Yesterday, we visited some friends who had their first baby four weeks ago. They’re good people. But really they’re more acquaintances or erstwhile-friends than friends ever since they moved about ten miles away. When they lived closer, we did something with them maybe every couple of months or so. They just weren’t all that interested in our company.
That’s fine. Not everyone has to like spending time with us. (I certainly can’t expect many people to enjoy the company of a person as abrasive as I am.) Still, it was nice to catch up with them.
And the baby was adorable. At our church, some people volunteered to bring meals to them a couple times a week. Typically, the assignments for such a service are made within the Church’s women’s organization, so my wife doesn’t sign us up. (I do all the cooking and she doesn’t feel it appropriate to volunteer me to cook for anyone else.) But this time, she signed us up since they’ve been friends of ours and we care about them a great deal. Also, she just had to get her hands on that baby.
And she did. Yesterday, we swung by their apartment with dinner in hand. My wife washed her hands and took hold of the young baby.
She cooed at the baby. (“Aren’t you the cutest little thing? Yes, you are.” “Look at those adorable little feetsies.”) The baby had just been fed. So he was content, silent and calm while she slowly rocked him.
I asked them how they’re doing and caught up with them about all the baby- and non-baby-related goings on in their lives. But mostly, out of the corner of my eye, I was watching my wife.
She looks good with a baby in her arms. She has a different kind of smile on her face when she’s holding an infant than she has when she’s laughing at a joke or opening a gift. I hesitate to compare it to those smiles in a hierarchical way, but I do not hesitate to say that it’s different. Maybe not as different as her talking-to-a-baby voice is from her talking-to-me voice, but different nonetheless.
If she had become pregnant reasonably soon after we started trying to get her pregnant, we could have a baby that same age or slightly older even. If our reproductive organs could have followed our plan, my wife could have been holding her own baby at that exact moment in time. She could have even been sick of holding a baby instead of amazed by the novelty.
Seeing the way that she looks at other people’s babies is almost too much to bear sometimes. I can see the pain behind that smile. When she holds a baby, I can feel her longing. And I can feel the bitter sting of reality when she hands the infant back to its mother.
I’m not immune from it either. I don’t know if I have a special smile or a special look for babies. I suspect that I probably do not. But I feel my wife’s pain and I feel my own pain. When I see a baby, I wonder if we’ll ever have one of our own. When will that be? Will it be of our own conception? Will it be adopted? Will it be healthy? Will we love it? Will it ever love us? Silly question. Will it ever love me? Better question.
There were hardly ever babies anywhere we went when we weren’t trying to make one. They were just a part of the scenery. Now they’re everywhere. Our friends are having them, so escaping the reminders of what we don’t have is difficult. Impossible even. If we turn on the TV, there will be babies on the shows we watch or at the game. We can try to go to a store, but you can bet all the burp cloths in the world that there will be babies there. And my wife and I will point them out to each other. (“Aaw. Did you see that adorable little baby with the bow on her head/ poofy hair/ huge eyes/ funny look on his face?” “Of course I did.”) We do this because it’s hard to ignore a baby in front of your eyes when babies are on the front of your mind. And we’re kind of masochists, I guess. Why would anyone point out something guaranteed to remind you and your partner of your pain?
I do it because I love looking at my wife looking at babies. Maybe she’ll be looking at one on an ultrasound screen soon enough and I won’t have to write on this blog anymore.