Friday, February 1, 2008

Motherhood: A Cliche

I have recently become a cliché. I mean a mother. I had a baby recently. Six months ago to be exact. Now I’m going to write about it. Yes, I’m another parent in the world who has had a baby and has got to share the story with everyone. Testify. Perhaps enlighten them with my revelatory wisdom. My daughter’s name is Audra. Audra Odeide (O-day-eed) Her middle name Odeide is after my maternal grandmother whom I never met. I figured it meant flower or something. Turns out it means “used things” So my daughter’s name is Audra “used things” Gaul. At least it sounds pretty. Her face is as round as an apple. Her cheeks are as sweet as pie. I’ve never been more in love. Who knew?

I could not decide whether to have a baby to save my life. I went back and forth, back and forth for months. I’d see a baby and melt but just as quickly come up with the practical reason why I should not get pregnant. I have a flat stomach. I already have two step-kids. I’ll never sleep again. My career will end up in the toilet. Or worse, What if I open the floodgates and let the desire wash over me and then I can’t get pregnant? What the hell would I do then? Believe me, there is no rage like the rage, no hurt like the hurt of a woman who wants a child and cannot have one. I was happy. Did I want to gamble that happiness for a child that would change everything forever and ever Amen? I couldn’t decide. I didn’t decide. I threw my hands up and conceded that no decision was a decision. I opened myself up to God’s will. I prepared my body by getting off the vitamins that kept my skin clear, getting off the birth control pill for three months before we started trying and downing prenatal pills provided by my gynecologist Mother on my six month wedding anniversary. “It’s been six months, now. Time to start trying!” she said. I was pregnant the second month we tried. Decision made!

I believe being Audra’s Mommy was fated. I think it means she is meant to do great things and I was simply a vessel to bring her to this earth. Is that overblown? Perhaps. Hell, stranger things have happened. Being a Mother is the most sensible thing I’ve ever done. It is a task that I’ve taken on quite easily. The biggest revelation I’ve had as a new mom is that it is not a revelation. She is an addition to my experience that feels as normal and as natural as my life before she was born but my life is just better and more purposeful and more fun. Sometimes I feel guilty about it. When people ask me how it is going I say, “Great, wonderful, bliss!” Then I feel as if I have to add a gory detail so I don’t sound like a “Polyanna” or a liar.

I have surprised some of my friends with this smooth transition. It can be said that I have a tendency toward the dramatic. A simple cold is a “rare tropical disease” Why react at five when you can react at ten? As thrilled as they were that I was having a baby we all worried how much it would rock my world. With my history of depression I was a prime candidate for post partum. The first week I brought Audra home we all waited for the other shoe to drop. We anticipated the day my sister and husband would have to drag me out of bed and hold me under a cold shower while shouting “It’s not about you anymore! For God’s sake, Audra needs to eat.” That day never came. I was in a blissful adrenaline filled phase that whisked me to Target and lunches and had me contemplating working out despite the fact that I could barely walk due to my swollen ankles and rotated hip. The adrenaline rush did eventually fade. I grew more and more tired, I was forced to start physical therapy for my hip and working out was something I use to do that I grew to relish not having to do right away. The feeling that never drained was the intoxication of being a Mom.

I am humbled by my good fortune. This isn’t to say there haven’t been challenges. Audra had a bout with gas that made her so fussy and uncomfortable I was constantly on edge. She has refused to take a bottle from anyone so I can’t be away from her for more than two hours which causes great concern for when I go back to teach and I need to be gone for seven hours once a week. Sometimes I am haunted by guilt as I tap away on the computer and she sits in her Boppy seat stimulation-free losing her genius at my hands. I feel responsible for her entertainment as if I’m a court jester and she is the Queen. Yet, all of this is manageable because I’m just so honored to be her Mom especially in light of all the women who want to be Moms and cannot. All of it is manageable when I remember that she is just a baby and she didn’t choose to be here. And oh yeah, did I mention those cheeks?

Lately I’ve noticed that the joy of motherhood is not popular as of late. The difficulty, stress, and burden on one’s identity are aspects of the role that are far more highlighted in modern culture. These qualities are dwelled upon, upheld and dissected to such an extent that they have almost replaced the less negative traits that do in fact still exist. Nowadays “Happy Mom” is reviled like the skinny super model or worse the Hollywood starlet that loses all her baby weight by the time she leaves the hospital. Now, when a woman says she loves being a Mom she is doubted. She is judged as a woman who is perpetuating the myth that motherhood is natural and (dare I say) predominantly enjoyable.

Speaking of supermodels, Tyra Banks recently had a show with a panel of women confessing that they were struggling with their roles as new moms. A panelist described the process of breastfeeding as, “Having the death sucked out of her.” Another mom was so angry when the parenting expert tossed a pacifier aside and stated she wasn’t a fan of them that the mother barely could mask her contempt. One woman described in graphic detail how she fantasized about throwing her baby against the wall. She went on to describe how she imagined hearing the infant’s head crack open as he slid to the ground into a pool of his own blood. The audience listened in horror yet there was a tangible satisfaction and relief. It was as if the members of the audience felt they had license to do no better than the women on stage. This isn’t to say that Tyra’s guests had failed at anything. Their experience was legitimately difficult and they were in fact brave for speaking their truth. The problem arose when Tyra negated and practically mocked mothers who had not encountered the same challenges in defense of her guests. In a high pitched voice she whined, “We hear motherhood like, “Oh my baby it smells so good even the poop smells great it’s just so perfect, perfect, perfect…”

I'm going to say it..."I love the smell of Audra’s poop!" I have snuck whiffs of her diaper when no one is watching. The scent is specific unto her which makes it special. Must my devotion merit public mockery? Because the sound of her breath while she sleeps makes me swoon like a school girl with a crush, do I deserve to be mimicked and discounted? Because I am sizzled and fried by her pork-chop-thighs does that mean I must be roasted by my peers as well? I am in love and I want to shout it from the top of my townhouse and not be disliked, criticized or rebuked.

Women who embrace motherhood without irony must speak out! We are losing status and although we are not better than anyone else we at least deserve to be respected. Let’s regain our place by not being ashamed of how we feel. When asked about our experience let’s be humble but honest. Share the unabashed joy that you feel without hesitation and spread the word that it is okay to be happy and it’s alright to love being a Mom.

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