He comes home smelling like daycare, a cheerfully sanitary jumble of baby wipes and cleaning products with undertones of sour milk and another baby’s formula, another woman’s perfume. I bury my face in the top of his head, searching for where he is hidden under wispy-fine hair, seeking the scent of my son. It inspires a certain kinship with the working mothers of the wild, rumored to abandon their babies once strangers have handled them. As a child I believed the myth, worried over baby birds marked by human hands, smelling of other-ness as their mothers turned their backs. Now I know better, with a mother’s heart I know that like me they have the opposite impulse: to pull him in close and wrap him in arms or feathers or fur, resetting the olfactory signposts, and reclaim him nightly as my own.

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