Wednesday, February 10, 2010
10 Untruths about Motherhood
Read the first article of my new column, "LadyMama," in the Algemeiner Journal!
When I was expecting my son, the list of opinions, warnings and all around announcements offered by other mothers grew almost as quick as my belly. Spoken as if rules from The Bible itself, these mother-musings floated in my mind as my due date approached. But now, almost six months after the birth of my son, I am here to set the record straight.
1. “Diapers will be the end of you.” I wasn’t exactly exuberant about what I anticipated to be the constant chore of changing diapers, but all that changed after the first poop taught me something about the nature of love. Yes. Love. It’s the only way to explain why changing a wet or soiled diaper can be so completely satisfying. I have anxiously awaited poops, sung lyrically-advanced songs once they have arrived and admittedly went fishing to examine the contents of diapers my husband changed. Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. If you’re not a mother yet, it’s going to happen to you, too. As it turns out, “Pampers” and “Luvs” are quite the appropriate names.
2. “Say goodbye to your sleep.” If only! The truth of the matter is, I sleep way more than I need to these days. The little bit of sleep I lose because of the baby’s sleep pattern has thrown me into a nonsensical and desperate sleep-or-die mind-set. I grip to the heels of sleep with the strength of ten pubescent teenagers. As soon as my child hits the hay, do not stand in my way. I make a beeline for my bed like a magnet. Come morning, and – just ask my husband – I snarl at any attempt to let light in before I absolutely have to wake. It’s actually embarrassing. Say goodbye to sleep? I wish I could.
3. “Being a mother makes you selfless.” When people say that, it just makes me feel like an awful person. How come this hasn’t happened to me? Am I the only one that yaps away on the phone when my child wants to play or uses Babies R Us gift cards to buy myself something? Sometimes motherhood just comes to highlight how truly selfish we actually can be. And the truth is; we do enough for our children to not feel completely guilty about that.
4. “It’s hard to get out of the house.” When I imagined leaving the house with my baby, I pictured load-carrying donkeys and caravans. I was worried that the need to drag tons of baby paraphernalia would be an easy incentive to live indoors. But in reality, I’m not carrying more things, just different things. I’ve ditched my perfume for Purell hand sanitizer and lipstick for Desitin. And besides, gallivanting around with a baby has its perks – like a stroller basket to dump shopping bags (and those of your friends, of course) and a magnificent distraction during awkward run-ins with friends you haven’t seen since the commencement of your post-partum hibernation.
5. “Your body will turn to mush.” There’s a saying that when you see Jewish women dancing at a wedding, they’re all peeing. The thought of such loss of body-control was depressing beyond words, but I was already pregnant and couldn’t turn back. But it’s not true that your body becomes one big sagging sloth after having a baby. My body jumps out of bed with the force of a lion when my baby cries and I do these stretching lunges when he reaches for a choking hazard. In other words, do not be concerned; you’re baby will reveal the Olympic-medal-winning gymnast within you.
6. “Don’t listen to your mother.” I realized this was nonsense when the hospital’s lactation consultant tried to convince me that breastfeeding was au natural, and my mother was the only one to make me feel normal for screaming bloody murder. Yes, every mother has to develop her own rhythm, but the more you try to sync yours with your mother, the easier this is all going to be. She may have no idea what a Bugaboo or BabyBoon is and every time she says “we mothers” it might make you cringe, but she did raise you, and the sooner you admit she did an okay job, the better off everyone will be.
7. “You will never shower again.” I tried not to get too close to the person who told me this. I knew she was exaggerating, but still. I remember thinking, as if a baby can really get in the way of the important task of tending to your personal hygiene. A few months later and I myself was mistaking Herbal Essence for some sort of tea (for all the mothers reading this - it’s a shampoo! Go shower!). Quite often, I would give the baby a bath and say, “We’re all clean!” But this does not do the truth justice. Mothers do shower, just not whenever we please or as often as we’d like. But our showers post-baby are nothing to compare altogether. A mother’s venture under the unfamiliar waterfall is a true clean-a-thons in which she actually removes dirt (aka, baby residue of all kinds). What used to be habit is now an entirely necessary, fulfilling and somewhat messianic experience. Think of this as quantity versus quality.
8. “It’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.” Anyone who says this has obviously never spent hours cleaning and organizing their entire house only to sit down afterwards and admire their work while drinking an ice coffee. Yes, tending to the needs of a newborn brings with it a truly larger-than-life fulfillment, but things like rescuing the lives of women and children in Darfur might rate just a little higher. And for what its worth, you can still be a great mother and absolutely love motherhood while admitting that there are other things you’d find more gratifying.
9. “Your relationship with your husband will suffer.” Since having a baby, my husband and I have seen more sunrises (even though we often have no choice) and work as a team like never before (so what if it’s while tending to a spit-up catastrophe?). And if I can be completely cheesy, nothing waters your love for your husband like the sight of him going completely gaga over the baby. And when he goes that extra mile to lend a helping hand, it’s far more meaningful than a candlelit dinner. Yes, I do realize that makes me sound like I could use a lesson on romance, but it’s true – after you have a baby, there’s only more love to go around.
10. “Motherhood comes naturally.” This was proven wrong right at the beginning – with the epidural. I don’t care if you’re Eve herself; motherhood is not a natural experience. It’s a work in progress. Sure, we have strong doses of intuition and motherly instincts, but we often feel completely out of our wits - and that is perfectly natural.
Every mother is guilty of projecting her experiences on to soon-to-be-moms. But any pregnant woman reading this should prepare to be surprised as she maneuvers her way through the maze of motherhood. The best thing a new mother can do is expect to discover the mom within, all by her motherly self.