Every Parent Will Love This Gorilla Newborn and Mother Photo

There's nothing like a baby primate asleep on a parent's chest.
Koola rests as her newborn daughter sleeps on her chest (Brookfield Zoo).

It is too easy to read human emotions into animals, especially awesomely intelligent ones like gorillas. But I can't help feeling a sort of genus pride and connection looking at this gorilla mother, Koola, and her baby at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo.

There is something about the baby's arms and the precise mechanics of this snuggle. I've been there, Koola. I feel you.

This is, of course, because my first child was born this year, and I cannot help feel the pull of parental love, even in the distorted mirror of another Great Ape.

My son is the axis around which my whole world spins now. And that world includes gorilla mommies. 

At four months old, he can do so many things. Smile. Laugh. Charm. Grab his feet. Roll over. These all provide constant amazement for our little family. I never realized exactly how many lights have to come on for an adult brain to be formed. And as a parent, you get to watch each one spark, flicker, and then burn brightly. 

But if there is one type of moment, one behavior, one feeling that will define this year for me, it would be those uncountable hours when my son slept on my chest in the early weeks of his life. 

His tiny density would press down on my heart, and it was as if he was squeezing out every available molecule of love. A warmth would spread out from our points of contact and overwhelm every other thought and sense. They float still in my bloodstream, undiluted by time or the difficulty of our new life.

Evolution at work, the selfish gene, and all that, I guess. Science suggests that high-contact fathering sends a boost of oxytocin coursing through a man's body.

The mechanism might be hormonal, but the effect is metaphysical. This is being, and he is my reason.

Jump to comments

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.


A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?


In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.


What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.


Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.