Monday, October 5, 2009
I love babies. As far back as I can remember I was fascinated by them. The best time of my childhood was when my family took in foster babies. It was a revolving door of little people, you never knew who would show up in the crib next. I could balance a chubby toddler on my hip with the best of them.
This may be why I was comfortable and content, not overwhelmed, when we welcomed our first baby home from the hospital. I graduated from high school and got a degree in teaching, like a good girl. But then finally, finally it was time for me to be a mom and I couldn’t wait.
That was almost eighteen years ago. Through three more pregnancies and newborn/infant spells in our household, I have (mostly) enjoyed being a mom to little people. Fortunately by the last pregnancy I knew it would be the last. I enjoyed it knowing I wouldn’t do this thing again. I treasured every kick and every extra trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Or at least I collected them in my memory, just in case I had any delusions of wanting to do it all again when baby number four hit the school age years.
It was a relief when no such pangs hit. Sam went off to preschool, then elementary school, and I felt very complete in our family of six. By the time he entered kindergarten our first one was headed into high school. Our family dynamic had changed drastically and babies just didn’t fit anymore.
Which is why something that confused me when I was young makes perfect sense now. Being the baby fan that I was, I could never understand how people could be so upset by the late in life baby. I heard the stories. Friends of my parents talking about Mr. and Mrs. So and So who found out they were accidentally pregnant, just as their oldest went to college. I saw the TV shows and Hollywood movies, where a family was turned upside down and a forty something mom was crouched in the bathroom, sobbing as she wondered how this new life will change everything.
I just didn’t get it.
How could a family ever be sad about a baby? Babies were special gifts. They were adorable and sweet and everyone melted as they passed the bundle around the room. How could you ever be upset that a new baby was on the way, especially in an established household with a mom, dad, and loving older siblings?
Oh, but now I get it. We have a new life worked out here. A life that involves older kids who take care of themselves a lot of the time. We are talking about middle school class trips and filling out financial aid applications for colleges. There is no room in this house for bouncy seats or high chairs.
Sorry potential offspring, there is no room at this inn.
So when I told a friend recently that I had exciting news, and she instantly answered, “you’re pregnant?!” I was totally thrown for a loop. No. I am not pregnant. I didn’t think it could even be on the realm of options when I said the words, “I have good news.” I am so past that idea that I forget it could actually happen. After my mini stroke passed, I assured my friend that my good news was very unrelated to babies.
But babies seem to be filling my life these days. Every day at work I get to see two baby bellies growing full and round. It is a fun way to actually see the passing of time but also a reminder of how long each of my pregnancies felt when I was the one carrying the basketball around under the maternity smock. For the rest of us the time is flying by. For my pregnant friends, delivery cannot come soon enough.
Then I come home from work and am surrounded by pregnant bellies once again. Our neighbor on one side is due this week, the neighbor on the other side is due next week. Babies, babies, babies.
But I have to be honest, it has been very refreshing.
Knowing these babies will not be my responsibility gives me the freedom to enjoy them with no reservations. I can be the one who offers free babysitting and free rocking sessions if one of these blessings turns out to be colicky. I don’t have to worry about finding money in the budget for diapers or teething gel. I get to enjoy with full abandon.
And I suddenly understand more completely my friend Sandra in Missouri. Back when Sam was a baby she spoiled him rotten. She had four children too, the youngest was eight. She was a baby person like me, and a bit sad that her nest was feeling empty. She took in my Sam as her own. She became his godmother but also his back up for maternal adoration. My kids thought it was funny, how much Sam and Sandra adored each other. I thought it was endearing.
And now as I begin my path to becoming a Sandra myself, I get it. How a mom who has been through it all, and is really, really sure she is done with babies of her own, can fully throw herself into other people’s babies, enjoying their pregnancies vicariously and soaking up their babies like they were her own. Being a mom comes from deep in my soul and I can’t wait to re-visit those wonderful feelings.
On someone else’s baby.