Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — I admit it: there’s not a maternal bone in my body.
It’s a fact I made peace with a long time ago, after years of hiding it and wondering at the missing link in my genetic makeup.
And it’s a good thing, too. Because the way my life turned out, having kids wasn’t in the cards.
In fact, until recently I never found babies the least bit appealing. It’s a sentiment they retaliated against by always screaming from the nearest plane or restaurant seat — or from my arms the minute I picked them up.
I was uneasy with their squirming limbs and urgent needs, unmoved by their unfocused gazes and gummy grins in all that patchy red skin.
“Wow; what soft hair!” or “Look at those tiny fingernails!” was the best I could do at feigning delight when coos of “Ohhh” and “Awww” signaled the arrival of a baby in our midst. “He (or she) is really beautiful for a baby,” I’d say, if I got carried away.
I never much liked young children, either (note to TV commercial casting agents), though I made occasional exceptions and recognized their importance to the species’ survival.
And no, I don’t think I’d feel different if they were mine, I’d tell friends. Give me a puppy or a kitten any day.
Why my nurturing instinct should only kick in with four-legged creatures is a mystery to me.
Maybe it’s because I grew up without young siblings, neighbors or family friends or because I never once babysat.
Or maybe there are people like me who are just meant to be dog moms.
For as long as I can remember, I melted at the sight of animals and found their antics cute rather than cloying.
I happily tolerated the whining and messes and ill behavior I found annoying in children.
Then, beginning with the birth of our first grandchild nearly three years ago, I felt a crack in my un-motherly heart.
It widened when our first exchange student, now a doctor, had a baby in June and split open when young friends recently announced they were expecting.
They said they knew for sure on the way home from a visit with us, when a chocolate craving became so strong they had to pull over to raid the backseat.
Now, despite the distance of the babies in our lives, I’m the one gushing over photos and videos and poring over that first ultrasound, though all I can make out is a duck with a bill.
Perhaps it’s because I have a stake in these babies.
Or perhaps all I needed was to skip the parenting turn — and move directly from GO to grandparenthood.
Reach Marta Hepler Drahos at firstname.lastname@example.org