two weeks old

Experts tell us all of the time how important touch is to human beings. It’s one of the reasons the internet, they say, is so dangerous.

Once we hit the teenage years, my mother hugged us less. Not never – I never felt neglected. It just didn’t happen a lot. Whenever I left (back to boarding school or college) or came home, there were hugs. And my father hugged just as infrequently, usually when my mother told him to do so. My sister and I were never really touchy either.

It was around the same time that I was dreaming of romantic affection, of being touched, of being held. In high school we had ‘cuddle puddles’ in which a number of friends would all hang out in a big group, nestled against one another platonically. Holding hands with female friends. But I dreamed of sleeping all night in the same bed as someone.

I dated a few guys. And then I met my now-husband, and we touched. Neither of us had ever been with anyone who loved casual physical affection so much. Reading with his head on my lap. Sitting with our legs tangled together on the couch. Touching, touching, touching.

It spilled over. Without thinking I would lay a hand on my mother’s arm or initiate a hug with my father, with my mother-in-law. Giving it away.

Then I had a baby. They call the first three months the Fourth Trimester because the baby still needs to be kept so close. I remember knowing that other people’s babies, when I held them, were foreign bodies with indeterminate levels of delicacy, unknown likes and dislikes, but not mine. His body is my body. Until the spring, we were the same pale color, often the same temperature. We sleep together, eat together. I know exactly how to hold him, how to move him, how to catch him when he’s about to fall. I have touched every inch of him countless times, and he has crawled over and touched every inch of me.

Which makes it a strange sensation to hold a friend’s child. I’m friends with the parents of a 3 month old, a 9 month old, a 14 month old, and when we are together, occasions arise to hold these other boys, to carry them, to catch them. It feels simultaneously comfortably familiar and a touch foreign. Like deja vu. Each has a weight, a scent, a balance, that’s a glimmer or two off from my own son. And the knowledge flickers in my brain that they, too, have touched every part of their mothers, have hardly parted from them.

In other countries, mothers and grandmothers don’t hesitate to nurse one another’s babies. A village raising a child. If any of these mothers asked (they wouldn’t), I wouldn’t hesitate to do it for them. I don’t know that they would do it for me, though now it’s becoming less vital as the little man will be satisfied by fruit, by beans, by mashed vegetables if mama is not available.

I’m not certain why I’m thinking so much about this now. Maybe it’s because I can see how close close close he is to crawling away from me.

2 thoughts on “Intimacy

  1. Gorgeous photograph. You are so beautiful.

    I often wondered about village nursing too. I would do it if there was a need. Niki’s daughter Astrid often asked me for milk and I would tell her, “If your mama wasn’t coming back soon, I would help you.” Do we know what others would do? No. But I think we all think this way, enough of us, at least. I would nurse yours, I would want you to nurse mine. I’d want anyone to nurse mine if they were hungry and I wasn’t there.

  2. This is such a beautiful post. I don’t have babies yet, but this reminds me of THAT scene in The Constant Gardener. Do you know the scene I’m thinking of? I’d like to think that I will feel the same when my time comes…

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