The first time I was ever around babies longer than a lingering “ooh, ahh” in the park or standing in line at JC Penny’s was my freshman year in college when I lived blocks from my sister who at the time had just given birth to her second Aryan child.

Hers were the first grandchildren in the family, my first nieces and nephews. Having grown up the youngest of three, I’d never experienced life as The Changer of the diapers or The Feeder of the crushed carrot baby food or The Wiper of the cold doggy-wet nose. At the age of 18 I stayed awake through the night for the first time in my life, not to study for a test or because I couldn’t sleep, but because four month old baby Meredith didn’t like the way inexperienced Aunt Heather was dangling her by the armpits, pleading through choking sobs, “Can’t we just get along?”

Over the past eight years I’ve developed a decidedly less prickly approach to infant care, although Meredith still shrieks and covers her armpits in terror whenever I stop in for a visit. I think I’m stricken with a more violent case of the maternal instinct than most other women my age. While other 26 year old single women are out being single and psychiatrically sound, I’m stopping complete strangers at the grocery store to see if I can fit the entire head of their bald baby into my mouth.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like, this instinctual appetite to give birth to a new life and nag it until it leaves home in a flurry of flannel rebellion. It’s hard not to burst into spontaneous snuggles when the VP of Marketing brings in his three month old elfin snickerbooms, smelling of Johnson’s Baby Powder and lactose-free spit-up. The tiny, furry head! The itty-bitty fingers shaped like mushroom stubs just screaming to be dipped in ranch dressing and gobbled up to the palm! How can I be expected to program nested tables when the miracle that is life lies on the other side of the conference room, sleeping motionless in a Gap ribbed cotton one-piece with snap closures! Wake that punkin up and give it some kisses!