My oldest friend and I got pregnant with our firsts within two months of each other, and although I was envious that being eight weeks ahead of me she got to be un-pregnant first, I was secretly relieved that she delivered first because I wanted to know exactly what I was in for. Being my oldest friend, I knew she’d spare no detail.
“What was it like?” I asked her when she called to share the happy news – she’d had a baby girl. I was perched on the edge of the couch nibbling nervously on the phone cord. “Did it hurt?”
“It wasn’t that bad,” she said. She offered a few details but insisted that it wasn’t a big deal at all. “You’ll do fine,” she reassured me, and I believed her.
It’s true, I did fine. Julia’s delivery wasn’t one that you’d see on an episode of A Baby Story – it had more downs than ups – but I got through it. However, it was nothing like I’d expected it to be and afterward, I was kind of pissed at my friend for so obviously leaving out the nitty-gritty.
“I couldn’t,” she said when she came over a few days later to meet Julia. “I didn’t want to scare you.” But you know, some habits are so hard to change. Though often needed, I dare say! How I wish I could be a calm and happy parent at times.
But I wanted to know, and it wouldn’t have scared me. I wanted to hear firsthand about the stuff that the pregnancy books weren’t telling me. I’m a ‘forewarned is forearmed’ kinda girl – I deal with things better if I know what lies ahead.
After I’d had Julia, my friend gave me the unabridged version (like a mother letting off steam) of her daughter’s birth complete with an episiotomy, stitches, vacuum suction, faulty epidurals, and mind-numbing pain – all the stuff I wished she’d told me in the first place.
I didn’t know what to expect when I found out I was going to be a mother, and I still don’t know what to expect so any mom story I’d welcome! I don’t think I ever will. Motherhood is much like riding a roller coaster – sit down, strap in and hold the fuck on, ‘cause it’s going to be a wild ride.
I wanted to know that there would be days where I would be sorely tempted to sell my children to gypsies if it meant I could get a little peace and quiet or that I might resent them at times for being so demanding and relentless.
I didn’t know anything about dealing with a high maintenance child, the kind of child who rarely gives me a moment’s peace, who will scream for me at the top of his lungs until his voice is all but gone, who routinely sucks every last ounce of energy and spunk from me to let me know he’s so scared of thunderstorms, and who often reduces me to a blob on the couch capable only of weeping and grunting after he’s gone to bed.
It would have been nice to know that it’s okay to not like your child when he’s being “difficult”, that I’m not a bad mother because he is and I’m not a bad mother if I yell at him, that I’m human, and that raising children is hard in ways I’d never anticipated. Sure, the question is whether we can be still good moms when we’re overly tired tough we, by all means, we do our best?
I wanted to know that, and about how trying it would be to bounce between the roles of mother and wife and lover and friend and daughter and sister and housekeeper and chef and doer of everything when the role of mother is so demanding and time-consuming and all-encompassing on its own. Sometimes I wish I could go and lie down in my all too tattered and well-used rocking chair and take a deep breath to unwind from it all for a while…
I had no idea about children sometimes becoming rather partial to one parent and wanting that one parent to do everything for them from wiping their bum to pouring their milk to putting them to bed to speaking to them, and how f***ing smothering that can be, and how you might just have to say to your child, “No, child, I’m not going to put you to bed tonight. Daddy is going to put you to bed because you have two parents, remember?”