I didn’t realize I hated babies until I had one myself.
This was terrible timing.
I HATE BABIES
By Dawn Claflin
I have a confession to make: I hate babies.
You probably have your own dark secret. You always let the gas tank run low, hoping your partner will fill it for you. You loathe shaking hands. You get a thrill from angering other drivers when you cut them off on the road. Whatever it is, we’ve all got our one weird thing.
Now that we understand each other, let me share with you the other half of my confession. You see, I didn’t realize I hated babies until I had one myself.
This was terrible timing.
Every book about babies (and I had read scores), every diaper advertisement, every vacantly reminiscent expression on the face of every mother when the topic came up—all this had conspired to convince me that liking babies was somehow inherent in our species. I even remember reading something along the lines of, “With their large eyes placed centrally on their faces, and their tiny open mouths, babies are evolutionarily designed to compel the adults of their species to care for them.”
Well, that’s not what happened to me.
Part of the problem, of course, is that in my modern world of single-family homes and suburbs, I hadn’t really been exposed to many babies, and certainly not for very long. If I had taken the time to pick apart my assumptions (and I hadn’t), I would have seen that I sort of expected my new baby to be much like a large, hairless cat: feed her, give her a clean place to go to the bathroom, hold her on your lap while you watch TV, and then she’ll sleep the rest of the day by herself on some soft surface while you do your important other things.
Every once in a while I meet someone who has a baby like this. We do not become friends.
Both my babies were what we like to call “easy” babies. This is much like referring to “easy cancer.”
The really crazy thing, the news that will make you want to lock me up in the nut-house, is that both my babies were what we like to call “easy” babies. This is much like referring to “easy cancer.” Yes, it’s true, I have a friend who (after a double-mastectomy) is cancer free (with new boobs made from her own thigh fat! Who knew they even did that?). Are you going to point out to her that she is lucky to have had such an “easy” cancer? You get my point.
So there I was, a new mom with an easy baby, which we usually define as: a baby who only cries when she needs something, like a new diaper, or a snack, or a nap.
OK, so maybe I am missing something here, but…babies can pretty much do a grand total of ZERO things for themselves, correct? So, they basically always have a reason to cry. Am I right?
Thank goodness I didn’t have a high-needs baby, a colicky baby, because I really can’t imagine what that would have meant for my family.
There is one other thing about my “easy” baby (which, for those of you who like to skip to the end of the book, is now a lovely, well-adjusted 11-year-old with a happy, outgoing younger brother, both of whom are deeply loved by their mother, now that they can go to the bathroom, eat, and fall asleep without assistance). This infant did not interact with the world like a normal baby.
You know what I mean. When an adult goes up to a baby and makes ridiculous noises that sound like something a Muppet might say, with impossibly wide open eyes and mouth—stay with me here because this is very important—this is supposed to make the baby very happy.
I have encountered many more babies now, and they all follow this pattern. Every once in a while one will cry, or turn into his father’s shoulder, it’s true, but for the most part, babies smile, or kick their legs and fling their arms wide, or clap, or whatever they are capable of doing at their particular stage, all to say to the grownup, “Yes! Yes! This is way more exciting than watching Dad work on the computer! Do it again!”
My daughter, however, didn’t react that way. Instead, when I would coo something like, “Does baby Aeddan want to go for a walk? Does she? Does she? Of course she does,” my tiny baby daughter would look at me like I was a troubling scientific study: eyebrows tightly drawn, mouth pinched, eyes dark and almost angry. In almost all of her baby pictures, she is making this face.
This was very unsupportive of her.
Now that I have known her for a while, and seen that expression many, many times, I realize that she was, in fact, trying to figure out the world. This is not a kid who greets new experiences with unabashed joy – rather, her brain quickly works to dissect, to learn. She saves the joy for later, when she fully understands the situation.
Parenting a personality like this would be rough on most new parents, but it was especially tough on me, as a person who was just realizing how much I didn’t like babies. Honestly, they are like giant parasites – they take every resource available (even ones they don’t use themselves, like their parents’ sleep and sex life), and give nothing in return. People often ask me, “Oh, don’t you just miss those baby years?” and I just laugh. No way could I go back there.
My second baby was textbook – he cried only when he needed something (please refer to the earlier part of this essay), he gurgled happily when he was happy, he loved to see adults making fools of themselves for his entertainment.
The only thing that made this cute, adorable, joyful stage bearable for me was knowing, from experience, how short-lived this phase would be.
Dawn Claflin lives in the Seattle area, where, in the winter, it’s very unfashionable to let your children play outside with no coats on, but she does it anyway. You can find her work on parenting, faith, teaching, and social issues at Mamapedia, Mothers Always Write, The Higgs Weldon, and more, and online on Facebook and http://dawnclaflin.wordpress.com.