A Womb of One's Own

A Womb of One’s Own: Brutally Honest Baby

There are terrible things about babies, and there are awesome things about babies. What’s exceptionally awesome? Their inability to fake an emotion. Babies are the most brutally honest people you’ll meet.

Gabe exists in the moment, and his emotions are pure. If he’s upset with what’s going on in his life, he doesn’t lie. He doesn’t passive-aggressively mope around the living room, he doesn’t slam his door and sulk, he doesn’t refuse to respond to me. He lets it all out, he yells. He tugs on my pant leg, he buries his face in my chest. He sobs. He wants it fixed, and he wants it fixed NOW. There’s no bargaining with an upset baby, there’s only damage control and changing his world so it stops freaking him out. I can’t convince him that if he just tries this food, he might like it. He’s made up his mind, and no amount of cajoling will convince him that he might like “ginger chicken” baby food (for the record, it was disgusting and he was right).

Conversely, when Gabe’s happy, my world is happy (at least for a moment). Regardless of the time of day, how much money is in the bank, or what’s on my schedule, he smiles with his whole body. His cheeks dimple, he wriggles, he laughs, he bounces. To his parents’ dismay, his new wake-up time is approximately 5:30 a.m. But when I stumble into his room, his glee at seeing MAMA! is unmistakable as he grips the side of his crib, hops, and squeals. As he’s become more aware of the world, his emotions have become more intense. I used to be able to trick him into going back to sleep by taking him into our bed to breastfeed and doze off, but it’s impossible now. He’s overwhelmed with the excitement of MAMA! and DADDY! in the same place, and the only response he can muster is to sit up and swat at us in glee. I’m constantly amazed that I can elicit that joy from anyone, day after day.

I know his joy is fairly indiscriminate. Other things get the same “I swat you with LOVE” response: my parents’ cat (who swats back), a mirror, the car seat, avocado slices, the grate at the bottom of the refrigerator. But I also know that soon enough, he’ll learn how to smooth emotions out, how to dissemble, how to gloss over his feelings that discomfit others. And I can’t help but feel a bit of sadness to think of losing the pure emotional honesty of my little dude.

Gabe in a swing at a park, wearing a green hat and a big smile.
Gabe's first time on the swings at the park with Daddy.

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

4 replies on “A Womb of One’s Own: Brutally Honest Baby”

My daughter turned 7 last week, and I had a flood of wistful moments remembering her as a baby. Laughing, crying, rumbling around the house in her walking stroller, rubbing food all over her high chair, sleeping in her “fisie” chair, hanging in front of me in her carrier, seeing all the interesting things I saw. It brought tears to my eyes, because it seems, at once, to be only yesterday, but also so long ago.

Now, we deal with ADHD, outbursts, rude behavior, taunting, and whole list of unbecoming behaviors. There are moments of beauty: ballet class, the pictures she draws, reading all the signs in the supermarket, but they seem to be drowned out by rough moments. I miss the baby I knew.

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