you can hang

Becoming a mother has made me a much better person.

Sorry, autocorrect! I meant to say “sturgeon.” Becoming a mother has made me a much better sturgeon. Yes, I have certainly upped my bottom-feeding game in brackish estuaries and enjoy migrating along coastlines, though I admit the fins are making this hard to type.

I have started literally a dozen and a half posts since I had a baby and you see how well that’s gone. I hate saying that it’s hard to find the time but it’s true. That’s one trope I wanted to prove false. I wanted to discover that I was drowning in an infinity pool of time. Drowning. Maybe floating would have been a better word there. Shame there’s no way to edit stuff I’ve already written.

It did not surprise me that I am not in fact a better person now than I was before. I’m not less selfish, if you define selfish as “enjoying things that benefit you.” I’m not that different — altered, maybe. My file structure has been slightly rearranged. Stuff that used to be in My Documents now appears in My Downloads. I’m finding videos in the music folder. I don’t know. I’m not even a videos person. Just let me read the damn article!

I have a hard time identifying as a mother but I saw that one coming. I had 34 years to grow suspicions about myself, and I can report this one is CONFIRMED. I am not a mom kind of mom. Maybe I’m more of a dad kind of mom. The usual picture of birth is an elated woman weeping with joy as her infant is placed on her chest. I mostly remember crying from fear, feeling disappointed in my baby’s looks (though I must note they have improved with time!), and then wanting deeply to go to sleep. Of course I was juiced to the gills at the time, but that is neither here nor there.

There is no universal “mother” experience so telling you mine has absolutely no bearing on anything, ever, anywhere. That’s not going to stop me from telling you, though. I haven’t said much about it so far, mostly due to the above paragraph re: time. But a large part of it, too, is that I wanted to write things in chronological order, so that it made sense — so that everything I wrote about my current experience would be building upon my previous experiences. I have recently come to peace that it’s not going to happen that neatly. My blog narrative is stuck in my final pregnancy weeks. My life narrative is caring daily for a nearly-six-month-old. It is time to just fucking grab whatever words I can about whatever I’m thinking and trap them here before they escape for good.

I was talking about parenthood tropes! I think!

There are a lot of them but I want to discuss one in particular, the one that says LOL you’re going to be a total trainwreck after the baby comes! It looks a lot like this illustration from Lucy Scott:

does-not-change-you

Feeling like a trainwreck is valid and normal, especially in those heavy first few weeks, but this doesn’t have to be a permanent state of affairs. IN MY EXPERIENCE, anyway. Here is my own reality compared to that illustration, point by point:

  • Eye makeup: I realize this joke is really about lack of sleep, but I still have to say I put eye makeup on every day. I did before the baby, and I do after. It takes 3-4 minutes and makes me feel better. It’s not for everyone but I enjoy it.
  • Baby’s nails: True. Absolute goddamn truth. Those things are like a velociraptor’s talons.
  • Maternity bra: Mine are black, and I tucked pads in them every day for weeks after the baby came until I realized I hadn’t actually been leaking. In retrospect this may be because I had a low supply from the start but just know, if you are staring down this baby path, that spurting like broken lawn sprinklers from your breasts won’t necessarily be a legitimate problem for you.
  • Stretch marks: I didn’t really get any during pregnancy! Don’t worry, though, puberty gifted me with a roadmap all across my hips and thighs.
  • Filthy jogging bottoms: I have so many questions about this. My baby has only pooped on me once (so far!) and I was totally able to change out of the affected article of clothing immediately afterwards. Never been peed on, yet. Spitup can go either way. Normally I just wipe it off but if it passes a certain volume threshold I just put another shirt on? I feel like I need to note we do a load or two of our clothes just once a week. It doesn’t seem that hard but what the hell do I know.
  • Muffin top: VARIABLE.
  • Fake tan: Nope.
  • Putting on another top: You know where I stand on this. There’s no need to remain shirtless unless that’s your jam. There is no strict code of undress in Momland.
  • Soap suds: Honestly, I’ve never quit a shower just because the baby’s woken up. I don’t know. I waited until the second trimester to drink, the baby can wait for me to rinse off and put some clothes on, IMO.

Again, nobody really cares about my unique experiences. But I want to put them out there because I feel like we too often hear about strictly the negative, or strictly the positive. Either having a baby turns you into a blissed-out pod person or a cracked-out emotional disaster who isn’t even allowed to put on clean clothes, for some reason.

And they police you about these narratives! Like strangers sidling up next to you at the grocery store, locking eyes on the mewling meatloaf strapped to your chest and solicitously uttering “Isn’t it the best thing ever?” in such a way that you can only make weak noises in the affirmative and hope they quickly leave. Or like the strangest conversation I’ve recently had the pleasure of eavesdropping on, when a nearby table of brunching mothers seemingly competed for the title of who was the absolutely the most miserable in every aspect of their lives.

“I shaved my legs for the first time in nine months,” one admitted, picking apart a pile of cold scrambled eggs with a fork tine. She thought her secret was dark enough to garner sympathy nods but she had instead unknowingly revealed a fatal flaw in her confession logic. “YOU HAD TIME TO SHAVE YOUR LEGS!?!” the rest of the party howled in concert, setting upon her like a pack of starved dogs. “WE WOULD GIVE ANYTHING FOR JUST 15 UNINTERRUPTED SECONDS IN THE BATHROOM.” 

It’s all best-case or worst-case motherhood scenario all the time out there, which makes it feel almost revolutionary to share that mine’s been solidly middling. There have been days when I felt like I was drowning in the blackest ocean and days when I felt like anything was possible. But in the end I’ve never missed any hot shower that wasn’t by choice. I never had to sit around weeping in filthy clothes; I was always able to find something clean to cry on. Sometimes I’m able to sleep in. I don’t know. It’s not great but it’s not bad.

And yeah, “not great, not bad” isn’t quite a sentiment you can rally around, but compared to most of what’s out there, I guess I’ll gladly take it.

Image credit: Measuring Land & Sea, oil and letraset on canvas by Oliver Jeffers // www.oliverjeffers.com/paintings/measuring-land-and-sea

8 Responses to “you can hang”

  1. I’ll rally around “it’s not great, it’s not bad”. That’s better than most of the shit out there. That’s pretty much my normal life anyway, “it’s not great, it’s not bad” so to hear something familiar regarding life after baby is encouraging in a non-delusional way. I thank you.

  2. I feel like there’s an undercurrent in this trope of “this is what it takes to be a good mom.” If you manage to change dirty shirts or put on makeup or don’t immediately jump out of the shower when Baby fusses, you are somehow failing motherhood because everyone knows that Motherhood Is About Sacrifice! (No one faints from shock if Dad finishes his shower. Just saying.)

  3. I’m feeling much more positive about motherhood after reading this post. Seriously.

    Sometimes the truth is what you need.

  4. I love this piece! Mommy martyrdom is not an attractive state of mind. Plus, I expect to feel as you did post having a baby emerge from my body, I’ve always thought that people who describe the experience as this blissful glowing thing must be full of it, it’s an upheaval no matter how it happens, how can you not be overwhelmed just from the physical experience? I’m glad that there are people who will own up to it not being the epitome of their life’s experiences, that makes me feel better about not possibly having the right emotions when the time comes.

  5. I have a 3 month old. Sure there are those super sweet moments, he’s smiling and it’s adorable, but it’s also exhausting. This little person needs me so much and it’s hard not to feel stifled. And isolated. And bored. I’ve watched a few youtube videos of people proclaiming how amazing and blissful motherhood is how they’ve never been happier and I’m like, am I missing something here? I have definitely been happier. Like when I had my freedom. I feel like I need to follow that up with how much I love him. Cause obviously I do. I mean, he’s super cute. But ya, not all rainbows over here either.

  6. AGREED. I can laugh at that picture and the elements of truth in it, but I don’t relate to it. Upon hearing all the new-mom tales of woe, I always wondered how it is actually humanly possible to have so little time as to not shower (it takes me 5 minutes) or even put on a bit of makeup if that makes you happy (it makes me happy). OR WEAR A CLEAN SHIRT. It takes very little time to put on a clean shirt – in fact it takes approximately the same amount of time as putting on a dirty shirt.

    Btw, good work on your bottom-feeding game in brackish estuaries. I’ve been noticing but didn’t want to say anything.

  7. I have always been baffled at the “haven’t showered in 10 days” thing but assumed I was just being an ignorant childfree asshole. I never wanted to ask for fear of being disrespectful or something, but: babies never struck me as particularly mobile. I was always baffled at the idea that a baby would prevent anyone, in the logistical sense, from taking a shower. So I am glad to hear that someone out there is like, “You know what, you can fuss for 10 fucking minutes, it won’t kill you,” because I’m pretty sure that’s how I would feel and now I feel less like a jerk about it.

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