Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 • 6 Comments on Not Exactly Mother of the Year (33w5d)
It has struck me on several occasions in the past few months that I should be more excited—or, more accurately, that I’m expected to be more excited. The nagging notion that I’m not quite as delighted by the prospect of impending motherhood as others think I should be has caused me a bit of concern—and some guilt. Other people—strangers, even—seem more excited about me being pregnant than I am. If I hear the phrases precious gift or blessing from God one more time, I might vomit (except I refuse to vomit while I’m pregnant because it’s automatically attributed to “morning sickness”). If one more woman gets a little misty eyed over my big belly, I might hit her (unlike vomiting, I have no reluctance to use violence as a response). And if one more man beams at me and tells me how wonderful it is to be a dad, I might give him an earful—starting with, of course being a dad is wonderful—you not only get to keep your body, you get to keep your identity, too. Society is simply kinder to fathers, so what’s not to love about the experience? No pain, no guilt for having your own life, and women think you’re a freaking hero if you take care of your own kid for a few hours.
I know how shocking this will sound to some (many?) people, but it’s the truth: I don’t think motherhood is the end all, be all of my existence. I do not think of my child in strictly fuzzy wuzzy lovey terms. I don’t cry over diaper commercials. I loathe minivans. If I see a couple with a baby and a dog, I’m going to look at the puppy first. I might not even look at the baby. I do sometimes check out strollers and I always pay attention to the division of labor—and it’s almost always the mother who is doing the feeding, the soothing, the carting the kid to the bathroom for a diaper change. All the while, dad is grinning broadly and telling anyone within earshot how wonderful it is to be a dad.
I realize, of course, that for many people—more women than men—parenthood really is their one and only calling in life. I know some of those people. I didn’t understand it before I was ready to have a child and I don’t understand it now, in the weeks before I have my baby. I certainly don’t anticipate understanding it once I have this baby. It’s just not the way I’m made.
It’s not that I’m dreading motherhood. Well, not entirely. I’m dreading these first few months and for one glaringly obvious reason—I will be the sole care provider for an infant. Does that sound like fun to anyone? If it does, do you want to be my nanny? But even if Jay was going to be here, I would still be looking at the next few months as a very difficult, very trying time in my life. Probably the most difficult and the most trying (and that’s saying something). I have no rose colored glasses to put on, no illusions to shatter. I know that taking care of a child—especially an infant—is demanding, exhausting and almost without reward. (I know, I know, the baby is his own special reward, right? Please.) I know what I’m in for—or I know as much as anyone who hasn’t had a child and has very little experience with babies can know. And it scares the hell out of me, even while I’m mentally preparing myself for the sleep deprivation, the sense of isolation, the pain (of childbirth, recovery and breastfeeding) and the loss of identity, at least temporarily.
Maybe it won’t be as bad as all that. Maybe it will. It’s funny, but the same women who tell me horror stories about their childbirth experiences are the ones whose babies are little golden angels who bring nothing but sunshine and rainbows and dirty diapers that smell like bouquets of roses. It makes me wonder what drugs they’re putting in those epidurals, to be honest. Some would call it unconditional love—but I think it’s more the fear of admitting that it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and rose smelling diapers. Or wanting others to suffer as much as they have suffered.
I do believe in unconditional love, but I don’t necessarily believe in love in first sight. It may take some time to grow to love a crying, smelly, demanding bundle of joy. By the way, where is the joy they’re talking about? But no amount of unconditional love is going to make me leap for joy when I have to clean up projectile vomit (or worse). No amount of unconditional love is going to make me think my baby is the most beautiful baby in the world if he looks like a troll. Some babies are ugly babies. It’s a fact of life. And, for the benefit of my own sanity and self-respect, I’m not going to try to polish a turd just to make myself feel better about the whole thing.
So, I’m dealing in reality here, trying to be as pragmatic as I possibly can about an experience that I’ve signed up for. It’s a bit like joining a gym (not that I’ve ever joined a gym)—you know it’s going to hurt and you know you’re going to suffer, but somewhere down the road you’ll be glad you did it. I like babies at a comfortable distance and toddlers not at all, so the first few years of this kid’s life will certainly be an interesting experience for me. When I think of motherhood, I most often see myself with him when he’s older—when he has his own mini-life of school and friends and interests outside of home. When I can talk to this human being I’ve created and admire him for the person he is becoming and not just for the cute little outfit I’ve dressed him in. That appeals to me, that makes me smile. But it’s going to be a long haul getting there.