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Two weeks

Two weeks.

I've been a mother for two weeks.

There are certain cliches that pop up again and again as you get closer to having a child. Some are obvious, some are bizarre, and some are just plain frightening.

"Your whole life is going to change."

This was one of the more frightening ones. I actually liked my life before getting pregnant, and if I hadn't, having a child would have been one of the worst possible ways to fix it!

I had plenty of instances in late pregnancy where I suffered strong crises of faith - what was I doing? How could I hope to be a good parent when I couldn't even keep my house clean? What business did I have bringing a child into a political and cultural stage so completely upfucked as this one? And above all was the feeling of stepping into the abyss, leaving a comfortable and reliable life for the complete unknown, where a small helpless being would rely on me for everything.

"Your whole life is going to change." On the one hand, duh, and on the other, YOU'RE NOT HELPING!

Now from the other side - is it true? Well, yes and no. The outward shape of my life is very different, to be sure - my priorities have made a huge shift, everything requires more planning, and yes, I do have a small helpless being relying on me for everything - but I'm still me. I'm still an artist, and a priestess, and a lover, and a Thelemite - I'm just a mother too. My life has changed - but life is change. And it's a change I wanted, even if I've never been able to strictly articulate why.

"[insert horror story here]... but it's all worth it."

This one I've always thought smacked a bit of sour grapes syndrome in reverse - if you have a baby, and it's not worth it, you can't exactly send it back, so you'd better convince yourself that it was worth it, eh?

That being said, I'm pretty sure that had I not wanted a child as badly as I did, it wouldn't be worth it at all. I mean, I've had my body hijacked for 9 months, all my routines undone, most of my clothes made useless, and then my body ripped apart in agonizing pain and a human-shaped parasite grafted to my breast who makes it impossible for me to get more than four hours of sleep at once. (Thank goodness for mother hormones, that's all I can say.)

And there were parts of my labor process (which I haven't talked about yet) that I can't say were worth it. But I learned other things from them, so am coming to terms with them, slowly.

And then there are the things I understand a little better now from this side of the motherhood fence.

First, there are the people who frame themselves entirely by their relationship to another person - "CharliesMom82102" online, or "Hi, I'm here with my sons Zack and Nolan - oh, and I'm Janice" at the neighborhood park.

While I still find that level of self-subjugation horrifying, I do understand a little better the motivation behind it. This is one of the biggest single transformations I've ever undergone; I am the best, the worst, and the only mother my son has. And from where I am right now, to be 'AidensMom9306' is a huge and glorious thing - and I in fact have to actively remind myself at times that that's not all, or even the larger part, of who I am now.

Then, that just about every seeming copout or short cut in the birth and parenting process has a damn good reason for being there. Epidurals? Sure, in some cases it may be overused, but in my case it was literally a life saver. Disposable diapers? Feeding from a bottle, or even (gasp) formula? When it's four in the morning, the baby is miserable, and you don't have two brain cells to rub together, yes, you will take the easier route, because it's the only thing between you and a complete meltdown. A sane and healthy mother is worth more to a child than an optimal diet. And guess what? The occasional bottle does not make for instant nipple confusion, and a few weeks in disposable diapers does not mean you can't switch to a more ecologically sound alternative once you've (at least kinda sorta) figured out what the hell you're doing.

Penultimately, a few people have asked whether or not I would ever consider having a second child, considering what I went through. The answer is yes. For one thing, it's incredibly unlikely that the same complication would happen again, and even if it did, I'd recognize it sooner; plus I wouldn't be dealing with the same psychological issues with anesthesia and hospitals in general that I was this time. I'd want to wait a few years, obviously, and I'd like a more solid extended-chosen-family structure in place first, but yes, I'd consider it, and with more interest than the pre-birth I would have predicted I'd have at this point.

And finally, a picture for those of you who don't read aiden_freeman:


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2006 05:19 am (UTC)
"Hi, I'm here with my sons Zack and Nolan - oh, and I'm Janice" at the neighborhood park.

Some of that has to do with the liklihood that the other parents (or school/day care personnel) might know your kids' names better than they know yours at a certain age. Some of it has to do with the way kids introduce (or point out) other adults. Small kids generally don't learn adults' names unless they have a personal relationship with the adult. I've met some of j's friends several times before I've met their parents, and I've certainly had j. point to an adult across the room and say, "that's X's mom" and run off. *sigh*

FWIW, the diaper thing is a "six of one..." issue. Cloth diapers spare the landfills. Disposable diapers spare the washing water (and the power used to process the sewage.) Use what works best for you, and spit in the eye of people who try to give you crap for your choices.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 18th, 2006 12:17 pm (UTC)
I used that same logic when I was diapering my son. Since we live in the northeast, and have little landfill space but lots of water, I chose the cloth.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 18th, 2006 05:44 am (UTC)
Weebles wobble but they don't fall down

That and the other one that people don't like to think about: Babies bounce.

A good friend of mine tripped and fell down the stairs while holding her 3-month old. She called 911 and some EMTs came out. She was head-to-toe bruises that promised to be beyootiful the next day, but the baby was fine. Not a scratch, bump, or bruise. She didn't even cry. My friend was flabbergasted, but the EMTs said, "Babies bounce. At that age, they don't know that falling can hurt you, so they don't tense up. Since they are relaxed through the fall, they don't get hurt as badly."
Sep. 18th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
Yes, and starting very soon, you quickly learn to distinguish the cry of "I'm upset and I need to be comforted" from "I'm actually physically hurt." :)
Sep. 18th, 2006 12:19 pm (UTC)
That's a lovely picture! Thanks for sharing! You both look very healthy.
Sep. 18th, 2006 12:38 pm (UTC)
People will never get enough of telling you, as a mother, what you "ought" to be doing. I don't think it is ever inappropriate to tell them to fuck off. I've seen women reduced to tears because they were unable to get the hang of breastfeeding and so went to bottle and were descended upon by self-righteous wanna-be parents who would tell them they weren't trying hard enough and reminded them constantly about how much healthier it is to breastfeed, just to mention one of the many issues people will rag on moms about.
I don't talk about my labor story much myself because it upset me too much - for me it wasn't worth it and that's why my tubes are tied, although I didn't make my mind up about that right away, I wanted to wait until I was 30, just to be sure.
Heh... a lot of kids know me as "Aaronsmom". I think a lot of the adults too.
Sep. 18th, 2006 12:40 pm (UTC)
A few thoughts of mine: Your life does change... but it does more by bits and steps rather than in one big jump overnight -- just like the rest of life. I'm in a significantly different place in my life than I was 9 years ago, or than I would have been (or planned to be) if I hadn't had kids, or than my friends who have chosen not to reproduce are.

Skipping a few lines...
"A sane and healthy mother is worth more to a child than ...."

Yes. Yes. God yes. Also? Yes. And that's clipped because there are a billion things that can fit in there. My health -- physical, emotional, and mental -- me a better mother than shopping organic, than eschewing video games and TV, than any type of schooling I choose, than the bedtime I set, than that they get every second of my free time in whatever the way they choose.

It's not a free coupon, as some people would (and have) used this as a slippery slope to accuse me of justifying absolutely anything. But neither is it true that you must give up your identify, your life, your sanity, your free time, etc, in order to be a good parent. There's a balance to be found, but in general, a happier, present parent, will make for a happier child.

Good to hear you and the kin are doing well. Thanks for posting. :)
Sep. 18th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
Missive from the bad mother...
I've done it all wrong by the standards of most people I interacted with at the beginning of being a mother. I had an epidural in my birth plan. My daughter was at daycare, where cloth diapers were not an option. My daughter got soy formula after four months of nursing (by the end I was more dehumanized than i've ever felt in my life). I refused to give up my life and interests because I was still me.

All I got was a new identifyer when describing myself to people: Lake's Mom. Just like when I got married and became "Bill's Wife" then later "Ray's Wife". Curiously, no one seemed to mind that I remained myself post marriage, but it was upsetting post-child.

You and Andrei are doing a fantastic job. This is really the hard part. Figuring out just how your life has changed and dealing with an organism that doesn't give a lot of feedback. Everyone is on a learning curve, all three of you. The kid doesn't have any more idea about being a person than you do about dealing with the new person.

The fact that you refuse to lose yourself is important. Keep doing the things that make you happy and that make you *you*. Because, if you do this right, it will eventually be you and Andrei again and the last thing you want to do is to discover that you've forgotten why you were married beyond rearing children. Be yourselves :-)
Sep. 18th, 2006 03:55 pm (UTC)
On the sanity note...
I'd like to add that you and Andrei are the primary examples Aiden has for how to be a person, and how to be an adult. Right now, prioritizing your sanity will affect him because he will pick up on the stress if you don't. When he's older, he will model what you guys do. If you keep balance in your life and take care of yourself, you will be teaching him how to do it as well.
Sep. 18th, 2006 03:55 pm (UTC)
That's a beautiful photo.
Sep. 18th, 2006 04:11 pm (UTC)
I've had it wonderfully. I've stayed home and breast fed my baby for the last year. Thats not necessarily braging either. It was an opportunity presented and I took it. Its been wonderful and horrible and everything in between. But no matter what else it was at the time it was learning.

I learned who was my friend by those that were willing to share my attention with the baby when we spent time together. I've gotten used to Abi being my ticket of admission to family functions. Without her I'd be beheaded or the emotional equivalent of. Out of the sheer necessity of sanity, I've had to keep a very firm grasp on who I am instead of defining that by my current activities.

And now a year later, I'm regaining my activities and hobbies. Abi loves going out to Faires and Festivals with me. I can write again because she's reached a comfortable place of self entertainment and daddy entertainment for more than a few mins. I'm able to do house work now like I couldn't early on and I'm learning the fine art of leaving her with a sitter over-night for those late night dancing trips with friends from out of town.

I've lost and regained my humanity, and through it all Abi has come out this phase of utter dependance a happy, healthy very strong minded little girl. I didn't do it all right, there were days when I slacked on the baby cerial and fruit for the easy access of breast milk. But the important things are I've remembered who I am, Bry has learned to let part of himself go and actually interact with his daughter, and Abi has come out a very happy, well balanced and healthy one year old. I couldn't ask for more.
Sep. 18th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. My fiance reports, with a disturbed expression on her face, that babies are starting to look increasingly cute to her. Reports from the field are always helpful.
Sep. 18th, 2006 11:07 pm (UTC)
That's happening to me too, and it scares me.

I want a kid, sure. I've been thinking about how to raise children of my own since I was 2. And it was horribly difficult to tell myself to wait when I was in high school and puberty was really making me want to have a baby (but not really making me care about sex; I get the less fun hormones :/). But not yet.

Anyhow, comment to the actual post - sounds like you're being a wonderful mom, and that's a great picture. You're also a great you.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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