Note: I wrote most of this post in November and kept meaning to perfect it, but never did. But here it is, perspective may be fresh off maternity leave, but most of it still applies. Fitting in real reading and writing that is non-work related is still on my to-do list.
Let’s get this out of the way: I reproduced. I created progeny. I am technically a mother.
That identity feels pretty foreign to me, however. It’s more like I have a full-time job caring for an infant, a job I sometimes outsource during the day to two nice ladies who love babies.
I love this baby. I am probably addicted to this baby. I can be found staring at this baby when he is sleeping instead of sleeping myself. If I am not his mother, I am a creepy baby stalker (or an oxytocin addict looking for her next fix, one of the two).
Despite this, when I get tricked into reading “Mommy posts” that Facebook and Pinterest suggest to me after thoroughly spying on my Google searches, I do not identify with most of the writers. It feels awkward to write about motherhood without swimming in cliches or trying to sound above the entire process.
When a friend suggested I start blogging about motherhood, I thought it would be too much like that story at the beginning of recipe blogs–no one cares about the origins of your eggplant or how apricots make you feel in summer; we are all scrolling down for the recipe. I imagined that unless I was offering practical tips–like how to make flying with a baby easier (lists I did read before our Christmas flight), I didn’t think anyone would want to read it. Having a child is such a common experience after all, and I didn’t feel like I fit these common types of Mommy bloggers:
Crafty, organic, picture-perfect, precious Mommy. These blogs feature gorgeous photography of not only the home-grown foods she will feed her children, but also the children preciously posed in the garden with hand-sewn clothing. Posts use phrases like “grateful she chose me”and “so honored to love him.”
Perfectionist, organized, master of scheduling Mommy. Focus is on how to do everything better because they are definitely doing it better than you and here’s how!
Sarcastic, cool, I’m not taking any of this seriously Mommy. Posts contain profanity, constant jokes, and frequent mentions of hip culture references so you know they haven’t let motherhood downgrade their fashion sense or taste in TV. They have time to parent and watch Orange is the New Black. F**k yeah!
Angry, complaining, no one has ever been this tired Mommy. The writing is aimed outward, never inward–posts focus on the worst parts of parenting and the people who make it harder. These blogs read like advertisements for never having kids or associating with anyone who does.
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The following topics dominate the discussion in those recommended posts I mentioned above; they unite and divide mothers, yet I don’t have a firm stance on any topic. I say mothers specifically because the expectations are so high for them and the criticism so strong for perceived failures. Fathers enjoy the benefit of low expectations (which are insulting to them, by the way).
A father takes a nap with his baby and it’s precious: he’s #1 Dad! Meanwhile, a mom co-sleeps with her baby and gets a lecture on SIDS.
It took us close to four years to have a baby, so this is a subject with which I am quite familiar. The road was long and emotionally fraught at times, but worth the outcome. Whenever I read that sentiment about the baby choosing the parents, it doesn’t register because in our case, in all the ways we could choose to have this baby, we CHOSE. I imagine that goes double for adoptive parents. The exception of course is when parents adopt a child they already know; in that case the child chose them and the parents chose the child, and I will now stop trying to explain all potential choosing scenarios. We chose, the end. I learned during our journey just how many people I knew were struggling with the same issues. This support helped to see us through and while I don’t have dramatic feelings about our process, Aaron and I are both open to talking about it with others if they ask. When people find out it took a while for you to get pregnant, they sometimes get tragic eyes. It’s sweet of them, but it always makes me uncomfortable. I never felt like we were dealing with something unconquerable, even if we were never able to conceive.
What I learned: You’ll never know how you’ll feel on the issue until faced with this situation. We had to listen to our gut and ignore the rest.
Whoa, does this one get people going. One in three babies born in the U.S. is born via Cesarean section and we know they are not all medically necessary. This leads people to doubt reasons why anyone would need to have a C-section, and calls to challenge the medical establishment ensue. So when I found myself with recommendations from both my doctor and a specialist to have a C-section because it was medically necessary, I was crushed at first. Once I accepted it and saw the risks in my situation were too great, I actually felt fortunate to know in advance. A scheduled procedure seemed much less stressful than a last minute surgery plan after a long labor.
Yes, the recovery was challenging while caring for a infant, much more so in retrospect than I realized at the time. During those early weeks, you are head down, plowing through like a bulldozer.
What I learned: I wrote this part four months ago, what C-section?
Again, four months ago I had much more to say on this topic. Long story short: given our road, this was the one thing I had hoped would be “natural.” It was very it takes a village at first, and I learned quickly why people would not choose this path, but fortunately, we made it to the other side, and I am still going, pumping twice a day in a dark closet in the back of my classroom. There is a light, don’t worry, but it’s less awkward to get walked in on this way.
What I learned: I am willing to pump in a dark, mostly empty movie theater at 10 am to see Star Wars with my husband.
When I started this post in November, I had planned a symbolic ending on how parenting is like infant sleep with the image of me taking it one night at a time by holding my baby’s hand until he fell asleep.
How precious. How patient. How only-four-months-in.
Four months later I am not allowed to talk about this topic anymore. Let’s just say I joined a Facebook group about sleep and I recently lol-ed at a parenting podcast that had a segment on naps. My sleep obsession has yielded some results, yes, but at what price?
What I learned: The sleep book was only the beginning.