I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a mom one day. My favorite games growing up always involved some version of being a “mom-to-be.” I also loved playing “office,” so, assessing my current situation as a permalancer who works from home, you could say I achieved all I aspired to as a child.
Any mother of two knows what I’m talking about. When you bring the first one home, you walk on eggshells and read everything. SO MUCH HELP is offered, almost forced. There are meal trains, visitors, babysitters, and check-ins. With two? Shortly after Caroline arrived, I overheard some family talking and one older, very experienced mom quipped: Well, they knew what they were getting themselves into. They know what happens when you have sex!
After Caroline, when people asked how life with two was going, I would joke that it was touch and go for a while, but that eventually they break you. And then suddenly, once you’ve stop fighting it, you can almost, just barely function again. Ta dah: you’ve figured out life with two. Barely functional. That is your new normal. That’s your operational “Go” zone.
I mean… it’s no wonder people stopped visiting! I can laugh about it now, but when you’re caring for a newborn and a toddler, while learning his or her little personality preferences, and also nursing, and preparing meals for yourself and your older child, while losing sleep while you’re up for feedings… and then also trying to maintain a home, there are no words to describe the weight of all of this to someone who hasn’t also struggled through it. And talking to older moms who are years removed from it all — well…. let’s just say it doesn’t help when they advise you to treasure it because it goes by so fast, as you’re on the verge of tears because you just want to close your eyes and rest for a bit.
It was more than just Postpartum Depression. It was more than “the mental load,” although that was certainly a huge part. It was even more than just the utter shock of how much more work just one more child is and the indignation and betrayal of other mothers not going around waving their arms at the singleton moms, screaming: LISTEN!! YOU NEED TO KNOW!!! YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU’RE IN FOR. NO, YOU REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND.
If I had to put my finger on it, my mental state is where it is today because of the huge injustice of this unpaid, undervalued, highly invisible yet “oh so important” WORK of raising children.
The monotonous exhaustion of bathing, feeding, teaching, entertaining, dressing and just keeping alive, two little human beings, paired with all the pressure that US MOMS are all putting on one another, jabbing at each other to be acknowledged that we are, in fact, getting it right; that we’re succeeding in our efforts to guide these little beings, be it with breast milk or formula or soy or nut free, or whatever the heck we are using because we must; all this heroic effort and warring is absolutely blasted apart when asked “So are you working?” shortly after the birth of my second.
EVERY GODDAMN SECOND OF EVERY DAY, lady. It’s a question most asked of me by other women, too.
I’ve felt a lot of rage since about January, but it wasn’t until the spring when I finally pinpointed where it was coming from and began to devise an outlet. I’d put it in a play.
I’ve always loved film and music, but specifically, musicals. The Les Mis original Broadway cast recording left such an impression on me as a kid, that even today, I gravitate toward soundtracks in most of my music collection. [Also, strong female vocalists.] So when I said play, what I really meant was a musical. Are you still reading? OK good.
I’m envisioning a Rent-type ensemble vibe with multiple storylines. I want to cover ALL of the experiences moms are having. Or as many as possible. The guilt if you’re working. The pressure if you’re not. The obnoxious comments at the playground about attachment parenting or babywearing, or sleep training and co-sleeping. I’ll never forget being told that “breastfeeding past four months is for the mother” by a more senior mother who’d bottle-fed back in her day, just after mentioning I was still exclusively nursing my barely five month old. But I also want to talk about how lauded we are for all this important work we’re doing (oh hang on, not really!) and how rewarded we are with leave time and support (again, nope! just kidding). It’s not right and it’s not OK.
Really, what I want is to shine a big, fat, spectacular Broadway spotlight on what is going on RIGHT NOW in the mothering world, because Tina Fey may have covered the Mean Girls of high school, but sometimes I feel like some of my mom friends and I are just the mean girls who grew up and had babies. And what about the wanna-be-mothers out there who don’t have babies (or even boyfriends — or girlfriends!) — yet. My neighbor Alyce was as much a mother as anyone who carried her own babies, but she was never blessed with her own children. Or who lost babies. Or those trying to conceive. Or the happily childless, sick of being asked when they’re having kids. What about “mothers” who are actually fathers?
An infusion of Mr. Roger’s humanity and kindness and love is missing among all of us and I feel like a hard look at what we all go through to shepherd our babies through infancy and into childhood, and hopefully, adulthood, through the lens of a play, with hilarious music and lyrics is something that will speak to a lot of us. Because it takes a village.
To start, I’m just compiling as many of the “mom” stories I can, so if you have one you’d like to share, please email me!
To start, I’m starting toward my beginning, with my first real lactation consultant visit.
My First Lactation Consultant Experience
Me: [broken down, exhausted, dejected, feeling like I’m failing as a mother because nursing isn’t coming easily; nipples are raw and bloody. Worn out from battling at the hospital where they were pushing formula which I had been persuaded was more or less poison]
Me: “Lactation consultant” is a very medicalized-sounding term for someone who is a mix between a fairy godmother, Mary Poppins, and a lifelong dairy farm hand.
I remember when I met mine for the first time in my home, one day after we brought Emilia home. She radiated wisdom and calm. The LC, not the baby. As if it was a prerequisite of the job, she was buxom and busty, with ruddy cheeks and milk maid coloring. She was the great aunt everyone has who could bake the prizewinning pie and birth a baby in the barn in the same day.
Everything I’d read and thought I knew was wrong, because she knew everything. She was only just a little holier than thou about it. More indignant that the poor baby had to suffer because she wasn’t there yet. But we would all be OK.
My baby was NOT a “lazy nurser with a lazy tongue” as the hospital lactation consultant had declared. She was a BABY.
Oh wise Lactation Consultant, TEACH ME, [I silently begged].
[I’m topless, with a nursing pillow or boppy or whatever the fuck it’s called, strapped around my waist. Oh that’s right, the “My Breast Friend.” Sending a silent fuck you to whoever came up with that product name. May you silently choke to death on the buckle of that wretched product. And it was great, don’t get me wrong, I LOVED that thing. But along with my nursing tops, that was happily tossed into the fire to burn the day my daughter finally weaned at 1 year, 11 months.]
Lactation Consultant: OK, why don’t we start by having you show me where you nurse.
ME: [Settles onto the couch and prop my daughter into the “football hold” as taught in the hospital.] This is the only position I can bear the pain in. [My daugher latches and I wince.]
More to come — would love to hear what you think so far about any of this.
Also, an older post I wrote about my my impression of Life With Two Kids.
And finally, I just want to send out a special THANK YOU to my friends Staci and Grace who immediately got behind me when I ventured to tell them about this entire endeavor. No snarky laughing or tongue biting; just unabashed enthusiasm and support. It means more to me than you know. I know this is crazy. MWAH! Love you guys.
And finally, to my friend Shawna, for pointing my attention to the original “Mental Load” cartoon and article which was really the impetus for turning the tide of my rage. Without that, which helped me slowly uncover part of what was at the heart of my indignation and frustration, and our texts throughout the winter and spring about a lot of stupidity that surrounds us in our daily “Mom” lives, I would probably have driven my car into a tree by now. Love you!