Thursday, February 11, 2010

What I Didn't Say

This weekend my girlfriend, Elise, had her first baby.

It was a long wait. Not the labor. Although that was 18 hours.

The becoming a mother part.

She turns 41 in July. She's wanted to have a baby forever. But it didn't happen, and she needed help. She was rejected from a fertility clinic because they were sure she'd never conceive. She's lucky she has a well-paying job and lives in New York City. She had options, and found another clinic who took her.

She had a failed IVF.

She tried again.

And now she has her beautiful baby boy.

I couldn't wait to hear how it went.

Part of the conversation went something like this:

E: "The contractions? They really hurt!"

Me: "Yep. They sure do."

E: "I felt like there were like 10 knives stabbing me in the uterus."

Me: "Only 10?"

E: "So then, well, you know that ring of fire?"

Me: "Oh yes. Yes I do."

E: "And then they put him on me. And he looked right into my eyes."

Me: "Amazing, isn't it?"

E: "I knew being a mother would be great, but now I really, really get it."

I told her how proud I was of her. How great she did. To enjoy her new baby and stop worrying whether her kitchen is clean. We talked about positioning of the baby during nursing. We discussed his almost-white curly eyelashes and his Angelina Jolie-esque lips. We sighed, me in SoCal and her in NYC, about how sweet he is.

There was a lot I didn't say.

I didn't want to tell her that this parenting stuff? It's really hard. I mean, REALLY hard. That she will love this tiny creature so much it will ache. That there will be moments where she might fantasize about throwing him out the window. But she won't.

That she will lose herself. That she will never be the same person that she was. And it's okay to mourn. Because you can't go through something as life-changing as becoming a mother and NOT change. And it's okay. Mostly.

That she should hold onto each moment like it's the last. Because you never know. And anyway, even though it seems like each day lasts forever, it doesn't, and it's memorizing the little stuff - the way your baby's face lights up when he sees you, the curve of his ear, the toasty smell of the top of his head - that means the most. Especially later on, when he's two. Oh, the twos....

That motherhood is crazy, impossible, wonderful. It's going from being a ferocious Mama Bear one minute to wanting to throttle your beloved child the next. It's worry worry worry. It's beating yourself up because you're not perfect, and your child deserves perfect.

I wanted to tell her that we were all much better mothers before we had kids. That list of things we swore we'd never do? Yeah. It's okay to give him a non-organic french fry. Even a cupcake for dinner. It's okay to be mind-numbingly bored after a marathon session of rolling matchbox cars around the table. And to buy sneakers with Elmo on them.

That a kind child is more precious than diamonds.

I wanted to make sure she remembers she's building memories. She's a caretaker of his only childhood. She will spend sleepless nights, wondering what she could've done better that day, if she said the right thing, if she yelled too loud, if she didn't speak loudly enough.

She will wonder at times, as we all do, if she's fucking it up. She's not. Because she'll never try harder at anything in her life. And that's the best any of us can do.

(Our kids' therapists can decide later if it was good enough.)

But I don't want to burden a new mother with all this. Let her enjoy the simplicity of the newborn phase, where all you need to do is feed him. And figure out why he's crying. And wonder whether he's breathing. If he's hot. Cold. Swaddled tightly enough. If he wants the binky. If you should even GIVE him the binky, because doesn't that lead to speech impediments and buck teeth and what if he's the only four year-old on the playground with one?

This motherhood stuff? It's hard. Really, really hard.


kirsten said...

oh Cheryl, this is beautiful. Beautiful, and true, and totally unknowable for someone just entering into it.

In my life, I haven't heard about anything that is quite like the idea of mothering - something so huge that it is entirely inexplicable to someone who is not doing it.

Great post.

hezro said...

Yep, that pretty much sums up motherhood. I'm so glad Kirsten shared the link to this post. It's always good to know that there are other people out there going through the same thing. (And you posted it on my birthday too. Sweet!)

Cheryl said...

Kirsten - Yes on all fronts. And thank you for your compliment!!

Hezro - Happy birthday! And thanks so much for stopping by!

Aliza said...

This post? Perfect and beautiful - completely unlike the motherhood experience so much of the time. But the experience is perfect and beautiful on enough occasions to sustain me, and the rest takes care of itself. :)

Mariana said...

Oh, Cheryl, this post is just beautiful. I see why it's the most popular one. I'm totally bookmarking it for a future link roundup. Mother's Day, maybe.

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