One of the things I believe as a feminist is that on some issues there are no wrong answers, even though we tend to go at each other relentlessly over them. Take motherhood, which is perhaps the most fought-over decision a woman makes (aside from abortion). Should every woman have a baby? If she does, should she breat feed? Should she go back to work? Is she a true feminist if she doesn’t? And there are so many other questions that just serve to divide us. I don’t think that’s what feminism is about. I think it’s about the right to have choices where there were none before. Women are powerful enough to be mothers and to be president. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Today’s post that follows is from my friend Liz, who is a new mother. Not only is she my favorite veterinarian but she is also my first guest contributor. I plan to have more guests from time to time to offer a diversity of opinions and voices. (And if you have ideas or would like to contribute, send me an e-mail.)
Take it away Liz:
My husband and I are late to marriage, and later to parenthood. When our (perfect, beautiful, amazing) daughter was born we thought we just might be ready for the change. We had planned, read books, began and finished home improvement projects. We dutifully listened to all our friends and relatives who had already crossed over; “You can’t know what it means, what it feels like, the change your life goes through!” “You’ll never sleep! You’ll never have sex again!” and my personal favorite, “When they say you can’t go out anymore, they mean that you can’t go to the store!” And you know what? Its all true. (Except the sex part, but that turns into a race with a sleeping baby.) We felt like Boy Scouts; we were prepared. Well, we thought we might be, we hoped we were, but in my heart of hearts, I knew we couldn’t be.
And what we weren’t prepared for, what I wasn’t prepared for, was the complete shift in paradigm I went through.
(This isn’t to say I’m selfish, but I have never had anyone depend on just me for anything. The only person I was every truly responsible for was me. Not that I don’t love my family and friends, and I love my husband to distraction, but if I had other commitments in their times of need, nobody’s world would collapse. Even the pets would manage, someone else could fufill their needs and my cats, at least, wouldn’t even notice the difference.)
So for nine months I watched my body change from naturally plump, to just showing, blending in to bulging belly and culminating in a waddling, bloated, swollen and very tired vessel that appeared ready to rupture at the slightest touch. Did I mind? Intellectually, I suppose…but every time a flutter, kick or slam dance in my womb occured, I forgot my own
corpreal corporeal woes in apprehensive awe.
Then on February 12, 2007, at 5:37PM my world narrowed to a single being who instantaneously became my purpose in life She needs me everyday. In 9 months I grew a person, and now she grows with just the milk produced by my body. She is in every sense, a part of me. But every day, every minute, she becomes more her own person and grows further away from me. It is breathtaking, wondrous, awe inspiring, fantastical and heartbreaking that with her every breath she becomes less me and more she. I can see the future and it no longer belongs to me. She is the future I have become the present, moving into the past. And the change is as it should be.
Love her? Love is an inadequate sentiment for what I feel for my child. I love her, am enamoured of her, am baffled by and fascinated by her. I can’t envision my life without her, but I imagine it would be a sad and lonely life indeed. This tiny creature that cries and squalls, often angrily when her parents can’t understand her needs. This tiny creature who has caused me to be so sleep deprived that hallucinations are routine. This tiny creature who’s farts and bowel movements are not only inoffensive, but amazing. (To be fair her baby farts are possibly the cutest thing on the planet, save the child herself.) I can sit and watch her sleep for hours (as I’m doing as I sit here typing this essay.) Her first smile sent me into raptures. I could right a book (and a thick one) extolling her virtues, and I’ve known her less than 3 months. I’m jealous of my time with her, and cry on my way to work every day.
And I do go to work every day to ensure that she won’t need for anything material. It’s never fun. I had a meeting after work this Tuesday and didn’t see my daughter awake all day. I fell in bed that night and cried. But this is the thin pink line of a working mother and I walk it 50 hours a week.
Do I miss my past life and freedoms? Not today but maybe in a few decades. Or not. For now, I am living moment to moment, as she does.
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. Happy Mother’s Day to me.