The Untouched

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
(Isaiah 49:15-16)

My youngest loves to touch and be touched. He needs it to grow, to find his place in the world.

His daddy walks in and Aaron squeals. Propels himself forward like someone is trying to light his diaper on fire. Andy scoops him, and Aaron pats every part of his daddy’s face, his hair, especially his stubbly cheeks. They nuzzle and wiggle in tight for a big baby-hug.

When Aaron needs to know he’s okay, he’ll crawl, 90-to-nothing, to where I am. Pat my shoe, wobble his arms in the general vicinity of “up.” I swing him high and he laughs and laughs, touches my face to say hello or I love you or whatever happy thing he feels.

Aaron and Mama = love

Aaron flaps like a crazed chicken when he sees Nana. She kisses his nose, and Aaron throws his little half-way arms around her neck and smiles because he knows she’s silly. After a few Nana-minutes, Aaron will ask for my arms, do a quick mama check, then reach for the floor so he can hug the dog.

Aaron and Winston

It’s beyond sweet.

Aaron MUST do this. He would wilt without it, become sickly and sad. Touch is his love language, how he delights in existence. He must touch, be touched, check in, pat my shoe, love my face, hug me tight.

He is this way because that’s how he was born, not because that’s how we made him. And this breaks my heart.

Not because of Aaron, but because there are babies—babies upon babies upon babies— just like him. But they don’t get touched. And the thought of babies with half-extended wobbly arms not being embraced, or worse, being yelled at, abandoned, unappreciated, unsqueezed — hurt — is soul-killing. Babies and toddlers and latent-stagers and teens whose parents never learn the language of their children. Have no desire to. Maybe simply can’t.

Just as Aaron doesn’t know a world without emphatic love, these babies know nothing other than angry words, angry hands, neglected arms. It breaks them, then becomes their normal.


I never thought it was funny
when you told people to fuck off,
your fingers high in the air,
legs barely long enough
to reach the ground.

I knew you when
you were in your mother’s womb,
small and clean.

I tried to take you after she forgot
to come the third day
in a row,
but I found her

in a bar,
prolonged smoke break,
fresh hole in her arm.
She needed some time,
she said.

I wonder if you still live
off Cheerios and fumes.

We both cried
the day I picked dirt and makeup
from under your nails,

cried harder when I took the glitter off
and turned your hair
to taffy.
You flailed at the mirror-child;

I held tight and pretended
not to notice your bones.

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