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Birth right

Lezlie Lowe on the ever-sweet smell of motherhood.

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Dealing with a newborn at age 63? Like Patricia Rashbrook, the Briton who purposely got knocked up late last year and is due to give birth in two months? Even with the sickly sweet sentimentality of Mother’s Day washing up on the shores of this weekend, the thought leaves me drowning in fear.

Don’t get me wrong. I love kids. Mine, mostly; a few others. Still, they’re conniving little buggers. Especially the newborns. You look into their squirmy little faces and your mind goes numb. You blank out—forgetting they nurse 12 times a day for the first months and shit just as often. My friend Julie, whose three kids are getting older, admits she was sleep-deprived for 10 years. How do you forget something like that? How!? You just do. One fart from a newborn and you’re all come-hither-and-let’s-go-buy-a-minivan.

And speaking of babies’ smells, let’s talk newborn heads.

I was holding a friend’s 22-day-old last week and just the smell that came off him made me broody. (Crucial point: he was bathed. Unwashed, they get rather cheesy smelling about the neck.)

Pinpointing the appeal of newborn head smell is difficult. It’s like trying to dissect the deliciousness of fresh-off-the-line laundry. I suspect it’s chemical—like oxytocin, a feel-good hormone released during labour and breastfeeding which promotes bonding, helps with the release of milk and is said to lower stress levels.

If newborns are secreting airborne make-more-of-me! hormones and holding nations of women in their firm little clutches, there’s shockingly little on the almighty Net about it. Shocking, because so many people like a good whiff of newborn head. When my kids were fresh from the oven and out in the world I had complete strangers approach and ask if they could smell their fontanelles.

Baby head smell must be what got Rashbrook. Honestly—what other reason could possibly compel a retiree-aged psychiatrist to seek out fertility treatment for the purpose of again becoming (she has two grown children) a new mother?

No matter. The deed is done. Rashbrook and her hubby have taken the plunge. And in eight or so weeks they’ll have no one but themselves (and their Italian fertility doctor, embryologist Severino Antinori) to blame when it’s 3am and their bundle of joy is screaming to end the world and Rashbrook is howling at the husband to make it stop for god’s sake before she slices her own ears off and the husband is shrieking at Rashbrook that he can’t, of course, and anyways he’s busy, honey, because the little darling’s shot yellow poop out her diaper and across the room into an open drawer full of wool sweaters.

Yes, Rashbrook and co. are in for a wild ride. But: Who isn’t buying a 20-year trip to loonyville when they have kids? No one. And that’s why, though I would rather Instant Krazy Glue© my legs crossed than consider having a child at 63, I defend Rashbrook’s right to choose to pop one out for herself.

Bad parents cross age boundaries and so do good parents. Before 2001, gay and lesbian partners in Nova Scotia couldn’t adopt children. Can you imagine? It’s absurd (coincidentally, it was also declared unconstitutional). That Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling quashed the idea that sexual orientation had anything to do with good parenting. Age hasn’t a thing to do with it, either.

Besides, if someone was waving a newborn’s head around the nose of dear old Patti Rashbrook, she probably couldn’t help herself. Tricky, squidgy little buggers….

Wake up and smell the baby: lezliel@thecoast.ca

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