It’s amazing how many times you can put your foot in your mouth in the matter of one year. I can admit now that I was a pretty big a**hole when it came to how I judged other mothers for so many years.
You see, I was an adoptive parent (and shortly thereafter a part-time divorcee adoptive parent) to the two easiest children in the entire world (like giggled the entire plane ride from Ethiopia to the USA kind of easy) whom I adopted as older children. I somehow managed to bypass all of the poop wiping, puke covering, all-night hysteria that is raising babies. This combined with my 50% custody schedule with my ex and the convenience, community, and affordability of public schooling and it’s suffice to say I got off easy in the mom department for over a decade. I was killing it in the land of Momdom and I can say with absolutely certainty that it was more fun than work and that I reaped in most of the joy of having children with very little sacrifice to my personal self. It was truly a win-win.
It is because of this experience that I found it so unfathomable that my well-dressed, composed, badass female tribe metamorphosed into anxiety ridden, disheveled, drill sergeants overnight after having children. What could be so hard about being a mom? I remember quietly thinking to myself almost regularly that it was their controlling and micromanaging dispositions that was overextending themselves so regularly and leaving their husbands so shell shocked and defeated. I wouldn’t want to be married to that (see post number 4).
There are a gazillion instances that I can reflect on now and cringe, one of them being when my best friend came to the opening of my restaurant with her newborn baby strapped to her body in the middle of the winter flu season. I remember looking at her as she gripped onto her baby with the worry and protection of a mama bear and with the fear of god instilled in her at the prospect of anyone touching the baby. I don’t remember the exact ins and outs of what I said, but I know it was something along the lines that she looked like a deer in headlights, that germs were good for babies (I mean my child lived in a mud hut for two years and never got as much as a cold) and that she needed to RELAX and LET GO. Ugh. What an a**hole.
If I had a dollar for how many times someone has told me to relax, or let go, or lighten up since becoming a mom of twins, I would truly be a millionaire. That’s the real irony of this entire tale, which is that until you’ve experienced someone placing a tiny little human being in your arms who is completely incapable of fending for themselves in any way, and you feel the weight of the responsibility for every single ounce of their life (not to mention the sole protector from all the threats that kill little babies on a daily basis that infiltrate your social media feeds) you can never really comprehend the gravity of that responsibility and the enormity of the hurdle that is letting go.
In the first few weeks of having twin newborns I could literally barely breathe unless the babies were attached to my body. I watched them sleep. I checked their pulse. Every mom of babies gets this. There was certainly some postpartum anxiety brewing in those early days, but even after my hormones had settled and I had come up for air emotionally, I still found myself completely engulfed and consumed by the never ending worry that still fills my brain every minute of every single day. I remember calling one of my best friends who I had held in judgment for so many years and pleading with her to reassure me that someday I would have the ability to turn it off, and feel present – in where I was, or what I was doing, or even my own thoughts without this pressure and responsibility looming in the back of my brain. When will I be able to hear my own thoughts and clear my mind? It gets easier she assured me, but that feeling of freedom – of time and space and mental clarity – well she had yet to recover to baseline. Shit.
Being a mom to babies (twins in my case) was not something that added to my identity – mothering these babies devoured my identity – literally overnight. With so many worries and responsibilities to manage, and your world suddenly spinning so out of control, it is no surprise that new moms find themselves latching onto every ounce of control they can find.
Before I had babies I can remember seeing this phenomenon in action between my girlfriends and their husbands and swearing I would never become that wife barking orders at her husband. Why is she telling everyone what to do?
Um….because you have to tell everyone what to do. Because no one gets the intricacies of your babies unless to manage their care (see post number 2) and I for one have found the pressure to relax, and lighten up, and let go to be an impossible task. Who the hell has time for all of that?
What I have needed instead is permission to take control. I have needed people to just let me be in charge and do things the way I want them done and when I want them done. I have needed to be able to bark out an order to my husband (see post number 4) and have him just listen and do it my way without having to battle for power or who is in charge or without him looking at me like his wife has become some kind of sleep deprived maniac. I needed permission to be who I’ve become.
Because let me just say, we are aware – painstakingly aware – when we look in the mirror that we haven’t showered in a week, when we are wearing some baggy t-shirt and stretch pants covered in vomit to cover our soft bodies that used to do planks and eat salads everyday, when we loose our shit over the stupidest stuff, that we used to be someone else. We know that we used to be free and fun and interesting and dynamic and now we are task masters and control freaks. We don’t WANT to be this way – it’s not fun – it’s not charming and it’s not the best versions of ourselves – and by the grace of God someday we will get back to that other woman who you married and you fell in love with sooner rather than later. But for now, in the middle of this war that is keeping these tiny humans alive – lets all give each other a break – and let go of needing to let go. Let’s instead just be with what is – so please….do us a favor – indulge us and every now and then say yes dear with a smile and then tell us how pretty we look in our maternal afterglow.