To My Friends Who Don't Like Babies: I Was Once You
It wasn’t so long ago that I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and rolled my eyes at friends who posted nothing but pictures of their babies. After all, I prided myself on a personal feed filled with images of travel, food, cultural events and selfies with my wife against some cool backdrop. I posted informative long-read articles and sociopolitical insights, and I respected others who did the same.
I didn’t understand those friends who I knew were intelligent — and had once been civically engaged — and yet now only posted pictures of their mildly cute infants covered in smashed squash purée. "How had they had become so drab and one-dimensional?" I would wonder. What happened to the fiery, politically charged, outward-facing human who was more concerned about the world than about their little, insular life?
I also didn’t understand the many “likes” and comments these photos received — the “OMG, he’s so beautiful!” and the “Your baby is so perfect.” I never quite got why people assumed that just because someone was small, they were automatically worthy of praise.
And then I had a baby.
Of course, there are a million things in life that are worth doing — things that are more fulfilling to many than having a baby. And of course, not having having a child is the right decision for so many people. It’s just that for me, and I imagine for some others, I was shocked to discover that having a baby far surpassed anything I’d ever done before — and it takes effort to refrain from shouting this from the rooftops.
I’ve been proud to share the articles I’ve written with family and friends. I’ve loved sharing images from my many travels and watching as friends ogled and commented. I was filled with pride when I shared news of jobs I landed, adventures I embarked on, things I learned and especially the day I married my wife.
I love the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have. But none of them come close to the profound pride and love I feel for this new little human — whom I had the ultimate privilege of growing inside me.
Of all the things I’ve produced, this kid is by far my biggest accomplishment. I know baby-making has been happening for literally millions of years since single-celled amoebas evolved into mating species, but it still feels like a freaking miracle to grow a person inside your gut. The best I thing my belly had ever harbored prior to this fetus was a well-sourced hamburger.
I watched tepidly via ultrasound those pregnant months (still judging baby-obsessed others) as the fish-like creature grew into what looked like an alien and then a baby. And then one day, he was ripped from my body and entered the world. It was then that I realized this baby was an actual person. He was a human being of my own creation. I mean, I was pretty proud of myself the one time I made a decoupage mask, and now look what I had made.
It was all I could do not to stop every stranger on the street and say, “I made a baby!” I knew it was ridiculous, and yet I couldn’t help it. I was so grateful for this new human, I sent gifts to the doctor, the nurses, the anesthesiologist, my co-workers and others. I wanted to send a gift to anyone who got us a gift, but my wife convinced me I was going too far.
The photo album in my phone went from a diverse range of stunning sunsets and cool events to 100 percent baby pictures. I wanted to capture every expression on his perfect little face, to document every moment so I wouldn’t miss a thing even though I was there.
I posted a flurry of baby pictures on social media (with the privacy setting adjusted so that only known entities could see), and didn’t realize until weeks later when I looked back that I hadn’t posted anything else. North Korea was threatening nuclear war, Syrian children were risking life and limb to get medical care in the war-torn cities they called home, boy soldiers were kidnapped and forced to murder in the name of Boko Haram and Gulf Coast cities were losing their homes to flooding. But I just posted pictures of my baby. Here’s my baby half-smiling. Here’s my baby sleeping. Here’s my baby sleeping but with the sunlight hitting him at a different angle. Here’s my baby sleeping with a different outfit on. Here he is wearing a goofy hat.
It’s not that I stopped caring about the world around me; it’s just that for a little while, my baby became my world. I saw in him the potential for a future world that was better than the one we were in. I saw in him all the beauty and innocence in a world where newspaper headlines reflect the opposite.
Perhaps obsession with our babies is hormonal or nature’s way of making sure we protect them because they’re helpless little beings. Regardless, I'm now forced to admit I understand where all those friends were coming from when their feeds went from adult to parent.
Now, several months later, the hormones have subsided and I’ve gone back to work, and my little guy, while still an enigma and the love of my life, is a bit less of a mystery and more a part of the family and our everyday. I’ve gone back to posting about other things in the world. But I still intersperse that content with photos of my son — and I may never stop.