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: