I received the usual questions from everyone while I was pregnant. "When are you due?" they'd ask. And upon answering, the barrage of questions, advice, and on more than one occasion, explicit birth narratives would begin.
"Is it a boy or a girl?"
"Do you have a name picked out?"
"Will you be trying for natural childbirth?"
"Will you use cloth diapers?"
"I breastfed my babies till they were 6. It's sooooo good for them. I can tell you think so, too." (Maybe they were confusing the look of wide-eyed shock as one of support and similar child rearing philosophies.)
"Will you be immunizing your child?"
"When I had my first, I was in labor for 27 hours and I kept pushing and pushing and there was just so much blood, and my husband passed out and....." (This is when I would find my happy place and just nod at the appropriate conversational cues, i.e. "You know??" and "Can you believe that I didn't die??!!?!?")
"Sleep now. For the love of all that is pure and holy--SLEEP WHILE YOU CAN."
I should have written them all down. Some of the things I heard bordered on the truly bizarre, but most of it was actually very thoughtful advice from experienced mothers and grandmothers. In general, what I took away from all of the advice I received is that on a basic level, everyone likes to share their pointers on surviving pregnancy and on making it through labor and delivery without medical intervention. But what is the compulsion that drives women (and sometimes men) to offer such candid advice to a complete stranger? I thought it fascinating that in such a private culture that generally has no interest or real concern for connecting with one's community, women from all walks of life were approaching me to offer their advice and wisdom. I felt such camaraderie for the women around me who had experienced pregnancy and childbirth. They knew something that I was only beginning to experience. I could sense on a very small level that I was in the process of entering a sacred sisterhood whether I was prepared for it or not.
I have always been on the more reserved side. I don't tend to initiate friendships, nor am I a starter of conversations. But something changed in me when I became a mother. I don't quite know how to explain it. In the past 6 months, I have accomplished more socially than in the previous 3 decades of my life: I make telephone calls, not just return them; I seek out friendships with mommies I admire; I invite people into my home, even when it hasn't been vacuumed and swept and mopped and scrubbed till shining; I offer my mommy opinions and advice to pregnant women who are complete strangers. I say things to them like, "SLEEP WHILE YOU CAN! And take a long, hot, 2 hour bath. And shave your legs as often as you'd like. Set your alarm clock for 2am, and then 2:20am, and then 4:15am, and then 5:07am, but relish the fact that you can turn it off, roll over, and sink back into a nice deep sleep." OK, maybe I don't say all of those things, but boy, I sure feel compelled to! I'm excited to be part of this vast community of women who have done something incredibly miraculous with their lives--they've dedicated themselves to raising their children. Their lives are no longer their own. Complete upheaval married with earth-shattering joy.
For some reason, I've always been hesitant to pursue friendships with other women. Perhaps it's due to a fear of being rejected because I wasn't "cool" or trendy enough, or because I didn't look a certain way. I think that most women can relate. But becoming a mom has helped to remove that fear by allowing me to see that we aren't so very different from one another. At the very heart of all things, mothers want their children to be safe, healthy, happy and to feel loved. I can approach any mother with the assumption that she holds those same basic desires for her child, and voila! A friendship has formed!! Glory! This wasn't nearly as difficult as I've made it out to be for so many years.
I have recently gained a small circle of mommy friends who are just sooooo much fun. We go on walks together with our babies, we sample San Luis Obispo's various ethnic restaurants, we compare stories and developmental milestones. There is encouragement, and there is quite a bit of laughter involved in every get-together. These ladies have become essential in the maintenance of my sanity and I look forward to seeing them every week. We're a rather eclectic combination of women, but we've been thrown together as sisters in this journey called Motherhood and I am so thankful to have them by my side to cheer me on. And I can admit to them that I haven't shaved my legs for 2 months, or that I consumed an entire jar of peanut butter in a week's time and that most of it went into my mouth via spoonfuls and NOT on a traditional pb&j. And you know what? There's no judgment--not until they behold my unshaven legs. But I'm saving that till we hit our next phase in friendship, because no one should be exposed to such an ungodly sight until I know they're in it for the long haul.
So all of you pregnant moms-to-be out there: watch out! I'm newly uninhibited and I have LOTS of advice to give. :) I promise to spare you all the gory details about my Cesarean Section and the catheter and what the nurses had to do to help me...never mind. I'll hold my tongue and stick to things like, "Bring your own pillow to the hospital, because the ones there are just awful," and I'll reassure you that everything will turn out just fine and that you are strong enough to get through it. I'll tell you what I heard so many times, because it's the truth: your life will be changed forever, and it's simultaneously the hardest and most magical thing you'll ever experience.
|Mother And Child XI, Mary Cassatt|