Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mytherhood

There are a lot of myths surrounding motherhood. Women have babies and some of them are wont to say things like, "It changed my life." Well, it changed mine, too. "It fulfilled me," or "Having a baby made me realise what my purpose was". Or "having a child finally defined me as a woman." Or some such statements that must fall somewhere along the line between 'bewildering' and 'hurtful' for anyone who has not had a child.


I can't really relate to any of those. I was perfectly fulfilled pre-baby, thankyouverymuch. I had lots of purpose and I didn't need a baby to become a woman. I was nearly 38 when my first was born and I'd certainly enjoyed my life up till then. I'm just not the type of woman who describes herself as A Mother, as in:
Gingerbread Lady - who are you?
Why, thank you for asking. I'm the Gingerbread Lady. I'm a Mother, a crafter, a teacher, a learner and a ... oh, goodness, I've already run out of inspirational titles.

My son was born with A Personality (jazz hands). He came into this world as his own person. He joined our family and it felt like we had suddenly got a new flatmate, a third person in our house, a little tyrant that dictated how everything should be and made his feelings known when he was displeased. He was not a passive little being upon which we could project our hopes and aspirations. John was John from the minute he was born and I am his mother. I love being his mother but have no great desire to be A Mother in general: vast swathes of motherhood are quite horrific and I really cannot recommend them. Do I exaggerate? Maybe, but when you're in it, a little exaggeration is allowed.

See, it takes a village to raise a child and, for the most part, our village has been my husband and I. We don't have family close enough to call up to come over to take the baby for an hour, and all of our friends work. It has just been us, often it has just been me. And it has been hard - relentless, in many cases. One night, crying, I handed my husband the baby that had been howling without a break for the previous three hours and said, "It's like some cruel form of punishment." I meant it: with too little sleep and too little relief, I felt like the infant was just draining me of my last dregs of energy.

But here's the very weird thing about motherhood - as opposed to Mytherhood, where everything is always sunny and women gush about how they never knew the reason for their lady bits until they popped a baba - certain amounts of it are utterly joyful and they make the rest of it bearable. Sometimes this joy is wrapped up in physical pain, like when you are woken from deep sleep by getting your eye socket battered with a plastic fish - you wake up to the sight of a smiley, gappy-toothed face shouting "Mumma! Mumma!" And there is nothing I have been prouder of in my adult life than seeing my son take his first steps. I doubt I would've been that proud if I had taken them myself. He falls asleep holding my finger but when he falls asleep, I actually hold his heart.

Despite the fact that it's been tough, tough, tough, I would do it again in an instant.

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Which is how I feel now, three months after finding out that I was unexpectedly pregnant again. My first reaction - and feel free to hate me if you're struggling with fertility issues, I'd probably hate me, too - was to cry. And cry. And cry. A full day of crying and wondering how on earth I was going to cope with two children under two. How were we going to manage financially? With our jobs? How was I going be able to care for two babies when I had often felt exhausted and drained from minding just one?

Then we did what you have to do  - what we did when John had bronchitis and we spent every night for two weeks walking him up and down the living room so he could get some sleep - we just darned well got on with it. We adjusted to it, we rearranged ourselves around it and we accepted it. And soon enough, we were cautiously happy about it.

So was I Destined To Be A Mother, as the Mytherhood would leave me to believe? I don't think so, but I was clearly destined to be the mother of my children, because they came to us when we didn't even realise we were missing them. Maybe that's my mytherhood.
Who knows?

11 comments:

Hawthorn said...


My mother said something to me when I discovered I was pregnant for a second time (my first son was a hard baby to learn on, how we got through his first 3 years of life and survived I shall never know) She said - they bring the love with them. And she was right, and now my boys are 13 and 15 and I would not be without them - but I am sure I have cried enough tears to float a boat and had less sleep than an insomniac. Things have a habit of righting themselves and looking back watching all their steps and smiles and held those sticky hands, then you know it was worth it - congratulations xxx

Gracey is not my name.... said...

Congratulations....we were not blessed, we tried...but now if it were to happen...I'd cry...I enjoy my no children life now....and I have various nieces and nephews to borrow...and even sometimes students...

barazile, livpåIrland said...

Congratulations on being pregnant again!
Yes I know it is not easy, but as hawthorn said, they bring the love with them. Yes it is hard and yes one would love to have the village around us to help out with babies and work of the house. But it will be ok. We just keep on going, doing the next job, and it will all get done. Oh and keep the blood sugars level, in all of ye! My theory : Low blood sugar = lots of tears!

My eldest is 18, she got her driving test, driving licence and car in September, and has a part-time job as well as studying for her Leaving Cert. Yet I can still remember the tears of awe, and yes, panic, I cried the day I found out I was expecting her, about 19 years ago last month......
Love your blog by the way, love the way you write,
maith thú!
liz
limerick

Karen said...

Many prayers for you and Mr G and the new cookie. (and the soon-to-be older cookie)

Karen

Marie/Underground Crafter said...

Congratulations. As always, your honesty is refreshing (and amusingly written).

goatsandhounds said...

The first one is typically the hardest... They don't come with handbooks and you make all sorts of mistakes and learn all sorts of lessons.

With each subsequent child, you are armed with foreknowledge from your first child. Sure, there will be new things to learn; but the learning curve on the second one isn't nearly as steep.

Ask me how I know... ;)

ShirleyGoldenDoodles said...

I SO identified with all your feelings, I was blessed with 3 gorgeous souls and had been a mum since I was 19 and was just about to start college leading to a real career and the time was NOT RIGHT for an unexpected pregnancy. But you know these things happen and my tears, and downright tantrums, were as nothing at all in the scheme of things. Now, 26 years later, I wouldn't be without my precious youngest child. And the world would be less interesting and rich. Your baby will bring gifts you cannot yet imagine. And John will benefit from a sibling, and one so close in age will be easier for him to adjust to in the long run.
- Oh and my grand ideas of a career? Only put on hold for 4 years and then we learned together my children and I.

Hazel said...

Mine are 11 and 6 now and yes it is hard work and the 6 year old is the hardest but I love them and that's what counts. Just love. Congrats. You'll be fine. xx

miepies heksenketel said...

I just sat down behind the computer to just breathe a while and not listnen to four demanding children , including one year old twins that are theething. I get it. I really do. Can't do without them, don't want to miss them, love them to pieces, but hey, do you mind if I just sat here for a while? Mum's got needs to, you know. And somehow we always pull it of, don't we? Found this cheesy quote the other day: "We may not have it all together (that's an understatement in our home) but together we have it all."
Congratulations on becoming a mom again! You know, the one thing I know for sure when it comes to babies is that once they're born, you can't do without them.

HillyT said...

It's not going to be easy but I can promise you that at the very least the learning curve won't be as steep, I mean you already know how to put on a babygrow without ending up with the small one's leg tucked in behind its elbow and how to deal with nappy rash. You're half way there.

Carole said...

I love your ideas on motherhood (and mytherhood !) and I can totally relate to them. At least you're prepared : we wanted two children close in age, had to wait 18 months because of the Csection scar (good thing in hindsight) and things worked out right away. BUT ! I never expected the second baby (my precious little Laure :) to wake me 3 times at night when Elise was of perfect clock-like punctuality at 4 and that was it... to be so restless and disobedient (had to experience things her own way, unlike Elise who didn't touch the plug when she was told "it's dangerous", and so on and so on...) and to escape from her playpen with the agility of a monkey !
Such tiresome times ! And it all came like a shock... but I don't regret it, and it all started to get better when they were 6 and 8. So who knows, baby n°2 might be more easy going, and in the midst of all that children can pull up there will be many laughters. All I can say is (head tilt) Good luck to you and (starry eyed) Have fun !