Monday, February 04, 2008

Some hopefully coherent thoughts from a not entirely coherent new mom

Sleeping beauty is, well, sleeping, so I take this opportunity to share some thoughts that have been bubbling around in my brain.

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.


Anonymous said...

Kathy, do you think you would be doing justice to your daughter if you were not true to yourself? Children love and respect parents who are true, honest and can admit to their mistakes. You know the kind of person you want your daughter to be. Do not sell yourself or her short. You are very confident and do not lose that. We all experience motherhood in many different ways. There is nothing wrong with how you are feeling. It is very normal. The ones who are so ga-ga eyed that they can't think straight scare the hell out of me. You will have time for Kaiya because you will make time for her. Is it not far better to have quality over quantity? Your views and perspectives as to how your daughter fits into your lives is just fine. She should be the icing on the cake. To be a good mom you still need to be your own person. Do not fall into that "I have to be the typical mommy" thing. That is balony !!!! Like you, I am too honest and sometimes my answers or questions bother people. If you don't want or like to hear my answers then DON'T FREAKING ASK ME !!!! So Kathy, you will be fine because that is who you are. Jeff will be your partner in crime in this whole thing and support you 100 % because that is who he is. I have every confidence in the world that Kaiya will be well loved, cultured and raised by parents who want nothing but good for their daughter. March to the beat of your own drum sweetie !!!
Barb (Mikiko's mom)

gypsy said...

thanks so much, barb!your encouragement means a lot.


lovetolaugh said...

"Perhaps I need to work on being a little less honest."

Not at all (only my opinion), b/c I love it. I also love how honest you were in this blog, and the level of transparency you revealed. I'm not a mum, so I can't even begin to know what to say, or know even what you're feeling. I do think that Kaiya is soo blessed to have a mum that is so honest, "get it done" and all the other things that make You don't want to hide behind what others want you to say or think or feel. And she will a better person for it.

I enjoy coming to this page.

(do you have time this week??)

James said...

I know this post is a couple weeks old now, but I'd just like to say a few things.

When our friends Luke and Rachel had a baby (you're going to get sick of us talking about them, I know, but I wouldn't say anything if I didn't feel it was important), we thought everything would change. Can't hang out together like we used to, can't be loud and drink like we used to, can't do bla bla bla... Anyways, things did change of course, but one thing that didn't change was them. They are still (and maybe even more) two of the best friends anyone could ask for.

Some people do change dramatically, which is why people are telling you that you will change as well. These same people probably changed dramatically when they got married. I know that I always aspired to be like Luke and Rachel in the sense that they remained open and welcoming to their friends when they got married, and didn't act super different when the other was around or not. I should've known that when they had a kid, they would continue to be the same people, just like they did when they got married.

Marriage is not the end. Neither is a child. They're both beginnings, and beginnings do not have to mean endings.