Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Long Hard Road to Motherhood

I have reached some sort of a crossroads in my journey to being a “mom”. Thus far, I have been a “mommy” and a “new mother,” but I haven’t yet felt like a “mom”. Shall I explain? Let me explain.

Mommies are new and fluffy and extremely, cripplingly in love with their babies. They cannot stand to hear them cry and they have utterly no perspective when it comes to their babies. They get offended in the supermarket when they hear some old moron calling their babies by the wrong gender (as in, “what’s his name?” when it’s a girl). They pull the car over (even if they’re in the worst section of town) if the baby makes any noises of discontent and sit there in the parking lot of the Mellow Mushroom with their boob out, feeding the baby till she settles down and falls asleep. They cry, and I mean really cry, if they see anything remotely unpleasant happening to any baby on television because they immediately think of the same thing happening to their baby. Their boobs start to ache and leak all over the place if they so much as hear a baby crying in the grocery store. They are drippy, tearful, maternal, worshipful and probably annoying for anyone else to be around. This is most likely why new moms have to hang out with other new moms in “postpartum support groups”. Not because postpartum is some kind of disease. Just because none of their other friends want to be around them, so the best thing is for them to congregate amongst each other, alternately breast feeding their own babies and cooing at the other babies in the group. This is where I have been for the past 16 weeks.

Today, I made an important advancement towards moving past this stage. We were in the car, Sofia and I, on our way to pick Hugo up at work. As soon as I got to the first red light, Sofia started to wail. She has begun doing this whenever the car stops. She’s all fine and everything until we come to a red light and as soon as I stop at it, she starts crying as though she’s in terrible pain. I have, up until this point, frequently stopped to check her diaper, make sure she’s not hungry and that there are no bugs happily munching away on her tender little neck (these are the things that haunt a new mommy’s sleep). Other times, I have pre-planned for this fussiness by not pulling all the way up to the light but instead giving myself a good 10 feet and tapping on the brakes to keep the car rocking back and forth until the light turns green again. On still other occasions, when Hugo’s in the car, I have hopped out of the passenger seat at a red light and popped into the back seat so that I can entertain and jiggle the baby to help settle her down.

Anyway, today I did none of these things. I didn’t even really think about it until after it happened. I pulled up to the light, it was red so I stopped, and the baby started crying as though her entire world was about to end. I smoothly reached over and turned up the radio. Welcome to the wonderful world of “Mom”.

I know that there is a purpose to the stages of motherhood. When the baby is tiny and helpless and incapable of manipulation, there is no need for perspective. Many will tell you that you shouldn’t let your newborn sleep with you, that you should let the baby “self soothe” if she wakes up crying, and that you should feed her on a strict schedule from the very beginning to avoid raising a “snacker”. This all made perfect sense to me before I had Sofia, and I planned on doing all of it. She wasn’t going to sleep with us, ever, she was going to learn how to “put herself to sleep” and she was going to be fed on a schedule so that we could establish a good feeding and sleeping pattern. When she was born, though, I found my own maternal instincts at odds with these dictates. The truth was; I wanted to sleep with her. She was so soft and snuggly and smelled so good. I didn’t want to hear her cry, ever, and I would do anything to make her stop when she did. When all else failed, even if I knew she wasn’t hungry, I would nurse her, because it seemed to make her feel better and it sure as heck made me feel better. The point is, I truly think now that this is how we’re supposed to act as new parents (don’t think Hugo was exempt from any of this).

Newborn babies shouldn’t ever be allowed to cry themselves out. They’re so tiny and they’ve just been introduced to this world from one in which they were warm and snuggly all the time, enveloped in love and fed a constant diet of the very best of whatever the mother eats. Is it asking so much to give them a few months to adjust before we start slugging them with the muck of “reality”? Can’t they just enjoy a short reprieve before we start imposing “schedules” and “sleeping rules” on them? Of course, eventually, we must begin to slowly introduce reality in small doses, so they won’t grow up to be narcissistic and incapable of dealing with unpleasant sensory experiences. I think I know how that happens now. It’s a slow transition from “mommy” to “mom” that happens within us. Today, I let her cry at the light. Tomorrow I might let her fuss until we get home before I feed her. And someday, just maybe, I might have the courage to put her on a school bus, knowing full well that she might get picked on and made fun of. Right now the very idea makes me break out in hives, but who knows?


Khadra said...

I dont know how many children you are wanting to have, but the mom thing changes with each child. crying at the stoplight becomes unbearable by child three. You dont just turn up the radio, you change routes and head to the liquor store. by the fourth child you are deaf, so it doesnt much matter any more. That is where I am at.

Rene' said...

Not sure what happened to me.....maybe it was all the "crack-ppuchino" when I was preggers...LOL...JK...Ur blog readers are all gonna think I'm a drunk/druggie!! LOL

Lauren Ochoa said...

And that would exaggeration I guess?

Val said...

I'm definitely a mom. I am able to completely tune out the whining of my children on most occasions.

Val said...

Oh, and WHO took that gorgeous photo?