Last night I held a baby. I was at the children’s museum, standing by our Fresh Air Fund table, when a neighbor lady walked in with her four little girls and newborn baby boy. As soon as she ushered them all through the heavy, glass doors, I pounced, oohing and aahing until I forced myself to back down.
I returned to my station and sat down, demurely smoothing my skirt. I picked up some brochures and tried to focus on the task at hand—recruiting host families—but then it occurred to me, maybe my neighbor lady’d like to have someone hold the baby for her? I snaked my way back through the crowds until I found her. I smiled warmly (but not overbearingly, I hoped) and said, “If you want, I’d be glad to hold your baby for you while you walk around. I’m just sitting over there and can easily take him. If you’d rather not, that’s fine, too. But I’d sure love it.“
What I wanted to say was, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME HOLD YOUR BABY. I NEED TO HOLD HIM. I MUST HOLD HIM. IF YOU SAY NO, I MIGHT DIE. PRETTY-PRETTY PLEASE WITH SUGAR ON TOP?
“Well sure,” she said, handing him over.
I floated back to my seat, hardly believing my good luck, a huge grin pushing my cheeks up so high that my eyes almost squinched completely shut. I waited till I was sitting again before examining the little snoozing bundle. He was perfect. A round head, creamy complexion, dainty, perfectly-formed features, a downy-soft head. I sniffed his top-fuzz—so warm! so milky!—and melted. My whole body relaxed. Intense feelings of complete well-being washed over me. I felt drunk.
I swayed from side to side in my blue plastic chair, patting his little bottom and smiling wildly at anyone who made eye contact with me. I wanted to shift him so his head would rest on my shoulder so that each time I inhaled I could fill my whole respiratory system—my very cells—with whiffs of his baby scent, but they had warned he was a fussy baby, and he was sleeping so peacefully that I didn’t dare.
When the family gathered around me a half hour later, ready to leave the museum, I stared straight ahead, pretending they weren’t there, trying to suck just a few more minutes of baby therapy out of that bundle.
This baby crazy maternal weirdness just shows you how very far out of the baby stage I am. I have never been a baby person. I like them well enough, but generally my rule is, if it ain’t mine, I don’t need it. Or even want it. For the last decade I have been up to my eyeballs in my own babies’ scent. The little ones drained me so thoroughly that I never even had one iota of interest in holding someone else’s baby.
But now. Now I get misty-eyed when I just think of holding a baby.
It’s not like I think about them all the time, ’cause I don’t. And I don’t want to have another one of my own (though the thought has occurred to me). It’s just that when I see a baby—and it must be a newborn; right around the six-month mark, I lose interest—I get a little delirious.
On the other hand, I got a taste of my future—a very baby-less future—this morning, and it was intoxicating in its own right. What happened was this: in less than two hours, we, all six of us, cleaned the house from top to bottom. Every single person pulled his or her weight. We got along together. Parents supervised and kids promptly obeyed. No one argued (except for one minor blooper). We were a well-oiled machine. It was perfectly blissful.
I really like babies. And I also really like not having babies anymore.