Secretions

Assembled pump

I currently prove multiple times a day that I am a mammal. I’m feeding a living being through my secretions. That’s a weird thing for an animal to do–to take food and not just mush it up for our offspring, but to digest it and then create an entirely new substance that is enough for the offspring to live on for months to years.

I’ve always lived an intellectual life, and motherhood hasn’t changed that. I find myself thinking about evolution and my place in the history of the human race.

When I was pregnant, all I needed to do was endure. Supporting (building) a fetus doesn’t require an exercise of will. Now that my baby is outside my body, I have to choose to take care of her. And if we didn’t have a reward system built in, the work wouldn’t be worth it. In order for the species to survive, humans need to have children.

The cry of babies is viscerally disturbing, and we want to do whatever we can to make it stop. Every time my daughter cries because her diaper is wet, that discomfort in her causes a similar discomfort in me. And to make me feel better I need to make her feel better.

When my daughter is screaming and I’m about to tear my hair out or abandon her in the woods for the nearest predator, she’ll nestle into me for comfort. When she smiles, or when she cuddles, or when I just look at her, the hormones my body produces make me feel good. (More secretions.) That’s evolution in action right there. Without the reward, our protohuman ancestors would have given up on their offspring.

I always had heard that having children was a messy business, but I didn’t expect so much of it to revolve not around the baby’s secretions but around mine. All of these reactions were built into my body, just waiting for the right time to do their jobs. I wonder what other revelations motherhood has in store for me.


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