Thursday, July 13, 2006

New Post, part 1

I have always loved the following story. I will comment about a portion of it tomorrow. I have been thinking about it for a while.

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family."

"We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"

"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.

"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."

But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her.

I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.

I want to tell her that the physical wounds of childbearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash and every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a souffle or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every-day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.

However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.

Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself.

That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.

My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, and not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike.

I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time.

I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes.

"You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.


Manuela said...

WHAT... a SPECTACULARLY beautiful post.

Absolutely stunning.

Jacqueline said...

[This was the comment I wrote at Manuela's blog regarding this blog entry]


It is reading posts like that one you link to that makes me feel even *more* of a failure as a mother than I already feel. My son will be 1 year of age next week. How I made it through this past year I'll never know. It is bloody hard work. And I have an *easy* baby! One that sleeps when he is supposed to and has a sunny disposition. I also have hired help for my housework.

I do not feel any of that which this post alludes to. I will not drop my crystal should my son start wailing. I do not feel my heart is outside my body - I feel completely separate from this little being. I do not have a bond with other women who are also mothers - indeed I avoid them and their competitiveness. "My baby was walking at 10 months...", "My baby is already talking", "My baby has all their baby teeth at 12 months of age!" and so on ad nauseum. I also do not feel danger lurks around every corner or in every bathroom.

I cannot wait for this maternity leave to end so I may go back to work. I have no problem leaving my baby in the care of others. I *welcome* it. And should anyone ask me if they should have kids, I am not overly enthusiastic with my replies.

So I ask "Why do I not feel how mothers are 'supposed' to feel?" I'm a mother, right? My baby was planned carefully - no accident! Could it be perhaps that it is ok to not agree with this position on motherhood and not be a failure as a mother? I shall ponder... I also know I am definitely not the only mother who feels like this.

Kate said...

That was simply beautiful.

K said...

Oh My God! That is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. As a person struggling with infertility for 3 years, it brought tears to my eyes knowing I wanted to feel and experience all of that one day. I have never read my wishes written out so plainly. Thank you for that. It was much needed today!

K said...

OH MY GOD!! That is the most beautifulthing I have ever read. I have been struggling with infertility for over 3 years and I have never read my wished so plainly written before. Thanks for that. It was much needed today!

away2me said...

A greater truth has never been written. Thank you! (I'm here by way of Manuela's)

amyadoptee said...

I am also visiting courtesy of Manuela. I love the post. It is so beautiful. My road with children is one of the best. I hope I can tell my daughters of the joy, work and pain of motherhood.

Kristina said...

That's just beautiful... thank you.

It's the closest thing I've found that really explains how I feel about my son. So thank you- this post made my day :). TTYL

Artblog said...

It is a beautiful post.

It's how most of us feel but never say.

Kind Regards Artblog