Sunday, November 11, 2007

I touch you once, I touch you twice

Posts about postpartum sex are always hard to I won't bother. I'll just say that the difference in surface area is jarring.

I recently had the occasion to spend some time feeling up the hubby at leisure (thank you, long baby nap), and it amazed me how foreign he now felt. I'm going to say words that are going to sound dirty but are meant to be only descriptive: hairy, hard, long. Oh, golly, I'll stop there. I really am serious, though -- think about a male adult thigh compared with a chubby baby one.

I realize that I've never touched someone so long or so frequently as I have now as a mother with my child. I'm always holding Mikko, having him sit on my lap, picking him up, having him climb on me, snuggling him close to nurse or sleep. Right now he's trying to bat my hands at the keyboard.

I know it's not a required Americanism that you shy away from touching others, that hugs between friends and family are brief and sometimes awkward, that kisses are reserved for young children and lovers, that sleeping in the same bed with someone besides a partner is considered archaic and even dangerous -- but it does seem to be the cultural norm. I love it when a friend reaches out to play with my hair, but I never feel comfortable requesting or initiating such innocent contact, except with my spouse. It seems like anything that feels good, like hugging, kissing, holding hands, back rubbing, etc., could eventually feel so good that it would be ideal for leading to better not do it with anyone except a sexual partner, just in case.

The only other acceptable person to touch, at least in my culture (middle-class white American of northern European descent, and I think "repressed" goes without saying), is a child who is related to you: your own sons and daughters, younger siblings, or close nieces and nephews and grandchildren and the like.

I still find myself reaching out to ruffle my baby brother's hair, and he's 22! I wouldn't do this with just any 22-year-old, only one I conditioned myself, with our 9-year age difference, to feel free with about innocently touching.

But I never, even with a younger brother and now in the delightful freedom of having a husband, have ever touched anyone as much as I touch Mikko. Sure, other people hold him, particularly Sam, but Mikko always has to come back to me to eat, at the very least, and I'm usually the one he falls asleep on or beside for his naps.

So I've gotten used to him. Soft, small, pudgy, squirmy, sharp nails and wild hands, always dewy with a patina of drool, alternately grabbing and stroking my hair, scratching my breasts, pinching my neck and leaving baby hickeys, exploring my lips and eyeglasses, kicking my computer, reaching for my food, leaning with his full (considerable) weight toward the floor, expecting me to catch him every time.

How different, how unbelievably different, from my husband's grown adult man's body, with its ossified bones and its planes of muscle, its crisp hairs and broad proportions, its tender power and controlled movements.

It's a switch. What a trip being a mother is.


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