By Rebecca Jane Stokes
I have taken care of lots of babies in my time.
I’m the oldest of four kids, so I’ve been wiping butts since, well, since before I properly had a handle on wiping my own.
I was a babysitter, a friend, a godmother, and a nanny, and before long, newborns were like Us Magazines to me: fun, but not something I was going to go out of my way to grab or give too much attention to.
Then my boyfriend had a baby.
Or, I should say, my boyfriend and his girlfriend had a baby.
My boyfriend is polyamorous (also kinky, but that’s not really what this is about). He’s been in a long-term relationship with his other partner (and now the mother of his child) for a decade. He and I have been together a year.
When we first met, he let me know that he was planning on trying for a baby with his other girlfriend, and I, fresh off a major breakup, feeling heartsick and lost, just sort of nodded. I liked Rob, but I didn’t think we would make it past a month. I didn’t think I was ready.
Cut to a little over a year later when his girlfriend is going into labor a month early and I was just reeling.
At this point, Rob, his infinite capacity for love, his Spock-like passion for logic and order, and his complete inability to appreciate my puns had become a central part of my life.
The idea of losing him conjured up quotes from Jane Eyre.
I could feel the invisible cord connecting us heart to heart that Bronte wrote about between Rochester and Jane, and the idea of severing that tie to me was as unimaginable as death.
I could not comprehend it. That’s the kind of love I feel for him.
I knew that the baby was going to mean changes. I knew I would be getting less of his time for a while. I knew that him spending the night was a thing of the past for at least a while. But when his girlfriend went into labor it was like time stopped.
Would the baby suddenly transform Rob from someone polyamorous to a devoted, monogamous dad?
Instead of slowly and methodically assessing my feelings like I had throughout our relationship, I found myself totally floundering in a sea of desperate uncertainty.
Would the baby suddenly transform Rob from someone polyamorous to a devoted, monogamous dad? Would his girlfriend insist that I be banished? Had I made a huge mistake in giving my heart and my love to a man who already had so many hearts under his care?
The questions didn’t vanish when I went to the hospital to meet his daughter for the first time.
A friend of mine said that all babies are either Winston Churchill or Newts, and this little girl skewed newt.
She was jaundiced and small and screaming underneath a bright light, wearing a disturbing little paper cover on her head to protect her eyes. She had a thicket of black hair and beautifully long fingers. I looked at her and expected to feel some kind of peace, like seeing that she was real would help me make a decision.
But it didn’t. She was just a baby, and I was still at sea.
After the doctor gave them the all-clear, they brought the baby home and I forced myself to go over to their apartment, bringing presents, lending a hand. I didn’t know if I would be wanted or needed, but these people had told me I was part of their family, and if I was ever going to trust that, now was the time to try it.
Stepping into their apartment and the chaos a newborn baby brings with it, I felt at home. I didn’t feel underfoot or like some strange interloper.
I watched while they held the baby and talked to her and I smiled and maybe even held her once or twice, but I still felt strange.
See, I’m 34 and a woman and that clock is definitely ticking. Every time I come in contact with a baby now, I’m half certain the cops are going to turn up and accuse me of theft.
I awkwardly handed her back to her mom: I didn’t want to seem like I’m eyeing something jealously that wasn’t mine.
It was, actually, a lot like my first few weeks being polyamorous.
The next time I was at their house, the baby began to cry. I scooped her up and was handed a bottle. I sat down on the couch and started to feed her. She started to doze off while she was eating, so I started talking to her.
With every word I directed to her, she would gaze up at me, opening her eyes and fixing her intense, unblinking gaze at me.
“You have so many people who love you. You have so many people here who are going to make sure that you are happy and safe and healthy and that you have 100,000 adventures!”
She let out a coo, then a grin, then a fart, because she is a baby and that is what babies do.
She didn’t take her eyes off of mine.
I know that for newborns, the human face feeding them is one of the most fascinating things ever.
But in this moment, the feeling was mutual.
She couldn’t stop looking at me, and I couldn’t stop looking at her, and, much like when I’d met her father, I felt that sinking feeling in my belly: I am in love with this little girl.
I am going to be a part of her life.
Any doubts or fears or questions I had are gone.
She has me, I have her, and him, and her, too.
We aren’t what I ever expected.
If anything, we are so much more.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.