by Kari Pike
Call it a yearning, a longing, a desire. It’s a feeling difficult to describe. My mother-in-law used to say her arms ached. Many hearts are set on it, eager for it, even hunger after it. Actually, I’ve frequently heard it referred to as being “baby hungry.” Some women never experience it, but many women, including myself, find they need a “baby fix” on a regular basis.
When my sixth child was just six weeks old, my husband and I were invited to a Friday night BBQ with friends. As one couple walked into the house, the husband loudly announced that his wife was not allowed to come within ten feet of our baby because he knew what would happen. She worked her way over next to me and quietly asked if she could hold our baby. Then she sneaked up behind her husband and said,
“Honey, look. Take a deep breath. Doesn’t he smell good! Don’t you just want one! Oh, Honey! Smell!” She held our baby up to her husband’s face and then embraced him with the baby snuggled between them. At first, her husband protested loudly. But his eyes betrayed him. He melted like Jello in July.
I thought I had outgrown the baby hungry stage. After all, I have nine living children, and 10 grandchildren with two more on the way. I experienced twenty years of being pregnant and/or nursing with just one or two breaks in the middle. I was tired, and it has been nice to have children who are self sufficient and less needy. But who’s kidding who? (or is that whom?)
Last week, my brother and sister-in-law entrusted us with the care of their six children, ages 13 months to 13 years old. While it took a lot of work, I reveled in caring for a baby again. Never mind that he has an ear piercing, super-sonic, “just shoot me now,” scream. I felt bad at one point for wanting to get a spray bottle and squirt him in the face every time he screamed. Then his seven-year-old sister told me it wouldn’t work anyway because their mommy already tried it. I didn’t even mind staying up all night with him while he was throwing up and running a fever. As I held his hot little body against my chest and felt his heart beat against mine, I was taken back to all the years I held my own babies. I drank in his baby scent and realized how much I missed being needed.
This was an interesting awareness for me. Can you tell I just had another fledgling leave the nest? I am struggling with my identity and “what I want to be when I grow up.” My role as a mother is transforming. I am crossing a bridge between generations as I spend less time on my children’s needs and more time caring for my parents. I also have more time to serve my neighbors. My “baby fix” put things into perspective. Whether tending aging parents, comforting ailing friends, or nurturing grandbabies, I am what I want to be. I am a mother.