Before I had kids, I had a phobia of babies. I grew up as the youngest in the family and my cousins were either only slightly younger, or much older than me. I didn’t grow up with memories of holding babies and I had absolutely never changed a nappy. Ever.
Eventually, you reach an age in your life where people around you start having babies. It was terrifying. I avoided holding babies at all costs! I detested when people asked if I ‘wanted a hold’. Seriously, I didn’t. But I said yes, held baby awkwardly, counted to 20 and said “OK who’s next?” It was quite obvious I was uncomfortable, and sometimes it seemed expected that I shouldn’t be. Men seem to be allowed to be awkward around babies. But women? Isn’t it built in?
Well it wasn’t for me. I know it’s not for some of my friends. Sometimes, I would point questions my husband’s way like “What if I really suck at being a mum?” “What if I’m just not the maternal type? I mean have you seen me around babies!?” and he would look at me wordlessly with a wary look in his eye that said, “you have to be kidding, because I wanted a baby yesterday.” He was that childless male that was brilliant around babies. Newborns fit perfectly in the entire length of one arm and he is as comfortable as they are in that nook.
I kind of wanted kids though…you know, not babies…but kids. Obviously I liked kids. I was a primary school teacher, so I thought I could handle kids. I just have to get through the baby bit. One, two, skip a few and we had Tom.
When Tom was born I still remember what the midwife said, “Look at your baby, look! He’s right there!” because he was on my chest and I couldn’t look at him. I was in a daze with the ultra fast, painful, birth of a 9 pound 4. What on Earth, there is a baby on my chest and it’s mine? Since when?
The maternal stuff didn’t kick in overnight. And we had colic, and we had breastfeeding issues and we had no sleep. So it wasn’t easy. There is ‘the pull’ though. It’s your hormones, it’s your heart, it’s your mental state. It’s all those things that mean you thought you loved plenty but then you met your own. Suddenly, you realised there was a new kind of love you had never experienced. And it was intense and perfect and it broke your heart and put it back together time and time again.
And the second time around? The fear had been eliminated, despite the difficulties of last time, and the surprisingly premature birth of Jeremy the next time. The second time around is not a ‘been there, done that’ but gives you the time to be in the moment in an entirely different way. You know now. They grow up so quickly, don’t worry, kiss, cuddle, pick them up, sleep with them, do whatever you want because in a flash it will be gone.
And when it is gone – and you are faced with an almost walking toddler, that person who was petrified of holding a newborn for more than 20 seconds will hear the words “Oh my God. She is PERFECT! Can I have a cuddle?” And those words will be coming from your mouth.
It’s OK to be scared of babies before you have babies. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise. If you choose to have kids then you can be confident that even for a baby phobe like me, maternal emotions, instinct and pride kicked in and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Got kids? Did you have a bit of baby phobia?
Don’t have kids? Are you comfortable holding babies or a little terrified like I was?