May I hold your baby for a little while?

Last Saturday night at church, I played piano for the First Communion Mass. It’s a big deal. The little kids, mostly Hispanic at Sacred Heart, dress up in white, sit up front with their padres and padrinos and become big kids in the church, finally allowed to consume the bread and wine.

They brought their whole families, which included lots of crying babies. I became fascinated with this little guy sitting near the front. His mother and grandfather kept trading off, trying to calm his cries and squirms. I found myself aching to hold him, to hold any of the babies. Even if they were crying and drooling.

I rarely get to hold babies. The last time was at Thanksgiving when I cuddled my niece’s six-month-old daughter for a while. So sweet. I loved talking to her, watching her smile at me, letting her wrap her tiny fingers around my big fingers. Now she’s a year old. I missed the birthday party because I was up here in Oregon playing the piano so other people’s kids could have First Communion. I’ll never get to dress a little girl in white, teach her the Our Father and Hail Mary and take lots of photos to treasure forever. You’d think I’d be over it by now. Nope. My friends, this is a hunger that will keep coming back.

Let’s be honest. At my age, I’m not anxious to deal with dirty diapers or sleepless nights. I just want to hold a baby. The child doesn’t have to be mine, just one I could see often enough so that she or he knows who I am and feels comfortable in my arms. Like a grandma.

This sounds whiny. People not in my situation would suggest I find a way to spend more time with the little ones in the family, maybe even move back to California. It would be easier if I had a bigger family that I saw more often, with a bunch of siblings and their offspring who would come running to Aunt Sue. I think about that a lot, but I have a full life that I enjoy right here in South Beach.

I could volunteer to do babysitting or daycare or some other activity that puts me in close contact with little kids. But somehow it feels too late. I was so busy avoiding babies in my reproductive years when I was trying accept that I would never have one that I never learned the mothering skills that seem so natural to other women.

Of course babies don’t stay babies. A friend who just came back from her grandson’s birthday party complained that the kid paid no attention to her, was glued to his cell phone the whole time. I’d probably snatch the phone away, and then he’d hate me. At least we don’t have to deal with that.

What do you think? Is there a substitute that really fills the void for those of us who are childless? Do you get the baby hunger, too? I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

***

Things continue to be challenging in my family. My father, still in the nursing home at the moment, has another infection. He sounded awful last night on the phone. I don’t know what’s going to happen. My dog Annie is having surgery on Friday for a tumor the vet doesn’t like the looks of. I have also been dealing with expensive repairs to my car, pellet stove, and washing machine. The toilet doesn’t flush right, and the garbage disposal doesn’t even hum. I don’t want to be alone with all this. A friend taught me a new saying this week from the Spanish. “It’s raining on wet.” Lluve sobre mojado. Pretty much. One day at a time, we’ll figure it out.

Meanwhile, here’s a song about raining on wet.

 

Have you ever felt this?

I’m in church playing the piano for 5:30 Mass.. A baby has been gurgling and whining throughout the Mass, and now I hear him letting out a wail. His mother is standing in the aisle bouncing him. Suddenly out of nowhere I have this bone deep physical need to hold a baby. I’m not even sure I know how, but I need to. When I realize that it’s unlikely I’ll ever have the chance to do that—I’m estranged from my stepchildren and step-grandchildren and live far from my niece and nephew—I just want to wail.

I lose all track of what’s going on in the Mass for a moment because it hits me so hard. I look back on the last 26 years with my husband and think “What happened?” I was married, then alone, then married and now I’m alone again. I have no babies to hold. I don’t think there’s any amount of compensation or redirecting of mother energy that can counteract that physical need.

I know there are childless women who claim they have never felt a desire for children and don’t expert to ever feel it. God bless them. But for me and maybe for you, it’s such a deep physical need that no amount of logic will make it disappear. It’s a loss which I will always grieve. Just as I miss my mother, miss touching her, miss the way she smelled and the sound of her voice, I miss the children I never had.

It’s like when you’re so hungry that you can’t think of anything else. You can’t talk it away. You need food or you will die.

I’m thinking maybe it’s time to stop writing about being childless and go find someplace where I can hug babies. Who is going to let this 50-something childless stranger hug their children? Mothers would see me as a threat. I can hug puppies, but not human babies.

I tune back into the Mass in time to play the next song, but the feeling that something’s missing lingers.

Do you ever feel this way?