Francesca Serritella: Not overcome by baby fever

Posted: April 15, 2012

Spring means one thing: babies.

My friend and I, plus my dog Pip, were enjoying an outdoor brunch at a restaurant and we were surrounded. Babies in sun hats strapped into strollers, babies hanging their chubby limbs from their Snuglis, babies gurgling on their parents’ laps. The sidewalk was a baby parade. It was distracting.

But not as distracting as the words vanilla buttermilk pancakes on the menu.

My mouth had just begun to water when my friend cried out, “Omigod! Look at that munchkin!” She pointed to a baby in his mother’s arms one table over.

“Cute,” I said. I patted my lap once and Pip jumped into it. I taught him that, and it fills my heart with pride when he does it.

“You didn’t even look.”

“I looked.” And I decided on the omelet.

“You don’t feel that?” she asked.

“Feel what?”

“Baby fever.”

I’m immune.

Later, when we were paying the check, my next-door neighbor approached, pushing her new baby in a stroller and walking her cockapoo. We greeted each other, and my friend cooed over her baby as I bent to pet the dog. When my neighbor left, my friend asked, “Is her baby a boy or a girl?”

I shrugged, feeding Pip some eggs from my plate, making sure to pick out the onions first. Onions aren’t good for dogs.

“Do you know her baby’s name?”

“Um … I know her dog’s name is Jefferson.”

“You’re terrible!”

Am I?

Look, I’m not a monster. I like babies for all the obvious reasons. They’re cute. They’re soft. They have great laughs. And even when they throw food in a restaurant or cry next to me in an airplane, it never bothers me. I’m able to tune them out.

But is that bad?

Shouldn’t there be some primitive part of my brain to prevent me from “tuning out” a child in need?

Even my dog Pip looks up when a puppy on a YouTube video gives a little yelp.

I’m counting on these maternal instincts to kick in down the road. But should there be more evidence of them now?

“I’m sure I’ll feel the baby urge eventually,” I said, suddenly unsure. I wiped some bits of egg Pip had gotten stuck in his ear fur. “We have time, don’t we?”

“Sure, but I want one now.”

I visibly shuddered.

I’m not prepared for a baby right now. I was an only child, I had no younger siblings, and my lone cousin is 10 years older than I am. I have zero baby experience. I don’t know how to hold, feed, or change a baby, and the mere thought of doing something wrong and breaking it gives me a cold sweat.

If I were a twentysomething man, this cluelessness would be understandable, even endearing, the stuff of rom-com movie montages.

As a woman, it’s concerning.

“I wouldn’t say it’s ‘concerning,’ it’s just surprising,” my friend said, as we continued our discussion walking down the block after brunch. “You’re one of the most nurturing people I know.”

I do love to play mama to my friends. I bring soup to pals feeling sick, I text reminders for mutual friends’ birthdays, I carried my BFF’s passport for her when we studied abroad, and I enjoy surprising my boyfriend with freshly baked muffins in the morning.

But nurturing a 25-year-old man is a lot different from nurturing an infant.

Well, at least they go potty on their own.

We stopped for Pip to do his business on the sidewalk. “I know I want kids someday.” I paused to clean up after him. “I mean, I think I do.”

My friend scrunched her nose in disgust.

“Sorry.” I forget poop is gross.

The trash can was across the street behind a giant puddle. Pip couldn’t jump it, so I scooped him up, cradled him in my arms, tossed the baggie, and walked back, still carrying him.

I felt desperate to defend my position to my friend as much as to myself. “Maybe I’ll feel it when I’m more established in my career. Or maybe because of my parents’ divorce, finding the right guy seems like the more challenging task, and I can’t see past that yet. Or maybe” — I didn’t even want to say the next thing aloud, it made me so sad — “maybe I’m not the baby type after all.”

My friend was smiling at me. “Or maybe you just don’t want another one.”

Pip licked my chin.

Sweet baby.

Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella’s book, “Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter.” Lisa’s new novel, “Come Home,” is in stores now. Visit Francesca at francescaserritella.com and Lisa at scottoline.com.

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