Ballerina Natalia Makarova bends over the crib in her Watergate suite bedroom and looks at her son Andre, who celebrated his first birthday only a month ago. Her expression is part solicitous, part doting, part amused. The infant, half hidden in a coverlet, is curled into one of those ungainly positions babies affect, wisps of blond hair framing a classically cherubic face.

"He's funny," she says, crooking her head over a shoulder with a smile. "He's a funny boy."

The night before, Makarova had given an entranving performance in the lenghty, taxing classic "Swan Lake," with Anthony Dowell as her Prince Siegfried. With the departure of Ivan Nagy, who retired, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, who joined the New York City Ballet, Dowell has become her most frequent stage companion, and will be Makarova's partner in fiver ballets during the current three-week Kennedy Center run for American Ballet Theatre. In an hour or so, she'll leave to rehearse the ballet "Desir" with himm under the direction of choreographer John Nrumeier, in preparation for the first Washington performance of the work.

In the year since his birth, and before, young Andre has made a conspicuous difference not only in her daily routine, but in artistic matters as well.

The change is clear enough to outsiders. There's not only a new ripeness to her movement, but also a much less aggressively crowd-pleasing attitude toward her audience. And Makarova has noticed the transformation herself.

"It is true that since I am a mother I enjoy more being on stage," she says, lighting one of a chain of cigarettes. "I have more fulfillment (is it possible to say that in English?).

"It used to be," she says, "that it was very important to me not to miss a single step. Now, that doesn't mean as much. I want more to give a believable performance than to have technical perfection. I want my dancing to be dramatically satisfying, to really give myself to a role and explore it fully. In this sense I think I am less limited now."

"Limited" is not exactly a word one would think of applying to a dancer who has reigned as an international superstar since her defection to the West from the Soviet Union in 1970, expanding her horizons to include ballets by such contemporaries as Jerome Robbins, Antony Tudor, Kenneth MacMillan, George Balanchine and Glen Tetley. Trying to lead a "normal" outside life while devoting oneself to the vagabond ways of ballet dancing does, however, make for restrictions and hardships.

Naturally, she doesn't want to leave Andre. "I left him behind for a month when I went to Germany in October," she says. "It was vehy hard, really very hard. After that Id decided that if I go away for more than a week I will certainly take him. I'm so busy on tour I can only see him in the morning and late at night-but that's enough to keep contract.

Contract with her husband, San Francisco businessman Edward Karkar, is also subject to unavoidable interruption, though Makarova says with a shrewd grin of experience that they are separated "just enough."

"Though he doesn't tell me this, I cannot say I'm a good wife to him-I'm usually so exhausted all the time, and I just manage to find a little to play with the baby. But he's such a sensitive man, so understanding."

Karkar was a fan of hers long before they met, having seen her dance for the first time in 1961, when she was on tour with the Kirov Ballet. Much of their talk concerns the ballet, and because this business involves travel, he frequently joins her on tour.

"He doesn't know the profession, the technical side," she says, "but he has a very good sense of beauty-a natural sensitivity and taste."

Makarova has also mellowed personally since her marriage. There was a time when she seemed to take a certain delight in playing the temperamental artiste. Years ago, she held a press conference in Paris to announce she would never again dance with "that man" Rudolf Nureyev (they have long since been reconciled). Once she told an interviewer she was "bored with ABT." Nowadays she seems to have only one lingering complaint, and it has been with her since her arrival in the West: No choreographer has yet made an evening-length ballet for her.

"I'm still looking, still searching," she says. "I love to work with Jerome Robbins, but he's like a prisoner there in his own company-I found out there's not so much freedom as I thought there would be in the West. I really need a full-lenght ballet, and not one of the classics revived, but something new. I don't understand why there aren't more, there are so many exciting stories that could be ballets.

"I think the public, too, is tired of these small things all the time. They want to be involved in a story, to believe in what's happening on stage."

Makarova and her husband have a house in San Francisco, a newly acquired apartment in Manhattan and a London flat. Asked which of these places she considers home, she shakes her head and says. "Home? I'm a gypsy."

Suddenly, she's being called away to rehearsal. In the meantime, Andre has awakened, and in a moment the ballerina emerges from the bedroom with her son lifted high above her head.

Holding him at the waist, she wags him from side to side, and is rewarded with a complacent gurgle or two.