Monday, March 1, 2010

That one time I got passed a baby at a party

Saturday night J and I headed over to a housewarming party that one of his friends from law school was having. She and her husband had just bought a house and just had a know, the kind of grown-up things I haven't begun to conceive of because part of me doesn't want to settle for a starter home without an infinity pool and/or a private wine cellar. (I grew up watching Dynasty; not ready to give up those dreams just yet.)

So about 12 of us significant others and our law school lovers were standing in the kitchen chattering on about Roe v. Wade and cracking Supreme Court jokes over chips and salsa when our host joined us, con her baby. Naturally the thing began getting passed around like a magic cigarette at a college party, leaving everyone speaking incoherent gibberish in its wake. You bet I jumped on this band wagon.

"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeee," I said in decibels I didn't know I was capable of hitting. He didn't reply. Could I blame him? He was only 4 months old. But that didn't stop him from watching me from his perch across the room, clutching at and slobbering all over his carrier's mother's shirt. Silent. Staring. I smiled, mentally logging a reminder that I had to "get me one of those" in the next few years. It would fit perfectly in the passenger seat of that convertible Miata I've had my eye on.

So a short while later I was minding my own business, opining about the The Big Lebowski to a fellow law school wife over red wine when that cute little dumpling of a 4-month-old got passed to me.

"Do you want to hold him?" the person near me asked as they reached out to hand him over.

What was I supposed to say, "No, thanks. I don't really do that," and smile as I politely declined and my fellow party-goers tried it out? That would make me that one person -- and there's ALWAYS that one person -- who refuses to try bungee jumping after everyone's had their turn. Well I don't want to be "that guy". The fact was I did want to try and hold it, especially after J embarrassed me only minutes prior, telling everyone that sometimes I peruse the baby aisles at Target, fawning over those little Winnie the Pooh hats with the ears sticking out. Okay, so what if I do? Look, I'm a sentimental sap when it comes to sewn-on ears; if those Poohbear hats fit me I'd own three and wear them around the house cooking dinner and writing and watching CSPAN. Just sayin'.

Anyway, being one to try anything (fried alligator in '06, anyone?) I said sure and welcomed the thing into my embrace. He'd been eying me all night after all, those big round eyes in that big round head. While I held him he garbled something --- probably about how fabulous I smelled or how amazing my new outfit was -- as he attempted to stick his entire fist in his mouth. Which I found impressive. But after failing multiple times he gave up and placed the slobbery fist on my shoulder. Ah a gesture of solidarity. I didn't care, it was cute. I mean, he was bald for Christ's sake. You can only get away with baldness being adorable when you still weigh about as much as a sack of flour and can elicit praise for crapping your pants.

I stood there in my stilettos in the kitchen, cradling him. Ok so he kind of smelled like baby powder -- better than my generic body wash -- so we had something in common. But I was uncomfortable. It made me nervous holding him. And most of all I couldn't shake the feeling that it was all a little....


So what happened next? I started sweating. Profusely. Like someone had handed me a grenade and I didn't know how long I had till it would detonate and we would all die. I could feel beads of perspiration beneath my new bangs as I chuckled along at everyone making faces at the thing and talking to him as if he was going to answer back. It was stupid, really, how nervous I felt. What's the worst that could've happened? It would puke all over my new dress? People, I've accidentally stepped in dog poop before. Barefoot. I can handle a little baby throw-up.

My face was hot and flushed. It felt like someone had turned the heater up full-blast. Pinpricks of sweat appeared on my philtrum; I wondered if I was becoming a casualty to the pit-stain. I casually rubbed my scorched face across my shoulder, anything to hid the evidence of my clammy awkwardness. But nothing helped.

By now the baby had begun to drool. Long strings of silvery spit tethered my dress to his mouth like a series of slimy spider webs. His mother, who stood across the room, held his burp slash drool rag in her hands. In her two minutes of free time sans baby she'd forgotten to hand me the thing and was talking to someone near her about Scalia.

The baby looked up at me like he was pleased with himself. As though, like a cat, he could smell my fear and reveled in its luxuriousness like the chest hair of a Tickle Me Elmo doll. To show me who was boss he then grabbed a fistful of my hair and began yanking at it, looking around wide-eyed and alert, stolid yet satisfied when people saw his little hair-pulling trick and lavished even more attention on him. J stood next to me, oblivious to how nervous I'd become, how much I'd begun to sweat. How much hair I was on the verge of losing.

"Hey Love, you wanna hold him? Great, here you go!" I said, before J could answer.

"Ok, sure," he replied, eager at the chance. And of course, after J held him against his chest, nothing looked more natural than my husband with a baby. He didn't get flushed; didn't sweat. Just stood there, completely calm, rocking the drooling baby and smiling.

What gives? Wasn't I the one that was supposed to be all even-keel about this? Wasn't J supposed to look like the awkward one? Why, like Miranda Hobbes, am I so freakishly uncomfortably in situations that involve tiny people (dwarves not included)? I'll admit, part of me felt like I might end up "breaking" the baby, as weird as that sounds. But their bones are so small, and their heads just loll about with necks that can't possibly support all two pounds of cranium. Maybe I'm just oblivious when it comes to their durability?...


Patience said...

Right there with you. I hate when people pass their baby off to me. I think what makes it worse is that everyone is staring at you with the baby. I just say, thanks, he/she is still really tiny.

Sunflowers said...

The last time I got handed a baby, I think I had a similar experience! LOL. Also... those things are HEAVY. My arms start to ache. :P

Stephanie said...

I hear you. It's awkward when you don't know what to do with them or how to "be". I get like this too, but when my brother & his wife had kids, all that went away and I cannot get enough of them. But a strangers kid at a party, awkward indeed.

Mandy said...

Babies are awkward. They look like aliens. Even when I had my own, I was terrified. She actually did fall off a table once during my watch. So yeah, they are durable. :)

Some people just aren't the baby loving type. It's okay. No big deal. I don't even like other people's babies. I didn't much like my own until she turned one and then even at 18 months, it got so much easier.

Here's where I think you've got it in you to be a mother though -- think of the shopping adventures you'll go on, boy or girl. Think of all the great reading with the silly voices you'll get to do with your little one. Think of a mini Don Draper or Holly Golightly that you can dress, shape and mold. When you think about it like, it's kind of cool. You just get through the first year of crap, crying and burping and it really does get uphill. I'm living proof, I swear. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's just a matter of experience and not overthinking it. I have younger siblings and spent a lot of time babysitting in my teens. If you spend more time around babies, you'll get more comfortable with it. If you want to.

paranoidasteroid said...

In all of the pictures of me holding my newborn niece, I look sort of terrified and tense. I had a horrible fear of dropping her, and they really do get heavy quickly, so you start wondering how much longer you'll be able to hold them vs. how much longer you have to hold them so people don't think you hate babies or something.

"Julie" said...

hahah i once had a baby yak on me and i swear to you i didn't hold a baby for a LONG TIME after that! I also randomly start schvitzing when strangers at parties ask me to hold their babies! ahhh
oh and fried gator? yum!

The Depressed Yogi said...

LOL I totally thought of Miranda!!! Mostly of that episode where she and Carrie go to that dance class, and she can't pop her hip and is like, "See?? I'm a guy! I can't pop my hip!"

xoxo love ya!

Abigail said...

See, now, I totally LOVED that Sex in the City didn't show Miranda have absolute maternal instincts. She was worried about him eating, but she wasn't immediately all gooey. I think it's good to remind everyone that not all women are the perfect moms as soon as the baby pops out.

One of the friends I like most -- she's fabulous but also down to earth -- is great with her boy and decided to stay home. When she told me this, I told her I admired her because I knew it could be hard. She said, cheerfully, "I haven't killed him yet!"

Don't get me wrong, she was crazy in love with him. And great with him. But she also wasn't going to pretend that every second with a child (even your own) is heavenly.

Maternal instincts do exist overall, I suppose, but I think this society just loves to make us feel insecure if ours aren't on at 110% -- all the time.

Like others, I would definitely remember that babies are heavy. So while you were in a bit of a panic, some of the sweat was probably a) babies exude a LOT of heat and b)holding a four month old is more work than it sounds like. So if you were already in high heels -- so more muscles engaged for balance -- I'd be surprised if a baby didn't tax you a bit.

Unknown said...

Two of my co-workers and I used to run and hide whenever someone would bring their baby in to parade around! :) I just think it's tacky to expect people to hold your baby. And obviously, you're not alone in it making you uncomfortable! I'm at an age now where I reallly want a child--but when I think of my child, I picture a toddler who talks.

Anonymous said...

i dont hold babies until they are old enough to stand if i drop them. its my policy. lol. my mom thinks im nuts.

Kate said...

I just started reading your blog (from a link from something I forget...) but I got to this post and it made me laugh out loud.. who says we are supposed to want to hold babies!?

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