Monday, June 4, 2007

bitter pill

I read The Mask of Motherhood this weekend. Basically, it's an extended meditation on motherhood, with six basic focuses (or is that foci?): pregnancy, labor and delivery, new mommyhood, breastfeeeding, work, and marriage.
It's kind of in the vein of the "Dark Side of Breastfeeding" post I linked to a while ago, except a bit more bitter. The author keeps saying stuff, like "We all feel these things, even though we really do love our kids, and they give us ineffable joy," except she doesn't really go into details about any of the ineffable joys/love. Which is mostly fine, because her argument is that we sentimentalize motherhood past the point of nausea. Except if motherhood really did drive you insane (one of her points) not so many would do it.

Knowing what I know now (that mommyhood, even just with one, is hard) I've been a little surprised, the last few weeks, to look at Lucy and think, "I really like this." Not "I'm managing" or "I can see how this will get more fun later," but "This is fun, NOW".
(Are you surprised/shocked/appalled I was surprised? Perhaps The Mask of Motherhood is for you! You need some good bitter flavor! Like coffee, or beer.)
I was surprised by contentment, because now that I am a mom, I can see that this stage of momdom isn't going to be my favorite. Today, watching other peoples kids, I got to read them a book. And they understood what I was talking about (and not in the way that a comatose patient understands when you talk to them, okay? That doesn't count in terms of making me feel good, which is what I'm looking for, really, when I read to a child).
Sure, I can read to Lucy, but the age where that will be intrinsically rewarding is in the future. Along with all other kids of language-related fun.

Anyway (long digression), I decided not to give the book to a friend of mine that's expecting (happy pregnancy! Read this book, so you can decide you don't want to try parenthood! Hahahahah). The book is finally just too negative. Perhaps I'll give it to her after the initial shock of having a newborn wears off, because I think it's positive not feeling bad about not having the time of your life. I know I spent about two months getting over a comment someone made to me that a 3-to 4-month-old was great to travel with. I thought God, if this is what a great travel companion is, I'm staying home till she's thirty. Turns out her kids were good travelers, but mine was not.

Plus, I didn't really like the author's descriptions of labor and nursing. Sure, labor can be painful, but it isn't always excruciating. And her labor, which sounded positive, but painful, might have been helped if there weren't medical professionals in her face all the time, trying to check her cervix needlessly. (Perhaps "in her face" isn't the right phrase). Ditto with nursing: if your nipples are cracked and bleeding, there's something wrong. Go to a lactation consultant! Don't soldier through!
All this bitterness, is, well, bittersweet. It's good to read many sentiments I have been through in the last nine months. It's good to affirm, once again, that I don't need to feel guilty if sometimes I dream about throwing babies out the window, like the author. But it's also hard to read a book that's so down on motherhood and then look around and think, I enjoy my daughter. I like my life.
The good news: even being hard, I can still do it.


Michelle said...

Yep, contentment in spite of it all is pretty cool--a nice place to be, a gift actually.

AlegraMarcel said...

It's good to see both sides, I guess - the happy glow and the dark moments. Of anything really, including motherhood.

I like your feminist rants.