A wonderful thing happened yesterday. While my 6-year-old daughter tapped her way through dance class, I got a much needed dose of “baby.” One of the other moms in the dance studio’s waiting area had her 4-month-old daughter on her lap. I sat a few chairs away from her, caught the baby’s eye and said “Hi there!” in that cutesy, cheesy way we mothers talk to babies.
This particular baby was adorably cute and social, too. When I spoke to her, she lit up and gave me a big, gummy smile to show her enthusiasm. It was exactly what I needed. I’ve been craving a baby like crazy lately – not to actually give birth to one, mind you. I’ve already done that three times and have plenty of humans to raise and dance classes to pay for.
But I’ve been needing a “baby fix” – which is time with a baby you are not responsible for feeding or sending to college. Sometimes I have to force myself not to approach strangers in a restaurant and ask if I can help out by holding their baby while they eat dinner. But I don’t ask, mostly because women tend to get alarmed by random strangers in restaurants asking to hold their babies.
But the fellow mom at the dance studio must have sensed my need because, after visiting for a few moments, she said, “You can hold her if you want to.”
“Really? Are you sure you don’t mind?” I asked, as I whipped out my bottle of hand sanitizer and washed up. Once I was germ-free, I picked up the baby and sat her on my lap so she was facing her mother. Not all babies are keen on being picked up by someone they don’t know, but most of them will tolerate it as long as their own mom is in clear view.
Baby Sarah Kate was wonderfully sweet and generous with smiles. Holding her for a little while helped me recapture some of the joy of holding my own babies when they were that age – when their fingers were tiny and their thighs were pudgy and their heads smelled like Heaven. As I bounced her gently on my lap, she squealed a happy baby sound, and that, of course, made me want to eat her – as in, “She’s so cute I could just eat her up.”
Dance class ended and I handed baby Sarah back to her mom, thanking her for allowing me a few moments of baby bliss minus the middle-of-the-night feedings.
Then today I ran across an article by Eoin O’Carroll on the Christian Science Monitor website that explains why some women have these occasional baby yearnings. Researchers in Germany studied the brain scans of two groups of women while they sniffed the pajamas of two-day-old infants. The brain images showed that those baby smells activated reward circuits inside the women’s brains. It’s the same reward circuit that makes us crave certain foods as well as things like cigarettes or other drugs. Both groups of women had the same brain reaction, but it was even stronger in the group of women who were already mothers. The mothers’ reward centers did a little happy dance and lit up like a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party.
So no wonder I’ve been hungry for some time with a baby. It’s been five years since I had a strong “hit” of that magical baby smell. We mothers have needs, you know. And even though my brain’s reward center thought Baby Sarah smelled delicious, you’ll be relieved to know that I did not eat her little toes.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.
Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography