March 16, 1996 in City

Babies Are As Sweet As Mother’s Milk

Donna Britt Washington Post
 

I’m nothing like my infant-hating friend, Andre. But I must admit it: Babies suck.

They suck hard. Anyone who believes that women instantly find breast-feeding as pleasurable as a foot massage should note my agonized facial expression in a photo snapped at the “blissful” moment that my eldest first latched on.

But in time, mom’s body adjusts and breastfeeding becomes a joy. That’s more than you can say about some folks and infants. To Andre - who pleaded with me to use his middle name because disliking babies is worse than flipping the bird at Mother Teresa - “babies suck” has a harsher meaning. Having just split up with a marriage-andinfant-craving woman, Andre sees each baby’s head-bobbing helplessness as a mask for its true identity - as the world’s second-most ruthless being.

The only creature more ruthless: a woman trying to get a baby, Andre says. But women in the throes of “baby fever” - characterized by a compulsive search for commitment-and-a-kid - are encouraged in their madness by society.

“For women, the reckless pursuit of motherhood is noble,” Andre says. “Men following their natural desire - for sex with as many women as possible - are the scum of the earth.”

Painfully, he pauses. “Why do women find babies so irresistible?”

In truth, Andre, 38, is a sensitive and monogamous guy who happens to be bitter over the loss of a love. He fears he’ll never find an infant-indifferent woman.

“Of course you will,” I insist. Silently, I affirm my private truth: You’ll change. Because babies are irresistible.

Especially the one who at this moment is screaming upstairs because the perfectly nice young woman who’s bouncing, burping and begging him to shush isn’t me.

The second he appeared last fall, my son Skye - whose name means “unlimited possibility” and “the only name that both my husband and I could accept without killing each other” - bewitched me.

I mean, I love my husband. I adore Skye’s brothers. But this baby thing is, well, a fever. Why else would someone who baptizes me in urine, makes deafening bird noises and represents decades of servitude enchant me so?

For five months, my daily schedule hasn’t varied: Feed Skye. Change-bathe-dress-hold him. Kiss his toes. Stroke each palm’s satin center. Suck in his fresh-baked fragrance. Start over.

I love it. Each morning, it’s like Oct. 14 again, like the first time I whispered, “Look at you,” and took in his silky beige skin and black patent eyes. Staring up at me from his crib, he grins. I soften away.

This is how they hook you in.

I am being hogtied for the long haul. Second by adorable second, Skye is constructing an escapeproof edifice around me, a straitjacket from which I can never slip out. It’s what keeps moms and dads there when their former babies sass them, fail classes, lose great-grandma’s brooch. It keeps parents from going ballistic when they get the bill for “Booty in the House,” the pay-per-view movie Junior secretly ordered from cable.

Which brings us back to Andre, and men’s “real” vocation. That many guys, and even some women, feel more connected to sex - and careers and even TV - than to their kids seems proved by those who desert, abuse or contribute zip to their upbringing.

But I saw my husband’s tears at Skye’s birth. I’ve watched him waltz his son to sleep at 3 a.m. too many nights to doubt that he, too, is bewitched.

One day, Skye will seem more boy than miracle. Watching him, we’ll still feel wonder and love, but they will have sunk too deep for everyday sharpness. Marveling less, we’ll scold and worry more.

And we’ll keep inviting Andre over. Weeks ago, he first visited the baby. Watching the two of them, I wondered who’d prevail - the gurgling infant or my wounded friend.

Skye went to work. After much slobbering, he emitted a series of burps and birdcalls before gamely attempting to nurse on Andre. Failing, the baby grinned anyway.

Andre resisted.

Then he stood Skye up on his lap. Andre almost smiled as my son stretched out his arms, made two dimpled fists and balanced himself like a wobbly surfer riding a blue-denim wave. Helplessly, Skye bobbed his head.

And for a few moments, he sucked Andre right in.

xxxx


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