I have been so over having babies for a LONG time. I mean SO over it. I mean a LONG time. I can’t remember the last time I thought about it. I’m not one of those women who sees a baby and needs a “fix”. I mean not at all. I don’t care to hold your baby – no offense. I just did that A LOT and filled my baby tank up enough to last the rest of my life. Remember I had 4 babies in 5 years, breastfed each one for a full year and suffered 3 miscarriages during the entire process. D.O.N.E.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve held many babies since having my own. And it’s fine. I’m not disinterested or uncomfortable – I’ll hold your baby and then I’ll hand it back to you. I just don’t make a fuss about it anymore. I’m good, really. Babies are nice…but nothing that I go “Ga-Ga” over anymore.
But today I held my niece, Alice. I was surprised by what I felt.
I had held her less than an hour after her entry into the world but it was quick and speaking truthfully, I felt terrible that I had swept her away from her mother so soon. She was fussing that night and I walked over to my brother. As she wriggled and cried, he ever so softly spoke to her. At that moment, she was hushed, her eyes alert in the direction of that voice – of Dad. I was so taken with that moment. I quickly returned her to my sister in law and scooted out the door left with that first memory of Alice and my brother.
But today? Today was magic. My sister in law was so gracious again to offer up her sweet bundle to me. I engulfed her with my arms and cradled her close. She was so still yet wide eyed and searching everything around her. Calm and content. I was able to give her a serious examination. She has my brother’s ears and toes. Yet I also saw her brow crinkle like her mother’s. Her warmth. Her stillness. Her quiet attentiveness. Her rapid breathing after she fell asleep. All reminders of the early days of the newborn honeymoon.
However, it wasn’t that she was just any newborn. I assure you that had I been holding someone else’s child that magic would have been absent. That magic was present because this was my only sibling’s first and only child. A connection that I did not expect to feel…
I remember holding my baby brother when he came home from the hospital. I was nearly 7 years old and had begged for a baby brother apparently sufficiently. I remember being in my silky pajamas and sitting in the chair with the tall back and a pillow under my arm as my mother placed him in my arms to hold him. I held him and was completely taken by this creature. So much better than any doll baby I had pretended to love.
As time would pass and he didn’t emerge into an instant playmate for me as I had immaturely hoped – the newness wore off and he was just the baby brother. There is the standing family joke that I said, "Can we take him back and get another one? He doesn't do very much."
Through the decades he has always been the baby brother. Always years behind me and living in separate circles of the same universe. Different interests, hobbies, opinions and beliefs. Common ground? Not much more than the words “brother and sister.” After all I married young and started a family immediately. In fact, I gave birth to my first born just two months after his high school graduation. He lived the bachelor life not understanding anything that I droned on about talking incessantly about my children.
But today? Today was different. He was Daddy. Father of that precious one held in my arms. My niece. This wasn’t just any baby. This was Alice. My brother commented how strange it is to try to put into words to someone how he was feeling. He said, “You want to share it with people, ya know? Tell them how amazing it all is. But you are either talking to people who have experienced it before and react with a - yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all about it attitude – or you are talking to someone without kids and they just don’t get it so why bother trying to tell them.”
There we were. My brother and I in two completely different lifestyles – myself as the mother of 4 children much older and in a teen predominant world and then my brother experiencing the first moments of knowing you would give your life for another and understanding the miracle of the process. For the first time, we were on the same plane. A special emotional connection created by Alice.
While I left there more convinced than ever that I am entirely finished procreating – I realized that I have embarked on a brand new journey. I am so thankful to be able to love someone else’s baby with such tenderness knowing that I am not solely responsible for sustaining their life, waking for midnight feedings, saving money in the college fund, smelling the vomit on my shoulder throughout the day and being told in later years by the teenager that I am the worst mother ever. I can just love her...
Welcome to the world, Alice. Everything is so much more grand now that you have arrived.
"Every new born baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on." ~Carl Sandburg