I was never much of a baby person.
Oh, I did the odd babysitting here and there in my teenage years. I liked kids, they liked me, and it was easy money…. but I usually refused any jobs where the babies were younger than 8 or 9 months old.
If that sounds harsh it’s because the feeling was mutual – I didn’t really care for little babies, and little babies didn’t really like me. They let me know in no uncertain terms.
“Oh, Becky, it’s just in your head. Here, hold her,” someone would say, depositing a blank-faced infant in my arms. Almost immediately, the baby would stiffen.
“Relax – just hold her close,” they’d say.
“I am. She feels like 2 x 4.”
“Just…. just relax.”
“I’M TRYING,” I’d say, through gritted teeth. “Hey, uh… baby. Hey there. Good girl…. good…. girl.”
The baby would usually stare at me dubiously for a few more moments, and then burst into frantic tears. Get me out of this imposter’s arms. SAVE ME. SAVE ME FROM HER UNCOMFORTABLE INCOMPETENCE!
It never failed – you could give me the happiest, most complacent, 100% asleep infant and I could have it crying in a matter of minutes, just by trying to hold it.
What can I say? It was a gift.
The good news is that the first few weeks after a baby is born, they tend to be pretty much dead to the world. They wake, they cry for food, you feed them, you change their diaper, and they go back to sleep. In terms of being interactive, they’re about as socially fun as a hermit crab.
I think the reason they sleep so much in the beginning isn’t because they’re tired from birth…. it’s because it’s to give inept baby-handling parents like me a chance to figure out what they’re doing. Eventually they wake up from the just-born stupor, but hopefully by that time you’re not as uncomfortable with handling your own baby.
Since I never had any desperate desire to have or hold little babies of my own, I could never understand why people went so ga-ga over babies. They weren’t all that cute, in the grand scheme of things. They have swollen faces, they twist up their faces with really weird expressions, and they generally look kind of, well… weird.
I mean, here are some newborn otters:
And here is a newborn infant (mine, to be exact):
From a purely logical perspective, I think we can all agree the otters are cuter. They’re fuzzy, soft, round little bits of adorableness. You can practically feel your hand reaching out to pet one.
The newborn babies just kind of looks… pink. And swollen. And disgruntled. They look like disappointed, naked little grubs…. and yet when I see those photos of the twins just after they were born, something wrenches on my inside, and I can practically feel my brain hitting the release switch on a massive load of bonding hormones.
It’s not just because they are tiny, or because they are mine… I think it goes deeper than that. When I see tiny babies on the street, I think I am drawn to them because I know how incredibly fleeting that first period is. I don’t see a newborn baby – I see DragonMonkey as he was when I first met him. Even though I wouldn’t trade the lanky, logical, fun boy he is nowadays, I miss his sweet softness.
Which, now that I think about it, is low-down dirty lie. He was only sweet and soft for the first 2 or 3 weeks. After that he screamed and puked and was in all ways an incredibly high-needs baby….
But eh. It’s a sweet lie. If my brain is going to feed me lies, I don’t mind that one all that much.
Moving on to the whole point of this musing: I never really expected to be that “into” babies…. but lately it feels like I just can’t get enough. You’d think it would the opposite. With two babies pressed to me all day long, you’d think I would be over holding infants, but the opposite is true.
The twins are 7 months old now, and the other day I looked at Magpie as she was stretched out during one of her naps, and I realized she no longer qualifies as a tiny baby. I saw my first hint of toddler. It’s subtle, but it’s there – a slight lengthening of her forearms, the way she throws her arms above her head like a child instead of the tight curl of the just-born.
I’m not really sure what it is, but lately when I’m looking at the twins I can see the hints of the people they will become, and it makes me both proud and nostalgic, as if they’ve already grown, and flown away….
When in reality, Magpie is pressed against me, laying flat against the still-soft surface of my stomach. Kraken is crashed out in his baby swing – he’ll be too big for it soon, but for the time being it’s a helpful bedtime tool. Magpie though… lately she’s been weaning her own self off of the swing, much to my dismay. It makes getting her down for the night a lot harder, and by the time she’s finally asleep I have a tendency to just sit still and hold her rather than risk waking her.
Besides…. the view is pretty sweet. She’s sprawled over me in the complete, sleepy abandon that only the truly young seem to manage. Her cheeks are flushed with the heat of sleep, one arm thrown back, lips pursed in a nursing dream. I ought to put her down. I ought to clean up the living room, or prepare the boys’ lunch for school in the morning. Oh, sure, everyone likes to quote that “I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep”poem, but they forget about the other lines: “The shopping’s not done and the bills are past due, and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo.”
There’s so much that needs to be done, not the least of which is getting to bed early. I’m very, very sleep deprived this week. I ought to go to bed early, so I’m not grumpy and mean tomorrow from lack of sleep.
But instead, I press my hand against Magpie’s head, feeling the pleasing curve of her skull beneath my palm. I feel the heat of her skin against my own, brush my thumb against the curve of her cheek, and I watch her breathe… and grow.