In spite of what our deepest wishes celebrity tabloids tell us, a baby is not, in fact, an accessory. But that doesn’t mean this child’s unexpected arrival won’t a) drastically alter your wardrobe and b) cause an existential crisis on par with what happened that time you took that quiz that instructed you to “find your season.” To wit: the stark realization that you are not, never were, and are never gonna be a baby person. Only now you’re going to have a baby.
A baby person, of course, is someone who appears so suited to the carrying and care of children, so naturally maternal, so effortlessly comforting — see: my mother-in-law — that when your brain tries to conjure them without children — nope, it can’t do it. They live and breathe children, look natural dancing gaily around in flower-filled fields, and are forever threatening to morph into Mary Poppins. What’s more, they actually like babies, what with their near constant cries, blobby necks, and built-to-be-agitating pitch, not to mention their batshit preference to be with you every single second of their budding lives. I know, right? Insane.
Then there are the rest of us: non-baby people who don’t even know what to say to the little bugger, who couldn’t hold a baby’s head upright if our lives depended on it. And like a person without a hat head being given a hat, or a non-watch-arm-haver being asked to put on a watch, a non-baby person with a baby is an awkward sight to behold. It just doesn’t go together.
It’s not your fault, per se. We can’t all be baby people. Some of us have actually managed to carve out lives where we were never around children. Some of us can plainly see with our own child-free eyes that babies are, in fact, weird, terrifying, disease-carrying, nonsensical creatures who follow no rhyme or reason. Some of us took one look at The Exorcist and realized immediately what it really was: a metaphor for toddlerhood.
Maybe it’s just that babies don’t do anything for you, or you don’t know how to act around them, or their lack of conversation skills leaves you in a perpetual state of awkward enthusiasm, and all you can think about is exactly how many seconds can pass before you can hand this thing back to its mother without being accused of lacking a soul?
That was me. If I could not muster the appropriate enthusiasm for other people’s children, how would I ever do it for my own? What’s more, my very fast-paced, bar-loving, outgoing existence and life in the blogosphere depended entirely on sarcasm and detachment, the opposite of baby person-ness. I wouldn’t have known an uninhibited compassionate impulse or a goofy game of peekaboo if it toddled right up to me and offered a hug. Hugs — gross.
But I would need more than just compassionate impulses to navigate the newborn obstacle course. There are also all those games you play with babies, a whole world out there in need of narrating in a fun, upbeat voice, and an untold number of life-affirming facial expressions. I’d need to soothe this new person in my life. And that was just the stuff I could remember seeing moms do in diaper commercials.
Furthermore, what about other easy-for-a-baby-person activities I might also suck at, like making appropriately silly faces? I’d also have to say “good job” a lot, and say it convincingly when the “job” was something like rolling from tummy to back.
I was sure I couldn’t hack it. For instance, it once took me two whole weeks to love a kitten I’d adopted, whereas my noncommittal, totally willing-to-mooch ex-boyfriend loved it at first sight. If a scruffy bum could muster instant love for something he wasn’t even related to, how long would it take me to love my own child?
I was in big trouble. But I also wasn’t alone. Google “not a baby person” and you’ll see that plenty of women are just as mortified as you are, wondering if their inability to go ga-ga over other people’s pods means they’ll come up wanting with their own.
One woman confessed on a forum that she just didn’t “get” babies. Another said she couldn’t have been bothered with them. But story after story of baby-love blind spots were followed up with the only one thing that can assure you: that when their baby wheeled into their lives, all the right stuff kicked in. Whew. (Babies are on wheels?)
If baby things and baby feelings — comforting a tiny living thing or conjuring marathon-levels of enthusiasm when you are not the mad enthusiasm type (and have no access to Lance Armstrong-levels of doping drugs) — sound utterly terrifying to you, too, rest assured your baby grades on a very generous curve. As long as you are loving, and as long as you are there.
Believe me, the nurturing will come. The enthusiasm will come. Eventually, you will startle at the stranger you hear using what sounds like a naturally gushing tone when cooing at your baby, even when reading the words of some of the more offensively saccharine kids’ books out there, and realize that the stranger is you. And you won’t even totally hate this new person, no matter how uncool she looks now.
And if the naturally up-with-people vibe never hits at your corner of the universe, something more important is happening anyway. Unless you took some really weird drugs, your baby won’t be a baby forever. That’s right, just when you get this whole infant thing hammered out, you’ll wake up one day and realize that your baby’s blobby neck is a normal neck, her blobby legs are standing, wobbly legs. And what you may discover is that for every way that you were not a baby person, you are in fact, a toddler person. You might even be really, really good at it.