Mar 12, 2013

Of new moms and knuckle-dusters

I never intended to write a mommy blog but admit that the little ‘Oyon-isms' footer to every post screams that I missed by a mile. So I might as well jump in.  Here's something from my friend PSaw, a raw and honest opinion about what it really meant to be a new mother.
Am I normal? 
The fact of the matter is I hated being pregnant. Not being a morning person to begin with, I detested the fact that an already unpleasant part of my day was made unbearable by that nauseous acidic feeling in the pit of my stomach. Having struggled with my weight all my life, I hated getting even bigger. 
Have you ever wanted to punch those women in the face? … you know the ones who croon over their babies like they are perfect plastic dolls instead of a screaming mess of poop and puke.  And the ones that get that glassy eyed melodramatic look … ‘Oh I miss being pregnant! ….it was just so beautiful!’ 
Let’s set the record straight. It was uncomfortable, awkward and somewhat embarrassing.  One part of me thought that it was a ‘cool science fact’ that I could actually grow a whole human being inside myself and the same scientist in me was weirded out by the fact that I carried around a parasitic human for 8 months.  And let’s agree on one thing - nobody ever felt sexy when they’re the size of a house with the possible exception of Honey Boo-Boo’s mom. Of course, no one wants to **** her anyways.
Am I a normal mom?
So the big day arrived. Four weeks earlier than planned. He arrived with a little bit of a hullabaloo. My mommy wasn’t here. The nursery still had paint fumes in it. The crib and car seat were still in a box. And I had to be cut open to get him out. And then he added insult to injury with a big irritated hungry cry – ‘I am not going to suck on your big engorged boob. Sorry ‘eh mom?’ … but it’s not my type!’ So I took my stapled abdominals, my snubbed boobs, a hospital sack full of soy formula, and my Percocet-fuelled 3-eyed, long-armed zombie companions and came home to my 12-weeks of sanctioned maternity leave.
Have you ever wanted to punch those women in the face? … you know the ones who cry at the thought of leaving their babies for an hour or at the thought of returning to full time employment? Who cry at the thought of leaving their kid with the baby sitter? There were only so many ‘evil’ Sudoku puzzles I could solve before I called my boss and asked if I could come back to work, two weeks earlier than scheduled.  I researched and screened and interviewed a number of in-home baby sitters and day-care providers. And when I finally found the one – I was relieved to leave my son in her care before running to my 9 hours of normal working adult no-puke no-poop discussions. Three years on and not much has changed. I still need to get away and I still need respite. 
I admire, I truly do, women, who like my mom, stayed home and raised me... wasn’t I supposed to pay-it-forward? Am I not a normal mom? 
Am I not normal?

I love PSaw’s honesty and relate to much of her experience. I don't usually (note the qualifier please) share her urge for facial violence when faced with ecstatic new mothers though they did do a number on me in my first few weeks.
Already squirming at not being deluged by a gush of Mother love while grappling with my puling infant, those beaming Madonna’s tended to get my goat. Honestly, I felt little more than mild curiosity and intense anxiety for the new little man-child in our midst. Then I got myself even more confused that I didn’t feel any compunction about my lack of emotional high. Partly it was that my bandwidth was blown by recovering from childbirth and the critical learning curve the results brought. But I suppose I also had just enough faith in my capacity for love to know I'd come through for my ‘lil guy even if I wasn't staying up all night to adoringly watch him sleep in the early days. Well, I actually WAS given those relentless infant feeding cycles, but not from choice and not happily.
I didn’t want to deck the glowing new-Moms because I felt I got them most of the time and saw through them too occasionally. I decided that some of them were truly joyous about the experience and it was just a matter of taste: my inability to coo adoringly over a diaper blowout was probably matched by their inability or appreciate Marmite on toast. Different folks, different strokes. Others, I think, were playing a part unbeknownst to even themselves.
The fact is, a baby sometimes fills a void. Many of us plod along in our pre-set lives chasing degrees, careers, travel, half-hearted hobbies etc. until parenthood comes along to inject a sort of passion we've never felt before. I could be wrong but I think these are the folks who show the zeal of the new convert and make PSaw reach for her knuckle-dusters. I don't think they are posers or mean to condescend to the moms who're less gushy. Some have aspired to mom-hood all their lives and/or have maybe worked extra hard and long to get there. Their emotional highs seem fitting: well earned, deserved and easier to understand. Others see their lactating phase as some sort of biological validation that inspires, amazes and fulfills. I can understand this intellectually, even if I can't feel it emotionally. But these are the beaming Madonna’s who came by their haloes rightfully, in my eyes.
Just as many of us though, had a world outside of momhood and career - pre-baby - that we cherished and cultivated. There were  hobbies, friends, creative pursuits etc. I think these people split apart with a louder tearing sound. A part breaks off into a 'mom' shape but it has ragged edges and does not drift far from the rest of our persona. As our children become a more fixed part of our existence, that we can nurture and enjoy without the role being all consuming, the 'new love' wears off and is replaced by the quieter, stronger kind. I'm sure it's a Darwinian effect that moms are over-hormoned and somewhat obsessed in the early months when babies depend mostly on their mothers for survival. But it's also evolution that modern moms feel less anxiety and think more with the left side of their brain given the support they have. When you don’t have to worry so much about where the mammoth steak for dinner is going to come from or whether the velociraptor might sneak your baby away at night from your doorless cave, your mind has more space for other things. These are the people like PSaw, who love their children but equally love their lives outside of Mom-hood.
And here's my secret and rather incendiary theory about some of the Glowing Mothers amidst us: I think some of their euphoria is a subtle little piece of self-delusion. An unconscious coping mechanism for this overwhelming role of a lifetime. They convince themselves they LOVE their experience even though they do not (at least not all of it), because the alternate explanation scares them. There's little space for contradictory emotions in our judgmental societies, or even for degrees of belief. No one tells an expecting mom that you may not immediately love your child, will probably hate much of the first few taxing months but it will turn out just fine anyway. That would be too crushing and possibly a difficult admission to make for many women who are secretly distraught at their own mixed feelings about new-motherhood.
I think it’s partly due to the 'Supermom' ideal too. We expect to be stimulated by and excel in our careers while we achieve some sort of completion through motherhood. If we're not feeling gushy about our infants or fulfilled by our boobs-on-tap avatar we feel like bad mothers because of all we have absorbed about the 'natural mothering instinct'. On the other hand, if we don’t love rushing back to work (like we thought we would) because we inexplicably left our hearts at home in the crib, we doubt how independent or strong a woman we really are. Same for the stay-at-home-mom vs working-mom debate: you're taking the 'easy way out' in someone's eyes somewhere regardless of which cap you wear.
And what utter crap all this is.
The truth is that we can feel less than head-over-heels with our squirmy little babes and still love them to death when we're better acquainted with them and less physically over-worked. We talk of severe illness as 'trauma' but hesitate to label childbirth as such because of the negative connotations. If you ask me, it is a kind of trauma. One with a very precious outcome but it's overwhelming nonetheless. For most of us I think it's a difficult, difficult transition when we welcome a child into our lives and kicking sand over the grotty, ugly bits does no-one a service. I'm certain that most people feel like PSaw at some point or the other: drawn to the baby and wreathed in inexplicable smiles while feeling put-out at the overwhelming physical strain and mental dullness.
And I think we get confused by this contradiction of emotions.
How can we feel put-out by our little miracles? What does that SAY about us?
So sometimes we unconsciously amplify and glorify the beauty of it all to Just. Get. Through. The. Day. Because in our heads, all this pain, anxiety and tedium has got to be worth something......something worth giving up the job, abandoning sleep and good-health and shutting down a major part of the brain. Since that misty-eyed, redeeming moment of watching him graduate Summa cum Laude in crimson cap-n-gown is kinda far away, we seek and find it it in the more accessible (and realistic) joys. Like smiles and coos, impossibly delicate fingers curled up into tiny fists and those soft, whimpering sleep sounds. Alright, all that really is pretty adorable, regardless of your jaded-ness, but you get my drift. We can be emotionally moved and feel deeply satiated at the sight of our fragile infant even while part of our brain flops around in boredom. But what a confusing cocktail of emotions!
I won't even start on the unfair bias towards the‘Maternal Instinct’ that leaves fathers in the proverbial dust. I think it’s unfair and tragic that the many, many fathers with instincts to rival or beat the mothers’, receive no acknowledgement r respect. My son’s dad was as instrumental in deciphering infant cries and solving feeding dilemmas as he is now in teaching endurance and toughness, which is still the stereotypical realm of Paternal duty. Our baby would calm down as quickly in his dad’s hairy arms and on his hard chest as he would with me. No matter how much we ‘modern’ women like to boast about the equal parenting rhythms we have struck, we seem to pull back from that final acknowledgement that our husbands might have an instinct that is on par with ours even without the parturition credentials.
My point (if there even is one) is that it takes all kinds and every method of parenting is the right one so long as it grows happy, cherished children.
So everyone - take off your halos and put down those knuckle-dusters.
Its all good.
On replying to a question after claiming to not know the answer the first time he was asked:
Me: How come you didn't tell me this when I asked before?
Oyon: Because it just made it's way to my brain
Me: Oh? Where was it before?
Oyon: I'm not really sure. But it wasn't in my brain. It just got there.

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