Monday, September 7

The lies we tell

We are so full of it. And I mean this not just as in you and me. And her. Or him. Or the dude way back in the corner over there. Yeah, I see you with that laser pointer. I'm talking specifically about mothers. Now, here's the tricky part, because I'm making a generalization, which doesn't include all mothers. In fact, the ones who are exceptions to this generalization? They're the one's who've been lied to.

And I don't think the lying is intentional by any means. Or meant in a malicious manner. But yesterday it was brought to my attention in an abstract sort of way that even with – no, especially with – the best of intentions, we mothers can be the ruin of each other. How did this come up? I posted something on my Facebook from Dooce's blog. It wasn't taken kindly to by one of my friends. (Sidebar: This post also has nothing to do with this friend, who I love, it's more societal commentary inspired by the conversation.)

It came up that she [Dooce] made infants sound like disgusting creatures. That some of the “advice” wasn't good advice and could essentially ruin a woman's breastfeeding relationship with her child should she take this advice. Here's the snippet in question:

Worst advice you can give to someone with a newborn? Sleep when the baby sleeps. That is total and utter crap. Because one nap can be three hours and then the next nap is like fifteen seconds, and when that latter naps happens and you've just put your head down to go to sleep, oh Lord, the agony. And the pain. And the ANGER. And of course it's never healthy to be angry at a newborn, bad things can happen, like suddenly you start drinking tequila at 10 AM and are calling your husband at work JUST SO THAT YOU CAN HANG UP ON HIM.

Maybe it's just me, but oh, man can I identify with that. And reading that? Knowing that she was there at one point, too? Knowing that she made it through and her kid is okay? Makes me feel a million times more normal. For me, she's not kidding that sleeping when the baby sleeps is bad advice. Because man, the all-consuming anger if BreMonster decided to wake up just as I laid my pretty little head on the pillow... It was bad.

And I think that poo-pooing that kind of expression – the raw, honest take on motherhood – is what kills breastfeeding relationships and most attempts at more attached parenting these days. There's this expectation that the instant you start nursing your kid, co-sleeping, carrying them everywhere in a sling, whatever attachment parenting method you decide to take up, that it's going to be all gravy.

That there's going to be nothing but sunshine and roses and tender moments of baby at the breast bonding while you sit there with a placid smile on your face. Your baby will be the calmest baby on the block, cooing and gurgling at the right moments, sleeping for extended periods of time, and completely comfortable with you taking a shower.

If you believed that? I've got some ocean front property in Winnemucca for you to look at.

Because you know what? Infants are disgusting creatures. Between the poop, the spit-up and vomit – which are two completely different things – the drool, the teething diarrhea, the putting things in their mouths whenever possible no matter what it is and oh-my-god-you-don't-know-where-that's-been... it's not pretty. You're most likely going to get peed on. You're probably also going to get shit on you at some point.

You will also find yourself begging for a prescription for Valium, Xanax, Prozac, Zoloft – something, anything – to achieve that placid smile you've seen on the faces of those moms in the posters at the doctors office. Because, let's face it, even the ones on the PPD public service announcement posters? Please. When BreMonster was three months old I would be lucky if I looked that good most days.

There will be nights where you're so sleep deprived you're pretty sure the clock's been stuck at 2 a.m. for the past five hours and oh, my God, MarvMan, I know you can't lactate but if you don't get me a shot of Jack Daniels to calm me down soon, I will find our non-existent skillet and make it a permanent fixture in the wall.

And you know something? Every time I got upset, fed up, frustrated, and downright angry? Not only did I have to deal with being upset and trying to find the real source of my anger, I had to deal with the residual guilt afterward. Feeling like I was a failure as a mother for not loving every agonizing second of being with my child and having a baby who, at some points, was seemingly attached to my breast 24/7. Feeling guilty because here I went having this baby and at some points I just did not want to be a mother anymore. Because I wasn't like those women who were so idyllic in their domesticated bliss as they sat around all day in a clean house with perfectly behaved older children available to help at a moment's notice.

Seriously? I want some of whatever those women and their children are on. Because that's the media expectation. And I felt those expectations transferred onto me even more with unsolicited advice from other mothers. Even with the people who are supposed to be acting as support. Is there no acceptance of the bad feelings that occasionally accompany motherhood? Are we, as a society, that behind that we still consider malcontent with motherhood to be taboo?

Granted, I struggled with PPD with BreMonster. I had it with A-Girl, now that I look back on it, but somehow it wasn't as severe and having to go back to work so soon after having her really screwed with everything, so I usually blamed it on that. Because I was dealing with PPD with BreMonster, perhaps what I was feeling was exaggerated. But that small bit of hope offered by moms with blogs who are honest about all aspects of parenting – as Scary Mommy's blog says, “The good, the bad, and the scary.” - made me feel, and continues to make me feel, normal.

At least as normal as I can get.

Motherhood has its shining moments. God knows they're everywhere. But those shining moments are in the dark times, too. They're in the times when you're on the kitchen floor, trying to cry quietly because you finally got the baby to sleep and you don't want to wake her, but now that it's your chance to sleep? You couldn't sleep if you tried. It's there in the times when you're so angry you nip out the back door and have a cigarette – six months of quitting be damned, you just need to physically shut the crying out before you start screaming at the top of your lungs. It's there when you're covered in spit up and asking, could it get any worse? And it does because you're realizing that the warm feeling on your leg? Not body heat. The diaper leaked. And it's not pretty.

The shining moment of those frustrating times is the point at which you get up and keep going. You clean up, you get up, and then you do it all over again.

I love and appreciate the honestly of bloggers like Dooce and Scary Mommy. Because they remind me that it's okay if I'm not June Cleaver 24/7. They have their bad days. They let it out and they get back to it. That's what being a mother is about.

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