Is the word scared a bit dramatic? Maybe. But it’s not wrong. I’ve always had an awkward relationship with children. I was never a natural babysitter and despite years of ballet training, I was never drawn to teaching 3-year-olds how to plie. I vividly remember my last babysitting gig. I was 12 years old and the neighbors across the street had a 4 month old baby girl they wanted me to look after for the evening. My parents would be right across the street if I needed anything and the baby would already be asleep by the time I arrived, so all I really had to do was stay quiet and keep the baby alive. I could do that. Fast forward two hours; the baby has been crying non-stop. I couldn’t get ahold of my parents, so my aunt came over to help soothe this screaming child. Then, just as I thought it was all over, their creepy cat knocked down the damn Christmas tree. Worst. Night. Ever. I vaguely remember taking the neighbors’ money and running across the street, subconsciously vowing to never hold a baby again. And you know what? I kept that promise for almost ten years.
My Dad’s best friend has two daughters who, over the years, have become my sisters. They are both older than me, one by four years and the other by seven months. When the eldest unexpectedly got pregnant at 22, my world was just rocked. She was the first person in my (almost) adult life to be excited about bringing a life into the world. I couldn’t understand it. After her sweet baby boy was born, I hugged her and helped her in anyway I could, but I couldn’t bring myself to hold him. I was totally hung up about his vulnerable little body and his soft head. I was not going to be the one who hurt this child. Nope. I would always joke (but secretly be totally serious) that I would touch him when he was solid; when his body was a bit more robust and less fragile. When his little sister was born a couple of years later, it was the same situation. She was beautiful and I was there for her and her Mom in any way they needed, but I kept my distance.
As I continued trudging through my 20s, more and more of the women in my life became mothers but they were never close enough friends to truly affect me. It wasn’t until more than four years after my little nephew was born that I got coaxed into holding a friend’s baby. The picture still makes me laugh. I’m a little sweaty, my cradle position is the least comfortable thing you’ve ever seen and my smile is a bit awkward (to say the least).
Luckily, the closer I get to 30, the stronger my maternal instincts seem to get. I hold babies every now and then, and am even pretty obsessed with how beautiful and amazing my friends’ children are. Watching them grow into little people is pretty magical and I’m really grateful to be part of it. Of course, I’m still a bit awkward, but people just chalk that up to not being a mother yet so I’m able to fly under the radar.
At this point in my life, my baby related fears have shifted more to their mothers than about the babies themselves. Becoming a parent changes a person. For anyone who watched what Miranda went through during her new-Mom days on Sex and The City, that’s a real thing. It’s damn hard and I respect that. What also happens, however, is that girlfriends with kids (Mom friends, if you will) seem to lose patience for the things going on in their childless friends’ lives. There never seems to be any time to just hang out, shop all day, or spend the night drinking wine. We, the childless, begin to be pencilled in during naps and activities, and quickly get used to cancellations based on how the baby slept the night before. Our Mom friends begin to find other Mom friends who are going through the same things, and poof, we see each other even less (and no, I don’t give a shit about that hilarious thing your new Mom friend Rebecca said).
But it’s not the end of the world. A fear only has as much power as you let it so I work really hard to not let it get to me. Who knows, maybe I’ll even grow out of it like my soft-headed, fragile necked baby phobia days. But Moms, please remember to find room in your hectic lives for your childless friends who have loved you and had your back for years. And childless friends, give your Mom friends a bit of a break and remember that your friend is still living somewhere within this new Mom, she just needs your love and patience while she navigates this period in her life. You’ve (both) got this.