, I’ve been in this nursery for 30 years. I’ve seen a lot of babies in my day. The way they come out is the way they’re going to be. There are three kinds: A,B,C. I feel sorry for the C mothers. Those kids always have what the docs call colic. Colic-Shmolic. They’re just plain cranky and a lot of them never change. The A moms have it easy although some of those kids turn out a little lazy.”
She went on. “You see, about half of these babies have mothers who were my babies 25-30 years ago. They all fall in the same group as their mothers, As, Bs or Cs.”
This morning I read the cover story in the New York Times Magazine entitled, “Are We Wired to Worry.” According to the article, the answer to that question is probably “yes.” Extensive, expensive, longitudinal studies have been going on for thirty years to find this out.
They should have asked Miss Peterson.