cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

how do we love our infants? - May 18, 2005

We all talk of falling in love with our babies, and it's true, for each and every one of us. We cover them in kisses, we hug their tiny bodies with a desperate jealousness, we get high on their milky smell.

But not every mama is an "infant person." I told my husband once that I wasn't really an involved mama to Everett when he was an infant, because I much prefer the age when he can start interacting in a meaningful way, especially after my babes can talk. He said, "but you were a great mom when Everett was a baby!"

But that's not what I meant. I'm sure I'm an excellent - or, well, a passable - mom to Truman, and to Everett when he was an under-15-pounder. But I don't feel that irresistible pull to newborns that so many people feel.

Don't get me wrong, I love to hold my baby, I furiously protect every moment of time when I get to cuddle uninterrupted with Truman. But when I'm around other people's infants? I could really take 'em or leave 'em. I don't drool over the chance to hold a precious floppy tiny one. In fact, when I do, I can't wait to hand him back to his mama.

I'm vastly better with older children. I can be walking down a street and a one-year-old will zoom in on me, follow me with her eyes as we exchange giggling googly eyes. I'm thoroughly delighted by the smiles and baby talk of the sturdier set. I've been known to play chase for hours with a three-year-old I barely know. I love the silliness, the energy, the exuberant through-the-roof happiness of little children.

And yet I feel an immeasurable guilt that I don't treasure the gift of being mama to a newborn enough. With Truman, I'm happy to hand him off to someone more capable of gurgling to a delicate little thing who can't give anything back but heavy breathing and cries. I've been known to flat-out ignore him when he blinks wild-eyed at me. And I feel awful for not caring enough.

Is there room enough in the world for mamas who love infants and mamas who'd rather romp with the toddlers? Or, should I really be asking, is there room enough in the hearts of infant-lovers to accept us not-so-jazzed mamas with open arms?