Kaiya being only eighteen days old, our trips into the outside world have been, granted, limited. We've done a little shopping and seen some family. Our only other major outing has been to church, twice now. Each time though, I've had some interesting interactions that have caused me to... pause.
Last week my pastor asked me, with a sense of wonder in his eyes, whether I found giving birth to be a spiritual experience. I thought quietly and said, "No." Sensing that this might be a somewhat disappointing answer, I quickly added, "Well, if it was, I certainly wasn't aware of it. I was just so focused on what I had to do."
This week, also at church, a woman asked me, "So now that you have her, don't you find it's hard to remember and imagine what life was like before she came?" This time, remembering last week's conversation, I kept the "no" internalized. Instead I said something like, "Well, it's all very surreal really." This answer didn't seem to fare any better. "Oh really? Still?" she replied.
Perhaps I need to work on being a little less honest.
The fact is, I used to think that I was a romantic, but I'm not really. A month or so ago, a friend used the label "pragmatic" to describe me, and I felt like a bit of a light switched on. Yes, pragmatic. That I am. This pragmatism keeps me from being able to romanticize motherhood. It is what it is, and I do what I have to do. Yes, I have my dreamy moments... the blog does betray me, but for the most part, I'm just too practical.
I'm sure that birth is an incredibly spiritual experience, but anyone who knows me knows that my one area of expertise is focusing on the task at hand. "Get 'er done" is my personal mantra. And so went Kaiya's birth for me. Don't touch me; don't talk to me; can't you see I'm busy right now? I don't think I really opened my eyes the whole time. The story goes that when the midwives came to the house and saw me sitting alone in the dark on the toilet, eyes closed, deep breaths interspersed with chanting, they said, "This one won't take long." And it didn't. That's my specialty.
And as for conversation #2, I've often heard people refer to having children in this manner, and maybe I too will soon feel this way (it has only been 18 days), but well, the fact is that Jeff and I will have been married 10 years this September. Ten freaking years! We've done a lot of living and a lot of learning in those years. Study, work, family, friends, fixer-uppers, tons of travel. Life has been rich, full. We've only gotten better. We have strong identities, both together and as individuals. I like to think of Kaiya as the icing on the cake. She hasn't erased those years and experiences or rendered them selfish or meaningless. She's just adding to them. As only she can. And we're very glad.
But in the midst of all these thoughts, I can't help but get a little insecure. I often hate how task-oriented I am. It seriously inhibits me from being able to really connect with people sometimes. I'm such a perfectionist, and before Kaiya came, it was all just work, work, work. Even now, I find myself getting frustrated if I don't get around to say, the dishes. It's like I have to tell myself, "Okay Kath, it's sit down and chill time now." I worry that I'll always be telling her, "Later, sweetie. Mom has to (fill in the blanks) right now." Cause you can take away the teaching job, but you can't take away the task-centered perfectionism.
I also worry about being too pragmatic. I get these nagging, niggly feelings that I haven't fallen in love with her enough, that I should want to just spend every moment staring at her. That life, as I knew it before, should just have stopped, replaced by HER, and everything about HER. But the fact remains that I want to get the laundry done, dammit. And I miss the banter of my work relationships (although, admittedly, I don't miss work!) And yes, I still want to travel again and take my little girl to Japan. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I do.
I remember what my "Yoga for Birth" instructor said. It gave me great comfort at the time, and it still does now:
When I was pregnant with my first, everyone always told me, "Oh, you're life is gonna change! You're never going to be the same again! You won't be able, or want, to do the things you do now!" And I worried that I would be this strange person. I wouldn't be Rhegan anymore. I'd be "Mommy." And then I had my child, and I realized that it wasn't like that. I was still me, and I could still do the things I did before. My child simply added another layer to who I was.Being a mother, you enter a whole new realm of society's expectations. Sometimes subtle, as in the above examples, sometimes blatant and rude. Mothering is very political. I feel it already. My actions, my style will be monitored more closely than ever before. I can't say I like that. But I trust that in spite of these expectations and my own insecurities, I'll find my way. And I hope to have the grace to let other mothers find theirs.