It’s a chemical con. A hormonal hoax. Love, that is. I don’t want to strip away the romance for you but there’s simply no other explanation. How else is it possible to adore someone you’ve only just met? I’m talking about my 2 week old baby, Albert, but the same theory applies to anyone and everyone. Why do you love your wife/husband/girlfriend/uncle/hamster/all of the above? Why does anyone love anyone? More importantly, why does anyone love you? It sure as hell isn’t for your repertoire of karaoke hits or your “famous” chili con carne.
It’s chemistry. Hormones. An evolutionary trick engineered to perpetuate the species, keep us breeding and caring for our young. Whenever you meet a potential partner, your brain releases a hormone called oxytocin designed to help you form an emotional bond. It’s nature’s way of helping things along, like buying you both a double gin and tonic and slipping a little Marvin Gaye onto the jukebox. The same thing happens when you become a parent. The hormone builds up slowly throughout the pregnancy and then, at some point towards the end of labour, the floodgates open. Curiously, it appears to occur in both the mother and father. By the time you carry your newborn home you’re practically floating on air. Drunk on love. Off your face on affection.
Oxytocin isn’t the only stimulant swimming around your body, either. Whenever you hold, rock or feed your child, your brain releases another chemical called dopamine. (I know that sounds like a cartoon drug, but you’ll just have to take my word for it that I didn’t make it up.) Dopamine, incidentally, is the same hormone that gives drug-users a feeling of extreme well-being when they’re injecting heroin or snorting cocaine. So yeah, having a baby is just like shooting up. Probably. It also explains why some mums keep popping them out. They’re baby junkies, desperately chasing one more hit. I should try pimping Albert out on the corner of Brixton high street along with all the other purveyors of recreational highs. £50 a cuddle.
The biological subterfuge doesn’t end there. Just to make sure their parents are properly hooked, all babies are born with what scientists call attachment-promoting behavior. Or, in layman’s terms, they’re really cute. The round head, the soft chubby cheeks, the smooth skin, the little button nose, the disproportionately large eyes and penetrating gaze are all biological weapons to be used against defenceless, doped up parents. We’re conned into caring for them. They even smell amazing. It’s weeks now since Albert was born and I can’t stop sniffing his head. It’s intoxicating. I have no words to describe the scent, other than it’s a bit like mashed potato. But better, obviously. The fact that nature hasn’t evolved babies to the point where they don’t piss all over their parents at every opportunity, however, is still a mystery. Population control, perhaps?
Of course, not every baby is as cute as their love-addled parents believe them to be. We’ve all had to fib at least once in our lives to a young mother, completely oblivious to the fact that her baby looks like E.T. after he gets sick. And from a completely objective standpoint, I have to admit that Albert is not exactly a looker. He’s sweet in a funny, chubby kind of way, but he won’t be troubling any baby beauty pageants any time soon. His face seems to be too big for his head and his head is roughly three times too big for his body. The result is a bit like looking at your reflection in a spoon. Thankfully he spends most of his time on his back, so all the fat drains to the floor. Horizontal is definitely his best angle.
Albert’s modeling career was dealt an even crueler blow in the last couple of days after he developed an angry red rash on his face and chest. This might be an asset if we were using him to beg for money on the street, but alas we are not. A word of advice here for any prospective parents: NEVER google ‘baby rashes’. At first I thought it was just a heat rash, but after half an hour in various internet forums I was convinced he had five different unpronounceable diseases and approximately 24 hours left to live. We took him to a doctor the next day and it turned out to be false alarm; just a normal reaction to living in the outside world. There’s nothing like an imaginary fatal illness though to make your baby infinitely more adorable. Think I might take the afternoon off so I can spend it sniffing his head. Who wants to get high?