Sunday, October 11, 2009

Confessions of a Baby Hogger

I used to tease my sister about this but now I get it. I see them everywhere I go and I just can’t help myself. They stop me in my tracks with their big eyes and gummy grins. I want to say “hello” and make them smile. I resist the urge to sniff their heads. I eagerly wait for an opportunity to hold them and it pains me to return them to their rightful parents. Those yummy, yummy babies.

Last week, I was able to visit with a friend and her newborn. I soaked in the feeling of his little head right in the crook of my neck and the weight of his infant self in my arms. As I was holding him so that he could look around, he turned his huge bright eyes onto me and smiled – a sweet gooey beam as if I were the best idea he’d ever seen. Tears sprang to my eyes and I felt a sharp pain in my right side as I spontaneously ovulated. I was overcome with the desire to have another baby and experience this all again.

Pregnant bellies elicit a similar response. I seem to be surrounded by the blossoming of early motherhood and it’s bittersweet. I wish to hold my hand where I might feel the baby kick. Instead I ask the mother how she is feeling and if she is sleeping well. I let her go ahead of me in line at the store or in the restroom. I try not to be one of those interested but annoying strangers that patronized me when I was pregnant. I saw a mother the other day at the museum. She was largely pregnant and trying to keep up with a toddler. She was walking in that way that made me know she was close to her due date – I could sense the heaviness of the baby on her bladder and the pressure on her cervix. I suddenly had to pee as if my own bladder were empathizing. So strong and familiar was that memory.

I feel like an old woman watching these younger mothers just starting out. I am a seasoned veteran. I am experienced in the arts of baby soothing, public nursing and acrobatic diaper changing. I can interpret the cries of even a stranger’s baby and tell if that child is hungry or just over-stimulated. I have all these skills that I no longer need.

There is no way to fully prepare for parenthood. So much of it, we learn along the way. We become the mothers our children need – a role that is multi-faceted and constantly changing. I can’t claim to know everything and the skills I need right now have yet to be learned. But what do I do with those skills for which I no longer have use? How do I upgrade “Advanced Baby Wearing” to "Remedial Tween Parenting"?

I didn’t expect the closing of the baby chapter to be so difficult. During my third and decidedly final c-section, I consented to a tubal ligation. I wanted family planning to be over and not to be tempted by a fourth pregnancy (which would be riskier for me given my history). Everything about Logan’s birth was relaxed and absolute. I savored each moment with him, instead of worrying if what I was doing were right. He was my third and my last baby and experience had already taught me how fleeting it would be.

I do know that I never want to be pregnant again, that my three boys are more than I can handle and that someday, there will be sleep again. I have many reasons not to expand my family. But those wistful pangs of baby newness are difficult to ignore. The days of containable children are over for me. The ease of being able to calm an upset infant with warm milk and a song is only memory. The joy of those first grins and coos pulled out as a “Hail Mary pass” by a young one after five weeks of not allowing me to sleep more than fifty minutes in a row is replaced by Big Kid delights. There is preschool, the transfer from diapers to “funderwear” and meaningful conversation. There is no baby in my future and babyhood is past.

I’m addicted to babies,” a friend says to me. She wants to get pregnant with a fifth child. “You’re crazy!” I tell her. But secretly, I understand. “So borrow someone else’s baby for a day,” I tease. “No, their heads don’t smell the same. I only like the way mine smell.” I think to myself, I know. I know.