Friday, August 23, 2013

On Being A Baby Person

I find my feelings about babies has undergone a massive shift since having one.

I'm not inherently a baby person. I've never not liked babies. I'm not a psycho. As a human being, I've always appreciated a baby, though I've never ached to hold them or anything. I just enjoyed seeing a cute wee person in little clothes making coos. I'd hold them briefly and give them back when they fussed.

Now? I melt. A baby smiles at me and instead of feeling pleased, I fall in love a little. A baby cries and instead of hearing the noise, I think about the baby's feelings. I hear about bad things happening to babies and instead of feeling upset or indignant, I get a chill down my spine and feel like crying.

And I think it relates entirely to the fact that I consider every baby could be my baby. A baby laughs? Jack laughs! Has a cute outfit? Jack could wear that! Gets lost or abused? Oh God, that could happen to Jack!

Some people say loving a baby is what true love is. Now, I don't think that's so. It's a different kind of love than what you have for a romantic partner or your parents. Actually, and this is going to sound absurd in many ways, but it's sort of like how you love your pet.

Hear me out.

Unconditional love has no place in most relationships. There needs to be something that a person could do to lose the claim they have on your love. No one deserves to be loved by their spouse if they're cheating on and abusing them, for example. It's actually a sad state of affairs to go on loving someone who kicks your dog or calls you names.

But you love your child unconditionally. And, really, you love your pet unconditionally too, that is, if you actually love your pet and are not just keeping one for the hell of it. Because some people do that, and frankly also may have kids for the same reason.

You care for your child and it takes a long time before you get anything back in recognition. You provide for needs, spend your money and your time, worry about them when they're not around and generally do your best to give them a good life. And you do these things for your pet, too.

When people say their dog is like their child, it's a fair enough simile. No, the dog isn't a child, but in many ways it's like one. The caregiving relationship and unconditional love exists and is cherished.

What elevates loving the baby is that you expect the baby to outlive you, the baby will grow into a person who can share a love with you person to person, with words. Imagine if your beloved pet could say, "I love you"? You'd probably die of happiness.

So, I'd say the love comes from the same place, the nurturing, tug-on-the-heartstrings place where it cannot be shaken or broken, and you are fully invested in caregiving. Only it's more, it's lifelong, more involved and more personal. The intensity is greater, but the emotional place it starts from, at least for animal lovers, is the same.

So, for anyone who's ever loved an animal and becomes outraged at animal atrocities, you're really thinking, "That could have been Muffin!" And you get upset, more so than you'd be if dear Muffin never entered into your life. It's a point of reference for pain and love.

When you have a baby, it's just so. Your love for your baby puts you emotionally in other people's shoes, and you experience their joys, fears and sorrows about their babies because you know. And you can't go back to unknowing. You can't go back to where it's only hypothetical for you, where you imagine what it would be like, and then finish imagining and get on with life, because your baby is in your life and you live with that love and all it brings every day all day.

You can't imagine what something is like when it's an all-day, every-day thing. Because as soon as you're done imagining it, you're no longer properly evaluating it's effect on you because in real life there is no stopping, no breaks. Once it's happened, it can't unhappen and your heart, your mind and your life beat to different drums.

Same with pregnancy. You can't fathom constant nausea until you've experienced it because you can only imagine it for so long before you have to do other things, whereas if it's happening to you, it's unending and there is no stepping outside for a break. You live in the experience until it's done.

These are the things people try to explain and never are able to really get across. I think probably because it sounds smug, usually. "Wait till you have kids, then you'll know!" And you hear this and think, "Okay, asshole."

But remember losing your virginity. You can't go back to ignorance. It's not about hymens or anything like that, it's about knowledge and life experience. You can't unknow what you know. And that knowledge changes you. Same as with anything, like falling in love for the first time or losing a parent or nearly dying or being assaulted or saving someone's life. Certain things cause you to grow in certain directions and there's no going back. Becoming a mother is one of those things.

And unexpectedly, still without being a baby person, I'm totally now a baby person. My heart works differently.

Loving a baby means you love when he's ready for bed,
but when he's sleeping you look at pictures of him and miss him.


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