My daughter is pregnant, expecting her first child. I spend time with her every day, because we commute to work together. So I hear her talking about the fears that she has already about hurting her baby. “I can’t eat soft cheese”, she tells me “Because it might have listeria.” She is avoiding some fish (mercury), all cold cuts (listeria), alcohol and caffeine (obviously), hot baths, salicylic acid, ibuprofin, face wash with chemicals……..
I smile inside, and a little piece of me thinks, “Oh, brother!” But then I think about how intensely and completely parents love their children, how overwhelming and overarching that love is, how immediately we understand that we would give up all of our comforts, our routines, our favorite foods….that we would give up our own lives in a heartbeat if it would protect our babies.
And I think about my own babies. I think about how much I still love them, even after all these years. Even after raising them to adulthood. Even though I can’t really remember the details of my pregnancies with them. Even though they are no longer a part of my day to day life.
I still feel them in my heart, in my soul. I feel them in my DNA.
I am still acutely aware of their existence in the world.
And I am acutely aware of their absence in my home.
When my firstborn was about a year or so old, we left her for the first time overnight. We had a party at our house, and we had fun. I loved being able to socialize and to relax.
But I missed her so much, it was if one of my limbs was suddenly missing. I felt that phantom pain in my heart. “Only 14 more hours,” I told myself as I went to bed that night, the first night in over a year when I’d been separated from my child. The first time in more than two years, if you counted the months when she’d lived within me. “I can do it. Only 14 more hours.”
As the years went by, and my children grew, I learned to last more than a day. I learned to live without them for a week. A month. A semester.
But here’s the funny thing: even after all this time, I still get to a certain point where I begin to crave my children like an addict craves a drug.
I get to the point where I HAVE to see them, hug them, assure myself that they are OK. I need to feed them, I need to ask about their lives. I need to hear their laughter.
I need to touch them.
Is that really creepy?