I don’t like babies.

I don’t like looking at them eat, sleep, crawl or at anything they do.

gunton0-R2-050-23AI realized several years ago that babies annoyed me, but I just didn’t know why (after all, I have two former babies). And then my sons and I were at their swimming class. They must have been five or six and still thin and wan from their struggle to make it from their premature delivery at 26 weeks. And every other kid running around the pool did not look that way. Especially the babies. And there were lots of them.

I was transfixed by the rolls of fat and the ease at which they nursed. That they could go into a pool and yet they couldn’t have been more than one. They were so robust. And it was a horrible juxtaposition to the memories of my own children at that same age.

Each chubby cherub was a stark contrast to my children who weren’t even 20 lbs when they wereKangaroocare two. Their first two years were sunken eyes, clothes hanging loosely, monitors, oxygen, struggles to eat, hospital admissions, medications, delayed milestones. Even now I see the shadow of prematurity on my boys…hands that will never hold a pen correctly, muscles that can’t quite relax, terror when we approach a hospital.

Babies are not so much reminders of what I have lost, but what my children can never reclaim. All three of them if I’m being brutally honest.

And so each time my friends or boyfriend or the acquaintance I’m with stops to chat and coo and often touch (as people do), it brings a fat, healthy baby into my line of site and it is like being doused with a bucket of cold water. Every time. I’m startled, flustered, and it hurts and I take a big breath and hurry away. Looking rude, but not caring. The emotion is indescribable.

Oliver day 2, birth weight 1 lb 10 ouncesIt’s no one’s fault. And I can keep on task and forge ahead and put prematurity out of my mind as long as I don’t get that slap in the face from reality. A reminder of how much my children suffered and what we all lost.

That’s how babies make me feel.


Join the Conversation


  1. Sending hugs, or a nod of acknowledgment and acceptance, if you aren’t a hugger. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’m spending my day crying. My son is robust and happy. Despite his diagnoses he’s thriving. When I look at him, beneath the chubby cheeks, I see the skeleton in the box. The scars on his arms have ghostly lines sticking out of them. I’ll never be able to kiss his belly button without being conscious of the tubing underneath his skin that’s saving his brain. I get your pain, because this kind of hurt is hard to fix with everyone else’s concept of normal. Thank you for being another honest voice in the mom world.

  3. Your story here reminds me of a very old dear friend who’d always wanted desperately to get pregnant. She was consumed. She despised seeing pregnant women. She’d tear the maternity section out of the sears catalog. I never understood her intense emotions because she must have hated me, too, when I had kids. She eventually adopted 2 troubled kids who were a major challenge to raise.

    I have the same issue of not understanding your discomfort around healthy babies.

    Take a big breath the next time you are in the company of a baby, relax, and enjoy the miracle of life. Hold one. You have 3 miracles, too! Be glad, and bottom line: quit blaming yourself.

  4. I was a premature baby, born at 28 weeks in 1953. Being female, I did have it better than wee boys born so early. They didn’t really expect me to live, but I did — I am 61 now. My fingers are pretty insensitive and small motor skill tasks drive me nuts — likely myelin sheath damage cause I wasn’t “done” yet? I have asthma and was near sighted to the point of being classed as medically blind.

    No, there are some things we don’t get back, but we are up for the fight. I remind myself that winning the fight for life so early should prime me for whatever life throws at me. And I’m not nuts about babies either…

  5. I feel your pain on why babies can be difficult. I struggle too since I am infertile. Being infertile really does make it hard to see other people with healthy babies or people with children. It is a reminder of this open wound in your heart, and a longing that you have with a void that is left unfilled. Lots of Hugs sent your way. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing a difficult struggle that some of us really relate to. What helps me through it, is appreciating those tiny hands, feet and voices of little ones I see. They are so special in themselves, even if I can’t have one of my own.

  6. Thank you for sharing this Dr. Gunter. Your honesty and willingness to talk about difficult subjects helps so many!

  7. Thanks for such an honest piece, Jen. I researched and wrote about PTL and I worked a hot line to help women who had PTL. It was always hard on them and they sacrificed a lot to prolong their pregnancies. But sometimes it just doesn’t work and preterm babies arrive. More research needs to be done. I am sure in your practice you do everything you can for a woman in a similar situation. Thanks for your candor, Beth Havey

  8. I hear what you say, Dr G; I hear, and I hold your hand, I sympathise, not because I’ve had your experiences, but because I can imagine them.

    ((You might want to remove this.

    You aren’t alone; secrets and shame lie in every family.
    In my generation alone: a cousin died in an RTA, as did his friend; the friend was the widowed mother’s only child.
    My cousin’s sister died when her colonic carcinoma was mis-diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome.
    And their brother is a miserable alcoholic scumbag.
    Their first sibling died when she was only a day old.
    Another cousin died by his own hand a few years ago; he had just “come out”—though in retrospect it was painfully obvious.
    A nephew, a full term healthy boy, became very dehydrated; his renal vein thrombosis was mis-diagnosed as a a Wilm’s tumour; after this was removed, he developed a cerebral vein thrombosis. He was severely mentally physically and mentally handicapped—yet he was almost biingual in German and English, until a major epileptic event abroad after which his abilities were even more severely reduced.
    This nephew’s brother lies, as I type, in an induced coma after an accident when he was a passenger in a bus; half of the left shoulder and the left side of his head were sliced away.
    And me? Had she not died, the second daughter would be 28 now; her next sibling was a “blighted ovum”. And the last sibling (he) was one of the 0.5% who abort after an amniocentesis.

    Someone I know was born very prematurely; she was thin on top, and developed bilateral cataracts. She was also a geriatrician.))

    I hear what you say; I hold your hand and sympathise. I haven’t had your experiences. Yet you have two boys who must have an inner strength to have survived this far; do not feel bad for them, rather be happy in what they have achieved. They may not be what you imagined your kids would be, though they are their own personae and they will and should make their own way in the world. And whatever that is, is in large part due to you influence.

    Do not be too disturbed by images on ultrasounds. They represent the hopes and expectations of the future, something which only a few of us are privileged to see. Rather sadly, it’s not rosy as we all wish it were.

  9. I can sympathize with what you express here. Being infertile, I sometimes feel an icy stab in my heart when I see new parents with their babies, or a pregnant belly, or hear joyous stories of getting (and staying) pregnant relatively easily. Now, I’m not bitter, and I am absolutely able to be happy for my friends and even strangers when they are blessed with such happy circumstances. But that cold knife is still in my heart. This doesn’t make me weak, or ungrateful, or selfish, or incapable of joy — it’s an honest emotional reaction that anyone with compassion should understand. Same thing with your reaction to seeing robustly healthy babies and toddlers. We can be happy for others, and grateful for our own blessings, and still feel pangs when we are denied something so important that others seem to have handed to them.

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