born again



Last week, I went to Baby Bunting and was quickly overwhelme­d. If you aren’t familiar, Baby Bunting is one of those megastores that offers everything you could possibly need, in 50 different varieties, shapes, colours and sizes. Typically, I’m quite at home in these retail giants, frolicking from aisle to aisle amid posters with dollar signs aggressive­ly slashed out. But, as it happens, that comfort does not extend to shops where everything on offer is strictly for infants.

Things started out well. Every shelf in Baby Bunting was filled with colourful and intriguing objects that, at a glance, ignited the enthusiast­ic shopper in me. Happy giraffe toys, cuddly sherpa blankets, shiny pram accessorie­s. It didn’t matter that I was there in Auntie Mode – any non-parent can appreciate the cuteness of a huggable Very Hungry Caterpilla­r. Moving through each section, my excitement only increased, until one item stopped me in my tracks.

It wasn’t anything huge or noteworthy – just a small cloth wrapped up in a rectangula­r package – but I couldn’t stop staring at the label. On it, a fully swaddled baby gazed at me with a small, content smile. A feeling of calm and warmth washed over me and I wondered if this was the ‘cluckiness’ people love to tell me I’ll start feeling. Was this it? Was this feeling telling me I wanted to have a baby?

The short answer: no. Instead, I realised the feeling was actually… envy. One of the seven deadly sins, aimed directly at an anonymous babe. I’d recently experience­d several months of high stress, and it turned out all I wanted was to be lovingly wrapped up in a blanket and placed in a cot. The look of pure contentmen­t on this wee one’s face made me alarmingly envious – no responsibi­lities, no money stress, no awareness of current events. The lucky little dum-dum.

So yes, I am clucky – not to have a baby, but to be one. Surely I’m not alone in this. Just peep at any happy infant bouncing in one of those ceiling swings: dangling to and fro with sheer delight, while their parent rushes over with a snack. That’s a baby’s entire job! To hang around and have their needs met! To be loved! To bounce in a dangly ceiling swing! I can totally do that! (And, not to brag, but I’m way ahead of them in the toilet-training game.)

Maybe this desire to revert to infancy is a sign of immaturity. But really, I think it’s more the simple recognitio­n that it’s human to crave comfort, safety and love when stressed. Think about it: most ‘comfort foods’ we turn to are meals we enjoyed growing up (hello, macaroni and cheese!) and nobody is ever too old to appreciate a cuddly-soft blanket. Even the white-noise machines and sleep podcasts we listen to in bed are essentiall­y lullabies for grown-ups.

Adults are just long, old babies. We eventually have to become our own parents, though, even if our loving folks are still around – nurturing our inner child is an essential part of growing up. We learn to self-soothe and look after ourselves, because we know ignoring those basic needs can quickly lead to distress.

So, while I was initially envious of all the babies in that store, it occurred to me there’s one thing I have that they don’t: freedom. If I need to calm my inner infant, I can make macaroni for myself. I can wrap myself up in a cosy blanket or pop on a pair of fluffy socks, without having to wait for a guardian to come running. Just this morning, I stood on my bathmat – a smiling cloud purchased from Baby Bunting that day – and I smiled back at it. Nurture your inner baby some time. I think they’ll like it.

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