I am a 40 year old woman. I have two sons, ages five and three. I spend my days between my office and my sons' schools. I cook three squares a day. I mend the occasional seam and fix buttons when I can find a match. I make homemade Valentines and sew super hero capes for my sons' stuffed animals. I, with my husband, raise our children with no family network to support us. I work part time. I mother full time. Yet some women claim that I am not really a mother. Apparently this has something to do with not paying my proverbial dues to earn the badge of Motherhood. Perhaps some context will help you track with me.
- I got pregnant on the first try, one month after going off the pill. Same story the second time. I kid you not.
- My pregnancies were easy peasy. Sure, I gained 45 pounds, half my body weight, but most of it melted away eventually (not without a struggle, mind you).
- Bunion surgery was worse than childbirth. From the first pang of labor pain to a swaddled baby in my arms was all of three hours. I even fell asleep during labor the second time, and the nurse woke me up to push. Three pushes, 20 minutes, done.
- I had an epidural for both births. I was dilated eight centimeters before I lugged my ass to hospital. I almost missed my epidural window and am grateful to those anesthesiologists who boogied to get me drugs in time.
- My babies were champion eaters and sleepers. Still are.
- My babies were bottle fed.
Some women have told me, uttered behind my back and boldly to my face, that I am less of a mother than they are.
- Am I less of a mother because I did not struggle to get pregnant? Does that mean I don't cherish my children and the miracle of life? Of course not! As a new mother on the cusp of 35, I was and am eternally grateful for bearing two healthy children. I am astounded by the cliched miracle of life every. single. day.
- Am I less of a mother because I don't have pregnancy war stories to share? I did faint in the cereal aisle of Lowes Foods once. Luckily my husband was there to pad my fall before I lost my battle with the linoleum.
- Am I less of a mother because I did not toil through an excruciating labor? My babies did all the work. I watched my children being born in the mirror and I swear they swam out.
- Am I less of a mother because I made use of the medical advancements available to me? The way I see it, I don't get my cavities filled without Novocaine so why labor through excruciating pain without the benefit of drugs? The epidural made my experience pleasant and pain free. I was admittedly lucky to experience no complications. I labored to eight centimeters on my own so perhaps I could have finished the job too. I didn't want to find out what I was made of; I had nothing to prove. At the end of the day, it's a personal choice.
- Am I less of a mother because my children eat a varied and healthy bounty of food? Am I less of a mother because my children relish their sleep? My boys, since they were itty bitty, ate like champs. To this day they probably eat better than any adult I know. My first son, Bird, slept through the night at 12 weeks old. My second child, Deal, beat his older brother by two weeks. Bird napped until he was 4 1/2. Deal is 3 1/2 and stills naps regularly. And they both go to bed at 7:15 and sleep until 7:30. I realize I am lucky. Developing healthy sleep habits for our kids did not come without some tears and threats and tantrums. But bed time is generally a perfectly pleasant time at our house.
- Am I less of a mother because I didn't nurse my babies? Oh, this is a touchy subject. Let's just say that I tried. Hard. My baby failed to thrive. He rapidly lost weight. My physical issues prevented him from getting nourishment (details to come in another post, another day). My team of doctors and lactation consultants ordered the baby on formula. You might say I went through heroic feats to try to nurse, even using a contraption that fed my baby formula through a tube that was attached to my breast to simulate nursing. I toiled so hard, yet my efforts were futile. The second time around the hospital lactation nurse, upon reviewing my file, advised me against breast feeding. To this day I see a nursing mother and child and feel pangs of regret. But in the end, my babies were nourished. And the best part was that my husband could cradle his infant sons and feed them too.
Motherhood is a patchwork of experiences. There is no handbook telling us what to do. There are no rules, no maps, no guidelines. Yet there are many, many tests. We all became mothers in different ways, none better or worse than the other. The women who took in foster children. The women who cared for a sister's daughter and raised her as her own. The women who adopted children who would otherwise face a bleak future. The women who rode the in vitro roller coaster. All are mothers. All see the magnificence and magic of motherhood. All feel our children's pain tenfold worse and rejoice in their glories tenfold more. All see the simple breathtaking beauty in her slumbering child. In the end, motherhood is a sisterhood.
Reposted from an original Deep South Moms Blog post.