Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolution

Each year most of us come up with New Year's resolutions. For me, this year it's to stop swearing like a sailor while driving with Coco in the car (I can't help it if everyone on the road other than me is a &%^$# moron).

What I would like more than that, is for all Moms to make one New Year's resolution together: Stop lying to each other.

I cannot for the life of me understand where this started or why it continues. Perhaps its as deep as Darwinism (our desire to make our offspring seem the most desirable and thus the "fittest") or as shallow as "keeping up with the Joneses". In either case its destructive and makes me sad and frustrated. When I had Cora, I expected exactly what I had been told by so many other moms (and the media). I expected the heavens to open, harps to play, angels to sing, and my life to suddenly be whole and in focus. Instead I was tired, groggy, scared, overwhelmed, sore, and depressed. Since no one else had ever told me they felt this way, I lay in my hospital bed feeling like a failure from the start. I was supposed to have taken one look in my new baby's eyes and felt my heart swell so much it would burst. Instead I saw an adorable little pile of baby goo that I had no idea what to do with. I loved her instantly (I loved her in the womb), but that didn't mean that I suddenly felt that all was right with the world the moment she was laid in my arms.

When I got home, this continued. I still felt tired, groggy, scared, overwhelmed, sore and depressed (and yes, in love with my little one too) but now it was on display to well-meaning friends and family in what seemed like a constant stream of visitors. I spiraled downward - beginning to feel like maybe I shouldn't have been a mother... maybe I wasn't cut out for it. This was compounded by the fact that I didn't enjoy - wait strike that, grew to hate - breastfeeding. There. *Gasp* I said it. I felt like a rolling milk cart instead of a person. I told my husband I felt like the soft-serve machine at the end of a buffet line - never ending demand and good for nothing else. When, after a month, I made the decision to quit breastfeeding I felt so much guilt I cried for the better part of a whole day. I had failed as a mother. I did not feel overwhelmed with love, light and perfectness, and I did not enjoy the one thing that was supposed to bring me perfected bonding time looking into my baby's eyes and feeling blissful. On top of that I was depriving my child of the only food that would make her perfect... I was all but guaranteeing her IQ wouldn't reach double digits. I was a monster.

Later, once I returned to work, (yes, again a guilt factor in and of itself) I was plagued by other women asking questions about Cora's development; both women who had babies and those whose children were older. Almost without fail I would hear how so-and-so got his first tooth at 4 months, or that such-and-such was walking by 8 months, or that little-baby-x was sleeping 10 hours a night by 6 weeks. I was told these things as if they were the doing of either parent or child, and not of happenstance (IF they were even all accurate, which I doubt); and as if they were badges of baby honor. As if, for some reason, Cora was not sleeping through the night by six weeks then there was something not right about her - or me.

When I was pregnant with Cora, I had a friend whom I could call with any question no matter how gross, weird, uninformed or odd and she would answer me as if I had asked her what the weather would be like. No judgment, no gloss, no blowing sunshine anywhere it didn't naturally belong. For that, Sarah, I thank you. I now offer to do that for any of my friends who find themselves expecting. I've also taken to being completely honest with my other new-mommy friends. Yes Cora got some teeth early and sits up like a champ. But she wakes up for her paci what seems like a million times a night and makes not one iota of effort to even think about rolling over much less crawling. When I'm honest with other mommies, I get such shocked reactions of joy it makes me sad. Almost without exception, the women I am talking with then open up and admit what they feel are their (or their baby's) "failings." They admit that they thought they were the only ones feeling that way, or that their child was not measuring up in some way. We talk about what is really going on and realize that we all have our good and bad days, good and bad moments, good and bad thoughts, and accomplishments or setbacks.

We are not perfect. Our children are not perfect. So be it. Lets take the good with the bad. Lets show each other honesty - not competition. Lets make sure we're not setting other mothers up to feel like failures. Lets be sure we're allowing ourselves room for error. Lets make sure we're not setting our children up to strive for nothing short of perfection or genius. Most of all, lets support each other with the truth - now that's a resolution to aspire to.

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