Am I the only female who doesn’t like holding babies?
No? Oh, good. Because for the longest time, I thought I was.
It’s been an insecurity of mine since before I became a mom. Any time a new cousin was born or a family friend had a baby, I always dreaded their first visit, because I knew the question was coming: Do you want to hold the baby?
Am I the Only Female Who Doesn’t Like Holding Babies?
I did not want to hold the baby. I never did. I never had some inner pull that made me want to coo and make silly faces to a tiny little human. I never wanted to rock him or her to sleep. I certainly never wanted to give a bottle. People usually accepted that I didn’t want to hold babies, but I always felt the small hint of confusion, as if I was only saying that because I was scared I would drop the baby. I wasn’t scared. I just felt no desire to do so.
I wondered what was wrong with me.
Cue the societal pressure on women to be maternal.
I never felt it growing up. I didn’t play with dolls. I never owned a Barbie. Whenever my sister and I played together, I was always a horse or dog. I never wanted to play house. In fact, one day in kindergarten, I was assigned to a play center that had dolls. I sobbed the whole time. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to pretend to take care of a baby. Something about it was off-putting to me. For years, I would think about the tear-filled day when I was five. Was I that averse to babies? Something must be wrong with me.
Growing up, I would look through the Sears catalog around Thanksgiving time and circle toys that I’d like to put on my list to Santa. Every year, I had to go hunting through the glossy pages, looking for toys that didn’t involve babies or dolls. Bring on the art sets! More horse figurines, please! But, please, oh please, do not make me play with a baby doll. And there were lots, and lots, and lots of ads with girls playing with dolls.
I always felt odd, annoyed at myself for being different from others. I was a girl, for heaven’s sake. Why didn’t I want to pretend to be a mommy and play with dolls?
As I got older, I started wondering if it meant I didn’t have the ability to care for others. By the time I was a teenager, I figured that I would never be a mom. I felt no biological pull to be around babies. Maybe it just wasn’t meant for me. When I watched female friends and family members seemingly lose their minds when any baby entered a room – Oh my Gooooooooood, he is so cuuuuuuuute! – I would force a smile but always would hang back, never getting too close. Couldn’t we get back to whatever we were doing before? Is it that big of a deal? I wanted to want to hold the baby so badly. I wanted to be like the other females around me. But that feeling never came.
When I went out on my first date with my husband, I loudly professed that I had no desire to be a mother. It wasn’t a priority to me and I declared myself not really a “baby person.” This is how I would describe myself for years to come. But deep down, I knew that the only reason I was saying that was because I felt I just wasn’t meant to be a mom. Because what kind of mom doesn’t like babies? I was missing something in my biological make up.
And then I got pregnant. It’s easy the first few weeks of pregnancy to pretend like your whole life isn’t going to flip upside down. It wasn’t until I was laying back at my doctor’s office, looking at a monitor and listening to a thumping heartbeat that all my insecurities flooded back to me. I don’t want to hold other people’s babies, so what if I don’t want to hold mine? It was a real fear of mine as I got closer and closer to my due date. When I was pregnant, I constantly made self-deprecating jokes to others about how I had never wanted to be a mom or be around babies. (I hope I like my baby! Haha!) I think I made some people uncomfortable, basically declaring myself an unfit mother before my baby was even born. Of course, it was my own discomfort that kept me chattering on about how I was incompetent. Women smiled, unsure how to react to my bluntness, but always told me that my maternal instincts would kick in.
But…what if those maternal instincts just didn’t kick in? What if I wasn’t meant to be a mother? What if I looked at my own baby the same way I looked at my sister’s dolls? Or worse – with just no feeling at all? Did I even have the capacity to be caring and loving to a tiny little human?
Turns out that even if you have never, ever wanted to hold a baby in your entire life, when the baby is your own, it does, indeed, feel totally different. I couldn’t stop holding my baby. I felt the deep urge to protect and love him. And boy, I was relieved. I did want to hold my own baby, after all. Had I changed as a person? I now felt that pull toward my own baby. I made silly faces, talked to him endlessly, and always wanted to be near him. Had I suddenly become a – gasp – baby person?!
No. No, I had not. I’m still not. I doubt I ever will be. I still don’t ask to hold babies, though I do smile at them from afar while someone else is holding him or her. When someone asks if I want to hold the baby, I usually politely still say, “Oh, no. That’s okay.” Because it is okay.
It doesn’t make me a bad person.
It doesn’t make me less feminine.
And it certainly doesn’t make me less of a mother.