Friday, January 26, 2007

On Becoming a Mother

I have a couple of newly pregnant friends (who shall remain nameless until they're ready to out themselves). I am so excited for them. Nothing like knowing that your excellent friends are going to reproduce and bring new excellent people into the world.

They're experiencing the craziness of being pregnant, and I remember it so well. It got me to thinking back to when I was newly pregnant. Having an actual baby seemed like a very distant experience. I was pregnant, not about to become a parent. If you don't see the distinction, well, I'm not sure I can explain it very well. It means that I was narrowly focused on the completely new and foreign experience of being pregnant (and trying to survive being pregnant) and not on the fact that I was going to birth a small, wailing person who would consequently need round-the-clock feeding, comforting and diapering. I'm actually not sure I clued into that part until after William was actually here, now that I think about it. I was pregnant, I was nauseated, I was tired. The roller coaster of emotions also included happiness, eagerness, disbelief, apprehension, and anxiety.

But for awhile, it was mostly nausea. When you're resting your cheek against the cold porcelain for the fifth time that day and trying not to think about what else had touched that porcelain,'re really not thinking about cribs, strollers, bottles and good parenting techniques. At that point, I didn't give a darn whether we were going to let our baby have a pacifier or if we were going to co-sleep.

Later, I began the process of thinking about my self-identity. Who was I going to become when they handed this small bundle of baby to me? I already knew who I was, but I didn't know how Motherhood would fit into that identity. In fact, I think I struggled with it for a couple of months after William was born. Was I still the person I thought I was?

After I got over the shock of the sleep deprivation, after William got over the shock of being a new baby, we both started to get used to our new roles. Once our schedule normalized a bit, I started to feel more like myself, my old self. I just had a new dimension added onto that old self. You know how when you're young, you think that adults are all really, really old, but then when you become an adult, you still feel like you're about 12 years old inside sometimes? It's kind of like that. For awhile, I felt like a Bizzaro World Superhero: Impostor Mom! (Da da da da! It's a bird, it's a's a confused woman stumbling through the darkened hallway to reach her crying infant without smashing into any furniture! It's a good thing no one expected me to wear tights and a cape with my post-partum figure.) It took awhile for me to adjust to my new status. There was never really a definable moment, no exact hour that I can point to and say, "Then. That was when I really started to feel like a mother." It just sort of happened, and I realized it in hindsight. I started to notice it more when I realized that I was reacting to certain things differently (i.e. the dead baby on TV phenomenon), but it really did unfold gradually.

But I'm still me. Just a (new and improved!) me with an extra dimension. (With new super laundry skills!) I don't think I'd be happy with myself if all I was was Jennifer the Mother. I am proud and happy to be Jennifer the Mother, needless to say, but I'm glad that I've tried to also preserve those other parts of myself. A former editor of mine told me after I tearfully resigned from my old job that journalism is a lifelong sport. I'm counting on that. I'll get that part of me back eventually. That's partially why I'm writing here: to nurture the part of me who likes to write. (Of course, given W's wacky sleep schedule of late, I really should be napping, but oh well.) I read. I keep up with the news. I try to not bore David to death with William Talk when he comes home from work each evening. I maintain a couple of professional memberships and try to freelance as much as I can. I'm even giving a talk to some high school students next week on how I became a journalist.

Well. Now that I've gotten all introspective, I am going to have to shift into Uber Mommy mode. William is waking up from his much-too-short nap, and I must try to convince him that napping is really a good thing and that he should want more.


Anonymous said...

Very well said! Nothing can really prepare you for the experience - you have to live it yourself. It's a leap of faith and hope for the future to have a baby! I'm glad you're continuing to write and share your feelings and thoughts about motherhood and life.
Love, Diane

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was very,very well said! Jennifer is going to wear a good many hats during her lifetime! Go to it, Jen! Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

Very eloquently put. I look forward to you coming to my class next year.