Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Thank you mom for enduring having me
May 12, 2013 12:47 AM   Subscribe

"There's nothing ergonomic about being a parent." Writer Shawnee Barton talks about the non-Hallmark, less discussed aspects of being a mother: the physical changes that come from pregnancy and giving birth. "Turns out, we are all mama soldiers returning from the battlefields of life-creation. And like most stories from the frontlines, the physical scars inevitably stir genuine emotions and sentimentality that those greeting cards fall far short of replicating."
posted by ichomp (84 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
This strikes me as the latest example of the parenthood writing genre that seems to have dominated the US and the UK for the last 5 years. For lack of a better description, I will summarise this genre as "motherhood will destroy everything that makes you important as a woman, and turn you into your pre-feminist grandmother. No one will tell you this, because I am the only one brave enough to do so."

As a new parent, I've found that (contrary to the revelations of these writers who have bravely endured having healthy babies and successful careers at the same time while heroically defending their looks and their sexy firm boobies in the process) I was almost over-warned about the risks and consequences of motherhood. All of the stuff that "they" are supposedly trying to keep "us" from knowing - miscarriage risks, physical side effects of pregnancy, consequences of the wrong dietary choices, decline of fertility with age, the risk of every possible complication and infant health problem, career issues, etc. - was shouted from the rooftops so constantly by the media that actual medical professionals were reduced to reminding us patients that "most of the time this goes OK."

I think the popularity of this sort of thing can be explained by two related phenomena:

1) Greater (and totally justified) attention is being paid to the problems that parents, particularly mothers, of children with health or developmental issues face. This seems to have led to a wave of articles about the suffering of mothers with "normal" children, often in the "Look, I am really a super mommy just like these amazing women because I suffer too! Look at this spitup on my shirt! Look at my saggy boobs! I get fewer assignments from the Guardian nowadays, too!" vein. Apparently, editors are worried that all those (really) heroic mothers of kids who need extraordinary help are making us heroes-in-our-own-minds feel inferior.

2) It still really is hard for women writers to get noticed writing about "serious" subjects like politics. It seems that most women writers eventually end up getting asked to write about their views on the issue that all women are considered de facto experts on: motherhood. So you see lots of articles from women who might normally be expected to cover other beats on parenting decisions they made, why they didn't want to have kids, why they disapprove of others' parenting, whether their toddler will sleep or not, etc. For some of them (like this writer, who has written prolifically about her IVF process), the "mommy beat" becomes their route to success. The only way to keep it up is to pitch endless "revelations" they've found along the way to an assumed audience of female idiots who were previously just blundering along without their expert guidance.
posted by Wylla at 2:06 AM on May 12, 2013 [31 favorites]


My firstborn daughter is 22 days old. It's 2am and I'm currently up feeding her with braces on both wrists because the awkward positioning I need to do to get her to eat successfully irritates the heck out of my tendons.

Apparently some doctors call this "mommy wrist". Who knew. I'm a computer programmer when I'm not on maternity leave and I'm not much use without my wrists, so I'm reeeeeally hoping bracing them helps me keep them healthy.

Pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood have been by far the most physically difficult things I've ever done. I was expecting impacts to my breasts and genitals and skin and belly. But it never occurred to me that three weeks after giving birth I'd be worrying most about my wrists.
posted by town of cats at 2:14 AM on May 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


As a new parent, I've found that... I was almost over-warned about the risks and consequences of motherhood.

I think that can certainly be an experience for some parents, no doubt. For us, though, we were ultimately unprepared for the many changes that would come. Some were anticipated, some were overestimated; but some very important ones were under-estimated and unanticipated.

I think your second point is spot on, but your first point is quite uncharitable; as Plato said: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

I see pieces like this as part of a reaction against things like a "have it all" mentality promulgated in the media by coverage of celebrity parents and the discourse around them; the feelings of being judged that all new parents face; a still-quite-common discourse that parents - mothers in particular - should be seen and not heard; that every parent should be pathetically grateful simply for having a child all the time; that every current parent has had it easier than any parent of a prior generation; and the feelings of losing your identity that can come with parenthood, the schism between how you feel and how you're supposed to feel, how you look and you're supposed to look etc etc.

I - and a lot of our friends - are now parents. Some for a variety of reasons have it easier or harder than others. I think, frankly, the "easy" part of the spectrum gets pretty good coverage. The shit is hard, yo, part of the spectrum - though I'm sure those without kids don't feel this way, - does not get nearly so much coverage.

Shit is, was, hard for us. And can be hard whether your baby's health is good, bad, or indifferent. I think people should feel okay talking about that, not guilty, and should definitely feel that they are not alone - cause they're not.
posted by smoke at 3:10 AM on May 12, 2013 [18 favorites]


town of cats: "Pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood have been by far the most physically difficult things I've ever done. I was expecting impacts to my breasts and genitals and skin and belly. But it never occurred to me that three weeks after giving birth I'd be worrying most about my wrists."

My daughter turns four next month. My shoulder is the latest joint to fail out on me but I've learnt nowadays and the first twinge and slip and I'm off to a physio (physical therapist) to work out just what muscles I need to build to compensate for the ligaments that never seemed to come back from the experience of pregnancy.

I knew all about c-sections, pelvic floor dysfunction, post-partum psychosis. I was well ready for the three years of sexual nothingness and we dealt with it and have come out the other side fine and dandy. I was prepared for the stitches and the scars. I wasn't prepared for just how many other things never came back right, or the same way - that my body doesn't process sugar properly any more, doesn't regulate my blood pressure properly, the ligaments are all stretched and more than anything else, how raw my feelings still are because I cannot form a scab over this vulnerability now.

I wasn't prepared for this being a full assault on every aspect of my being, soul, mind and body. One I love and cherish but when I go and get my six monthly blood draw, the blood pressure check, the sigh and recommendation from my doc for yet another bout of physio, I can't help but wonder if maybe I'm the only one, maybe I'm complaining too much, other mothers are dealing better. Stories like this aren't just about telling one's own experience, or warning, but a community builder.

I do think there are regional/community differences - you can be steeped in the horror or you can be swaddled in the cotton wool, but neither are the whole experience and neither will prepare you. When someone acts like my experience of birth is a horror story, I get a little offended - it's not a horror, it's just what happened and I had it relatively easy, I have no trauma, it was all reasonably straight-forward. But at the same time when I've talked with friends who mention blue, unbreathing babies in the same way I mention delivering the placenta, I can't help but feel a sense of unease - it seems disrespectful to the process not to weight that bridge between life and death just a bit more heavily. That the desire to be helpful and hopeful can mask reality. I mean, fuck the sexy boobies and career bullshit, I'd like to not be wondering exactly when I'll get diabetes, when I'll start meds, when a joint will slip good and proper, when I'll get a knee replacement, or osteopenia, or whatever.

But mostly, I was not prepared for exactly how upside down and inside out this little girl has turned my life. And nothing can prepare you for that aspect.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:56 AM on May 12, 2013 [29 favorites]


Being a mother changes everything in your life.
I thank my own mother for saying so. She didn't say it was terrible. She freaked out when I was the first in my family to have a C-section. I also had a VBAC when it was very rare.
The section scar took years to fade some. It still itches on occasion. It saved my son's life and mine to have that operation, but the more or less normal birth of my daughter was really a powerful experience.
I nursed them both.
Other than the section scar, my physical recovery was excellent.
I do have arthritis from years of carrying home food and babies. I'm sure I'm not alone on that one.
I sometimes think if we all fully knew what we were getting into, none of us would have babies.
It's a huge lot of work. That is if you have kids with decent health and normal to above average intelligence, and no serious handicaps.
I don't even want to think about the challenges a parent faces if a child has a major health problem.
Happy Mother's Day to all the MeFi Moms!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:34 AM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Finding a Mother's Day card that honestly addresses the complexities of motherhood is unexpectedly difficult.

There is always, you know, the option of starting with a blank piece of paper and putting your own words on it.

I sometimes think if we all fully knew what we were getting into, none of us would have babies.

Having your own kids is really the only way to repay the debt you owe to your parents - although being a boy I got a pretty good deal on the interest rate compared to Mrs. Mice.

Happy Mother's Day all you MeFi moms!
posted by three blind mice at 4:42 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Turns out, every mom I talked to lives with physical challenges or changes as a result of motherhood.

Boy, if this was news to Ms Barton, I hope she does some research regarding the effects of aging on the human body before she turns 50. I'm sure the world could do without a ~2035 report regarding the further deterioration of her perky 32Ds and six-pack abs.
posted by she's not there at 5:01 AM on May 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Until recently, my life was mostly (and thankfully) free of body image angst. But after childbirth, I found myself for the first time having a body that could, in its appearance or unintentional actions, make me embarrassed."

Well, goodie for her. I had plenty of body image angst, dating back to early childhood. In retrospect, I can say that giving birth not only gave me beautiful babies, but also the best excuse ever to say fuck that shit it doesn't matter to me anymore.
posted by drlith at 5:07 AM on May 12, 2013 [32 favorites]


I'm kind of inclined to view all that stuff in the article as a particular kind of sports injury. Five months on from my second labor-and-delivery (and two and a half years on from my first) I see motherhood as a physical, endurance activity more than ever. Pregnancy involves carrying a weight (20,30, sometimes 50 lbs) everywhere you go, and never being able to put it down, while having your heart and lung capacity handicapped -- like if we made marathon runners smoke cigarettes. Having done it both ways, my advice to all would-be mothers is to try to be in shape as much as possible before you get pregnant, because seriously, distance running is not nearly as demanding on your body, and people train for that. And then it ends with the 7-8 hour (on average, sometimes it's days) workout of your life. The workout that will make you barf, that will make you scream, that will make you just sob silently, but you cannot stop the machine.

And then! You don't get to sleep! For like two years! Remember how crappy you felt after pulling an all-nighter when you were a kid? Now pull three or four of them back to back, and then be grateful for the five hours of sleep (not continuous) you get the next night. On TV this always looks rumpled-cute. It is not cute. It is a kind of mental illness, and it has given me a lot more sympathy for people with more permanent kinds of mental illness, having experienced from the inside the inability to control my thoughts or emotions (or to concentrate, on anything.)

Meanwhile, your back hurts from carrying babies and nursing in weird positions and falling asleep in chairs. But at least while you're nursing, you can just sit still for a few minutes. Otherwise, the demands of babies rarely allow that, except when the baby is asleep, and when you have more than one, that's never both at the same time. Oftentimes, the only way to quiet a fussy baby is to hold them, and walk, and walk, and walk. At three, four, five in the morning. With your "core" muscles so stretched that they are basically useless, your abs unable to relieve the load from your back at all.

And I won't go into the reasons why it's hard to eat well, during all of this, because they just sound like excuses. Except to say that breastfeeding requires some 500 calories a day (and you don't get the benefit of the energy associated with those calories.) And that breastmilk always contains a certain amount of vitamins and minerals and nutrients and fatty acids, even if your body has to rob your own muscles and bones and brain to provide them.

Okay, now this just sounds like horror stories to scare newly pregnant women, which is its own genre. And of course I'm not addressing the joys of motherhood at all, which are many, and transcendent. I do not regret getting into this.

But I feel like this is harder than any iron-man, any ultra-marathon. And so many women do it, never knowing how physical it is, rarely advised to train in advance lest they hurt themselves... Which is why so many of us do.

Anyway, if you can, get in shape before getting pregnant.
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:19 AM on May 12, 2013 [21 favorites]


My kids are in their 20s and trust me, there are lots and lots and lots of challenges ahead for this writer. The physical part of having and raising a child is the least difficult part of the whole deal ( assuming good health, etc..)
posted by Ideefixe at 5:24 AM on May 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Boy, if this was news to Ms Barton, I hope she does some research regarding the effects of aging on the human body before she turns 50. I'm sure the world could do without a ~2035 report regarding the further deterioration of her perky 32Ds and six-pack abs.

I think it's an important thing to emphasize to women considering having children, mainly because they really need to look at the kind of partner they've chosen to father the children. I know it sounds stupid, but the number of men who are truly ignorant and even whiny about the toll pregnancy puts on the human body is mindboggling. The questions you hear ("My wife is fat and I'm not attracted to her" and "My friend's wife is doing it all and my wife is tired all the time, is she just lazy?"), and it's only afterwards that you get to see how good of a partner you've chosen if you don't assess him properly.

It's important to let women, especially in this culture, know that if they want to do this with a partner they need to pick a partner that will support them in motherhood rather than abandon them because there will be changes to cope with.
posted by discopolo at 5:31 AM on May 12, 2013 [26 favorites]


I think it's an important thing to emphasize to women considering having children, mainly because they really need to look at the kind of partner they've chosen to father the children.

This. I have the kindest, most supportive husband I can possibly imagine, and yet I once almost exploded with rage when he offered to come "help" me with the baby. There is no "helping" when you are parents -- it's both partners' job.

We were the first in our circle to have kids, and now I make a point of asking my newly pregnant plans how they're planning on altering both partners' work schedules to prioritize family. The number of men who stare at me blankly because they've assumed that they'd keep working 6 days a week, 10+ hours a day is amazing.

From a physical standpoint, I think we don't talk about some of it because, like much of the bad parts of infancy, we tend to elide over the moments that suck. It's now nature tricks us into having more (I say as I my sciatic nerve causes yet another burst of literal pain in my ass to keep me from walking).
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:47 AM on May 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


It's important to let women, especially in this culture, know that if they want to do this with a partner they need to pick a partner that will support them in motherhood rather than abandon them because there will be changes to cope with.

Yeah, I once heard a guy say with a completely straight face that he considered his wife to be BREAKING THEIR WEDDING VOWS because her body didn't go back to its pre-childbirth state fast enough. These are things couples should be talking about before they decide to have kids.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:05 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Boy, if this was news to Ms Barton, I hope she does some research regarding the effects of aging on the human body before she turns 50.

It's possible, and with today's technology not even all that difficult, to avoid having children. If it was equally possible to avoid aging I'm sure at least a few of us would consider using that technology too.
posted by localroger at 6:09 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This. I have the kindest, most supportive husband I can possibly imagine, and yet I once almost exploded with rage when he offered to come "help" me with the baby. There is no "helping" when you are parents -- it's both partners' job.

Heh. I've come across this reaction to using the word help in other situations and it always seems like differences in communication style. Person A is doing a task and Person B is not, so in B's mind, they are assisting person A in doing a task. Person A will explode, thinking that Person B is someone being dismissive or not viewing it as equal partnership. Arguments or seething frustration ensue, despite no harm meant.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:10 AM on May 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I sometimes think if we all fully knew what we were getting into, none of us would have babies.

I think this is a very legitimate thing. Honestly I think I'd rather unknow some of the things I do know, as they make a tough decision (quite tough, for those of us who float in the middle where baby or no baby would each likely be fine) even more complicated. I do agree that some circles likely see more of this than others, but I feel like I've been steeped in it. From the moment my 16-year-old best friend walked me through the details of the experience, to multiple articles like this one. The commonality between the "you can have it all" and the "having a child is a horror show" seems to be taking a personal experience and extrapolating it to everyone. I feel like I worry about hundreds of things that can go wrong, when the odds are against that happening to that degree. Is that better than not knowing?

Also - so many of these stories seem like they'd be made easier by not breastfeeding. It would mean more sleep (assuming you could share with a partner, mom, etc.), and less physical (not meaning aesthetics here, but things like cracked and raw nipples) and emotional toll. I'm a proponent of breastfeeding, in theory, but every story I hear about it makes me consider the alternative.
posted by bizzyb at 6:15 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, goodie for her. I had plenty of body image angst, dating back to early childhood. In retrospect, I can say that giving birth not only gave me beautiful babies, but also the best excuse ever to say fuck that shit it doesn't matter to me anymore.

Agreed. I hate the pervasive pressure of "getting back to the pre-baby body." I fully support any woman's right to be comfortable in her body and if working out and losing 20lbs will do that, awesome. A lot of my mom friends love going to the gym because there's a daycare and it's an hour of alone time. That's great!

For me - my body is never going to BE pre-baby ever again. There's no going back. I grew and sustained a person for almost two years. That's intense. I'll probably do it again, and who knows what my body will look like after that. Right now, I exercise frequently - I have a toddler and live in the middle of a city, so we walk all the time - often several miles per day. I eat decently. Feeding myself is trickier than feeding my kid, both in terms if what and when I eat. I don't keep junk food in the house and we don't go to fast food places (except for the occasional weekend trip to Five Guys). Pre-baby, given the same regime, I'd weigh 20lbs less. I can't blame pregnancy - for various reasons, I ended up losing weight in my 3rd trimester and after my son was born, I weighed less than I did before he'd been conceived. Somewhere even after my appetite got back to normal when my son weaned and I was no longer eating enough to feed a small army, my metabolism changed and this is just how much I weigh now.

It really has given me a lot of insight into how our society tells women their bodies are worth more when they're smaller. We're told to constantly "shed" weight as if it were just unnecessary and will drop right off like dead skin of we drink the right smoothies. We're told we're more valuable if there's less to us.

Before having a child, I bought into that to a certain extent. Now... eff that. I have way more important things to do than try and lose the weight that being a mother has given me. Like, anything at all is more important than that. I'm not going to stress about fitting into pre-pregnancy pants, I'm just going to buy new pants - even more fabulous than the ones I had before.
posted by sonika at 6:21 AM on May 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


they make a tough decision (quite tough, for those of us who float in the middle where baby or no baby would each likely be fine) even more complicated.

Now I feel bad for the comment above. But keep in mind that most parents who tell stories like this not only say they have no regrets, but go on to have another kid. It's just that the rewards are harder to describe.

so many of these stories seem like they'd be made easier by not breastfeeding.

For sure. I feel like I didn't have a lot of choice but to breastfeed, because of some medical issues. But it takes a real toll, and I would never pressure anyone else into doing it. I think there is a point at which "breast is best" becomes an anti-feminist message. It's a little better, but not so much better as to be worth any cost, which is what a lot of women take away from these campaigns. "Breastfeed at any cost" is a really damaging message for some women.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:30 AM on May 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I've always wondered whether, if medical science ever gets artificial wombs worked out, actually carrying and gestating a baby in one's body will eventually come to be seen as in the same category as lobotomies: a horrifying procedure it's difficult to believe could ever be necessary under any circumstances.
posted by XMLicious at 6:37 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't care how "easy" and privileged your life is. Motherhood is hard. Wonderful, but really really fucking hard.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone. Thank you for what you do.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:39 AM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


so many of these stories seem like they'd be made easier by not breastfeeding.


Until the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world scream at you for bottlefeeding and not making your own baby food from scratch (I hope this doesn't really happen in real life. If it does, then I can't help but wonder what happened to being polite to strangers or minding your own business?)

Kudos to you moms out there. You guys are incredible.
posted by discopolo at 6:40 AM on May 12, 2013


I have a daughter who is the most courteous, patient, unobtrusive two year old I know and a husband who does far more than his fair share of cooking and cleaning so that I can do extra work at night and on the weekends. My body has bounced back splendidly. (From my mom: "The first one is a freebie!")

Yet, despite my lottery-level draw of a best-case parenting scenario I can't believe how hard parenting has turned out to be from a mental perspective. I am an introvert but I never knew just how much I needed time alone until I had a little person who wanted to be with me and touching me at all times. She loves me! And I love her back! But sometimes I fantasize about having a secret apartment where I can read a book for an hour by myself uninterrupted.

It's also amazing how complicated formerly simple tasks like leaving the house and eating breakfast can get with the addition of a small child. I think about my former self with envy, the person who could wake up, throw on clothes and leave for work in less than 15 minutes. Now I'm just exhausted thinking about my mornings: negotiating about clothes, hunting down shoes, offering breakfast, packing lunches, offering breakfast again, putting breakfast in a baggie for the car, coaxing her out the door and into the car, strapping her in and negotiating over what is or is not too tight, and finally driving away while blasting the same CD we have listened to for about 8 months now. I see my husband just jump into his car and drive away in the mornings and feel nothing but jealousy.

But this all feels so petty. I have a happy, healthy child and a husband that appreciates me and takes care of me. How can I complain about anything?

Still, contemplating having another kid makes me hyperventilate. If I'm just on the borderline with a single nice, polite child I can't imagine adding another kid who will be a new grab bag of personality traits.

I also think about all the lovely, beautiful money I will have if we never have another and all the security and beach vacations it would buy us.

But I am stupid and also brainwashed by nature. Plus, we are the only source for grandchildren on one side, and the only source for further grandchildren on the other. My family and my husband's have been really quiet about us having more kids, but I can tell that they want more so badly and I love them enough to want to grant that wish. My current strategy is to entice my parents to move to my city and space my children out as much as I can.

And then I think about caring for another infant while working full time and the money I will be spending. It seems like pure insanity.
posted by Alison at 6:54 AM on May 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


"motherhood will destroy everything that makes you important as a woman, and turn you into your pre-feminist grandmother. No one will tell you this, because I am the only one brave enough to do so."

I agree. But I think we're still in the corrective stage of "it's OK to talk about this stuff" after so many years of silence and so freaking many images of perfect motherhood. It still feels transgressive to say that some days motherhood sucks, despite the avalanche of confessional blogs and articles. This, too, shall pass.

I don't love my C-section scar, and I don't need it to stand as a symbol for anything: it is what it is, an unavoidable leftover of a necessary medical procedure. As for me (but possibly not for you) I keep seeing alternating sets of "shoulds," whether it's Gwyneth Paltrow-like outrage over non-organic baby food or the smiley-happy faces of mothers insisting that Everything's Perfect All. the. Time! Whether sentimentality or politics, it seems to get in the way of women saying to one another that we are all struggling and doing the best we can, moment to moment, and we're all screwing up sometimes, and that the costs are invisible and real, and that motherhood is a necessarily imperfect project.

tl; dr: Fewer sappy cards and symbolic images, and more practical kindness, please.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:58 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If breastfeeding works for one it is much easier - no bottles to clean, warm, etc but the amount of pressure and guilt aimed at women for whom it doesn't work is less than helpful to put it extremely mildly.

And yeah motherhood definitely changes one's body - I'm 18 years out from the last time I gave birth and in better shape than I was as a young woman but the effects of 3 pregnancies are here to stay. That's ok - living in our bodies leaves a mark and living period changes us. Mothering babies and toddlers was certainly the most physically exhausting marathon for years on end of no sleep and constant demands. Parenting teenagers brings a different and in some ways harder set of challenges. I don't regret doing any of it but am enjoying entering an era of less active parenting as my kids become adults.

I don't think there's anything unique about what the writer describes but she is right that most of us - and certainly most men - dealing with first pregnancies and new babies have NO idea how much will change in ways that are less than glamorous.
posted by leslies at 6:58 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I'm recovering from reconstructive surgery on my perineum and rear vaginal wall, so this is a timely post.

Not sure where the hostility towards the writer is coming from...
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:37 AM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am reminded, yet again, of my aunt's advice to me when I was fifteen.

One of the reasons I am not a mother (which admittedly takes second place to "I'm single") is that I know myself well enough to know that I just plain wouldn't be able to handle it. Happy Mother's Day and my salute to those who are able.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on May 12, 2013


There is always, you know, the option of starting with a blank piece of paper and putting your own words on it.

Oh thank goodness we don't have to do this! I have a mother who I love dearly, but none of the sentiments on cards ever seems to fit our relationship at all. Card-customization sites (this is but one of them) are awesome and my mom loves these cards that are designed just for her.

Oh, and yes, I have a c-section scar that is still numb five years after the fact (and don't get me started about having a non-nurser and what pumping for a year can do to you, whether you had perky boobs before or not.)
posted by 41swans at 7:44 AM on May 12, 2013


My wife gave birth to our three children in a span of 30 months. We wanted to have multiple children and wanted them close in age. We briefly talked about a fourth. Very briefly. The conversation went like this:

Me: Do we try for a fourth?
Her: You can. Try it with your next wife. I want my body back. After 4 straight years of being pregnant or breast feeding, I am done.
Me: I am going to the grocery store, do we need anything?

A week later she had her tubes tied.

Happy Mother's Day to all.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:56 AM on May 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


The giant elephant in the room here is that we don't support parents, especially moms, in this society. No paid leave, no daycare subsidies, no in-home care when babies are small and exhausting, no flexibility at work, no real support during lactation (which is a bitch to establish for most women) nothing. If we treated childbearing with the seriousness it deserves, we'd stop treating like an extreme novelty hobby and fucking help the people doing the work.
posted by emjaybee at 8:01 AM on May 12, 2013 [61 favorites]


As a happily childfree woman (who chose not to bear children in part because of the expected physical toll on my own body, so respect to all you women who do it), my experience was that my friends who had borne children were very anxious to talk about the physical toll of childbirth. I used to help organize potluck brunches for my woman friends in my hometown, and some of us who didn't have kids used to roll eyes privately about the "E&E" (epidural and episiotomy) discussions at brunch, which were so graphic that in one case I nearly fainted at the table.

I will admit that nobody talked about prolapsed bladders and incontinence, though. So maybe I was under-warned.
posted by immlass at 8:23 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I once heard a guy say with a completely straight face that he considered his wife to be BREAKING THEIR WEDDING VOWS because her body didn't go back to its pre-childbirth state fast enough.

Is "justifiable homicide" a thing? Can it be, please?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:36 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, Ok. There are changes. But I would say for the vast majority of us, they're not changes we couldn't anticipate during pregnancy. If you have the luxury of looking back with your mother at your own birth, you know genetically speaking what you may be in for. Any good book will tell you the rest and an OB/GYN worth their salt will do what they can to minimize the worst things that could happen. But I had a baby. A 9lb 8oz baby girl and I had lots of stitches that had to be replaced 5 days after her birth. But it's OK. I don't want a card that says "Sorry you need a pantyliner every day for the rest of your life". I don't want a card that says "Sorry I nursed until you could match the spread in National Geographic". I just want a happy, healthy kid and I have one. She made me several Mother's Day cards. Most of them in subtle ways let me know that in addition to loving me quite a bit, she is very interested in receiving cash and lipstick. She's 8. Here's hoping I have the time to straighten out her priorities by the time she's 18 or I'll have way more to worry about than tinkling when I laugh, sneeze or cough.
posted by PuppyCat at 9:03 AM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wonder sometimes if articles like this are so important because mothers and couples increasingly have to parent...alone. When you take away intergenerational support (which many couples do not have whether because of geography or age), and you add in the modern working schedule of just about everyone (and you perhaps have very little connection / no connection to a faith community), the internet becomes the defacto resource for parenting stories and support.

I recently visited my oldest, dearest girlfriend on the planet and helped her with her two kids for a weekend (we live in two different regions of the U.S. or I would do this more) and it occurred to me how absurd it is that mothers and couples do all this on their own. It is totally nutso. Our modern culture is just not very well set up for childrearing.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:05 AM on May 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, I once heard a guy say with a completely straight face that he considered his wife to be BREAKING THEIR WEDDING VOWS because her body didn't go back to its pre-childbirth state fast enough.

This is so sad. You never can tell sometimes. Im sure plenty of women dont think their husband roils over that stuff secretly or that they'd never marry that kind of asshole. But you can never tell until afterwards. My ex partner of many years seemed like the kindest, most egalitarian and understanding guy in the world, until he suddenly started yelling at me and blaming me for the apt not being clean enough, my not having dinner ready for him, and him feeling like a Neanderthal for wanting that and wanting me to assume a traditional role and additionally look like I've pulled it all off effortlessly. He also told me he didn't think I could handle being a mother (that I would get tired or sick and wouldn't be able to handle it without needing support--which I agree with, pregnancy would have taken a huge physical toll). He'd been raised by a mom who made everything seem effortless and never complained when she wasn't feeling well who never made him clean up after himself. He was nearly 40 and I guess maybe that was part of his anxiety and externalizing, and in my gut I knew he wouldn't be a good dad unless I carried most of the burden and made everything perfect.

Luckily, he's my ex partner but I was with him for long enough that I never really could have guessed that he was that kind of guy until the end. I'm kind of horrified how long it took for me to realize that he was going to be that guy who would say all the right things but secretly want a wife who was endlessly energetic and perfect and picking up slack without needing any help or support.

So it warms my heart to see guys who love their wives and treat them like real people to be empathized with, not objectified. I feel like I'm seeing the objectification too much these days.
posted by discopolo at 9:25 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm terrified of being pregnant. Always have been. Mostly the giving birth part. Add in an anxiety problem and a difficult relationship with my mother and I've always been like, "Nope, I'll never do that. Not gonna be a mom."

Then I met The Guy. And he's got one already, and we are getting married and I would love to have a baby with him, if we could like, order it online and have it shipped to us. So, now I'm in this endless loop of: I WANT A BABY. DO I HAVE TO HAVE IT? BUT I WANT ONE. Surrogacy and adoption and fostering are options, but there's nothing medically wrong with me (*crosses fingers*), so it seems a little backward to start there. So why NOT have a biological child? Sheer terror. Then I tell myself that millions of women do this every day, whether they're 14 years old or whether they're on their 14th pregnancy. They can do it -- so why can't I? Then I think about the blood and I get lightheaded. Then I think about *my son* as he exists in my head, and I get so excited to think that it's even a possibility.

I'm not someone who grew up with the "certainty" that I would have children someday -- as someone said upthread, I truly think I'd be fine either way -- but I'm really trying to pay attention to my feelings here, because I am 33 and dreaming about babies all the time now, and there is so much back-and-forth. If I'm not going to birth a baby, I want it to be because my career is fabulous or I'm traveling the world or something - not because I'm so squeamish about pain/surgery/hospitals that I talked myself out of it.

So yes, I gather that pregnancy is wonderful and terrifying and that the actual birth is another Huge Scary Thing (and then the actual baby is The Hugest Scariest Thing) - articles like this make it very clear that no one should have any babies without thinking it through. Lo, if that were always the case.
posted by polly_dactyl at 9:53 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


it occurred to me how absurd it is that mothers and couples do all this on their own. It is totally nutso. Our modern culture is just not very well set up for childrearing.

This +1000. This is a big part of why I'm moderately terrified of the day that my wife and I have children. We're supposed to do this all on our own? That's insane.
posted by asnider at 10:03 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just called my Mom to wish her happy Mother's Day.

Here are some of the things I appreciate about my mother, who is a wonderful woman.

Every year when I call her to wish her a happy Mother's Day, she thanks me for making her a mother. Every year. This is not a contrived attitude, this is who she is. My mother is unbelievably generous and gracious woman.

My mom loves being a mother, which I appreciate because no child wants to feel as though their birth was regretted. She has always said that being a mother is deeply important to her. But I have never once felt as though I was responsible for my mother's happiness. She has other callings that she is passionate about, and when I grew up and moved away, sure, my parents missed me, but she is a happy woman. She has a busy and full life. For her, having children was a beautiful part of life, but not her reason for living.

My mom has told me many times that she loved being pregnant. This is good luck - she had easy pregnancies - but I am grateful that she didn't suffer.

My mom hasn't glossed over the parts of parenting that were extremely difficult for her. For example she DID suffer from extreme sleep deprivation when I was an infant, and it wasn't fun. She's never pretended it was "no big deal".

My mom did have some challenges in recovering from childbirth: the worst was severe coccyx pain. It went on for MANY years. She did eventually get it treated. I'm glad she was honest about that. But the pain wasn't all I saw. Even now she is fit, healthy and looking wonderful at nearly 60. She hikes, skis and swims and I'm so grateful to have been doing those things with her since I was a baby. I have never, EVER heard her mention - not ONCE in my entire life - anything about having children "taking a toll" on her body. Yes, she had a serious issue that resulted from childbirth, but she never made us feel like we, the children, were the cause of her pain. And despite her pain (now gone), her good health has been predominant.

When I'm a mother myself, I hope I will have the genuine gratitude and graciousness that my mother has. For her, being a mother has been an important and beautiful part of her life. It was also physically and emotionally challenging, but so is getting older, whether you have children or not. I am so grateful that she doesn't feel as though she lost or gave away anything by becoming a mother (I've asked, specifically). It's so nice to know that she and my father are sure that my sister and I were "good decisions".
posted by Cygnet at 10:20 AM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I love your comment, Cygnet, but what's wrong with "taking a toll"? A toll is what you pay to get somewhere you want to go, the price of a going on a journey. I think it's a good metaphor.
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:38 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Having your own kids is really the only way to repay the debt you owe to your parents

I think I’ll just go with a phone call.
posted by bongo_x at 10:41 AM on May 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


Surrogacy and adoption and fostering are options, but there's nothing medically wrong with me (*crosses fingers*), so it seems a little backward to start there. So why NOT have a biological child? Sheer terror.

You know "I don't want to push a baby out of my vagina or have it surgically removed" are perfectly valid reasons for adopting. Seriously. There is nothing selfish..just the opposite...in raising a kid who needs you without birthing it first.

Not everybody needs to climb Everest, or bungee jump, or get a full-body tattoo, or birth a baby. Those are all great things and make good and/or horrifying stories, but they are not mandatory. Truly.
posted by emjaybee at 10:48 AM on May 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


OnceUponATime, I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a toll. The way you look at it is beautiful. I think sometimes the phrase is used to mean exclusively the bad results of a choice.
posted by Cygnet at 11:06 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


polly_dactyl, I feel like my comment hit exactly the wrong notes for your situation. And I was totally terrified of pregnancy and motherhood too, three years ago, so I can identify with your comment, and wince at mine, through your eyes.

So let me try to be at least a little reassuring -- like running a marathon or climbing a mountain, there is a euphoria and a sense of accomplishment associated with all that physicality. It's not a horror movie. Your body isn't just having these things done to it -- you are doing something incredible. You just keep putting one foot in font of the other, and every now and then you look up and you can't believe the view.

For me, I was really scared about the lack of control, but in practice, everything happens slowly enough, and there are enough medical options these days, that I never really felt helpless, as I'd feared. The main thing I've felt is tired, but "tired" isn't exactly terrifying. Even labor was more exhausting than anything else, for me.
posted by OnceUponATime at 11:07 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


guys who love their wives and treat them like real people to be empathized with, not objectified.

I know what you mean, this is terrifying to me. I ended one long haul relationship in January, basically because of the interjection of creepy gender roles and I just don't know how to deal with something like that.

I don't really want the changes making a baby will wreck on my body, but I dread being stuck in the "mother" role. That's not really something that changes whether my pregnancy is easy and my child angelic and I honestly don't have a solution to that.
posted by Phalene at 11:17 AM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


For me, I was really scared about the lack of control, but in practice, everything happens slowly enough, and there are enough medical options these days, that I never really felt helpless, as I'd feared.

I like these words a lot.

Not everybody needs to ..., or birth a baby. Those are all great things and make good and/or horrifying stories, but they are not mandatory. Truly.

I hear you. But I think the essence of my comment was that fear is preventing me from doing something that millions of other women do, and that's different from being able to say "I'm confident I don't want to do this."
posted by polly_dactyl at 12:09 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


town of cats: I had De Quervain's as well. Put up with the braces and the pain for 10 weeks until I dropped my baby on the sidewalk because my wrists just gave out.

One trip to the doctor and two cortisone shots later and I was good to go.
posted by gaspode at 12:45 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


(kid was fine and is now 4 and super awesomely smart, so no longterm damage, hopefully :/)
posted by gaspode at 12:46 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


articles like this make it very clear that no one should have any babies without thinking it through. Lo, if that were always the case.

Don't let articles like this scare you away from parenting. Yes, it's good to be informed... but this is not all the information.

Birth is rough. ROUGH. I, like just about every other woman, was crying that I couldn't do it near the end. It wasn't even the pain, it was the sheer physical effort of it. Running a marathon is an apt comparison. However, what came next...

Watch a few birth videos, preferably nicely edited ones shot by professionals. Don't watch the gory details or focus on the anatomical reality. Hell, close your eyes or fastforward. Watch what happens next. This woman who was TEN SECONDS AGO screaming at the top of her longs is crying with joy and holding this brand new person and often covering that tiny head with kisses before it's even been cleaned off. I saw a really, really wonderful birth video of a water birth where it was all tastefully filmed and you see this exuberant mother saying "Oh, I love you I waited so long to meet you" before she even looks to see if it's a boy or girl. It sounds so cheesy, but I'm getting misty just thinking about it.

This is the part that this article isn't talking about and the part that is truly, truly indescribable. My son's birth was long and rough on both of us and, unfortunately, I couldn't hold him immediately as the stress had caused him to pass meconium (that is, to poop) on his way out. So, they had to suction his poop out of his face first. This took... five? Minutes? Tops? Those five minutes were agonizing. (Yes, I know that some mothers end up waiting much longer and my heart goes out to them.) The singularly most vivid moment of my entire life is looking over at my son in the warmer as he was being assessed and I was being stitched up and just quietly crying to... the world at large... "I WANT him." That longing for this person who had only existed in the world for five minutes.

Birth is rough. The physical toll is something to be taken seriously. But there's a reason women keep doing it and it's not because we love pain. It's because there is absolutely no rush like it.

(Note: this is it to say "Everyone should do it!" It's to say that if you do want to be a biological mother but the pain of birth is scary to you, there is a very real upside to the experience that gets glossed over in telling "war stories." When mothers compare notes among themselves about the process, the outcome just goes unsaid. We all know that rush of love and hormones, the differences are in the details that got us there.)
posted by sonika at 1:18 PM on May 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Echoing gaspode, my wrist brace did not help at all, but the cortisone shot was a miracle. (I managed to not drop my son -- though we had a couple of close calls. I demanded the cortisone after I realized I couldn't tie my shoes.)
posted by purpleclover at 1:24 PM on May 12, 2013


Having your own kids is really the only way to repay the debt you owe to your parents

...

Ouch.
posted by clavicle at 1:27 PM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't get the article at all. Every individual has a different story, my own experience was that after two childbirths, my body was in the best form ever. That includes the inside, thankyou.
I hated pregnancy both times, actual birthing improved significantly the second time (but was never terrifying), and am probably not very suited for being home on maternity leave. But my least problem was my shape. And the reward! Just out from a long fight with my teenage daughter, and I still think having her and her sister are the best things I ever did.
Women are made for endurance. We are better at marathons than men. A lot of the issues the author listed are about life-style, not child birth.
Today, I visited a friend with small children, and suddenly realised how I miss the physicallity of playing with them, and just dealing with them. And I didn't only miss it for the hugs, but also for the health aspect. When you are constantly using your whole body in a multitude of ways, it's like free cross-training, plus it feels good because its wonderful kids you are playing with.
If her thing is about attracting men, well, I feel I get much more positive attention after becoming a mother, and while I do feel my shape became better, I suspect the good vibes are mostly about me being happier and less self-concious. Specially since in the meantime, I've been through some hard times and put on 50 pounds, and I still get my share of the flirting...
posted by mumimor at 1:47 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a dude struggling with the "do I want kids" question these articles (and threads) are incredibly confusing. I see some friends doing it and having a pretty horrible time of it. Between the 'normal' effort of pregnancy and childbirth and no sleep and no sex and no social life and body changes to some pretty extraordinarily fucked up medical issues with their kids it's impossible for me to imagine any payoff that could possibly be worth that.

From the outside it looks like freaking stockholm syndrome or heroin addiction or something for people to do it at all and some of y'all do it multiple times.
posted by Skorgu at 2:53 PM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I feel like explaining "why" about parenting would lead me to cross reference the thread about people willing to die on Mars a bunch. It's not quite the same thing as Stockholm syndrome. It's about wonder and awe, and being a part of something (a family, a genealogy) bigger than yourself, and leaving a legacy. At least for me. That's "why have kids at all," not "why do you love your kids once you have them." I love them because I can't help loving them.
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:01 PM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Until the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world scream at you for bottlefeeding and not making your own baby food from scratch (I hope this doesn't really happen in real life. If it does, then I can't help but wonder what happened to being polite to strangers or minding your own business?)

A very dear friend of mine was diagnosed with lymphoma while pregnant, and had to undergo chemotherapy during and after her pregnancy, and therefore is unable to breastfeed. She has reported that people have, when observing her bottle-feeding her three month old baby, inquired whether that is breast milk or formula. This has happened to her more than once.

I want to track such people down and whack them on the head with the heaviest edition of Emily Post that I can obtain.
posted by ambrosia at 3:18 PM on May 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


Ambrosia, that's awful!

It seems like turning around and saying "It's formula. I had lymphoma and chemotherapy that left me unable to breastfeed. Any other questions?" would be exactly what those people deserve. Not that it's on your friend to school people about asking Rude Questions. But it seems like getting the answer would be a good education for those folks.
posted by feets at 3:49 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having your own kids is really the only way to repay the debt you owe to your parents

Yeah, this....this really isn't fair. To a lot of people.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not everyone gets a rush. Some women don't talk about because it never happens. Same with the immediate bonding.

Also, in reference to another comment, I find it terribly dismissive to perceive a woman's adjustment to physical pain after childbirth solely as something that affects her children.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:47 PM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The giant elephant in the room here is that we don't support parents, especially moms, in this society. No paid leave, no daycare subsidies, no in-home care when babies are small and exhausting, no flexibility at work, no real support during lactation (which is a bitch to establish for most women) nothing. If we treated childbearing with the seriousness it deserves, we'd stop treating like an extreme novelty hobby and fucking help the people doing the work.

Repeated this for absolute fucking truth. You know what the other crapping elephant is? We don't care about our children. All of the above are examples of how we neglect our kids' welfare. From the beginning of their lives, through their maturity, we could care less if kids get proper health care, nutrition, love or education. If we did care, we'd fund programs that insured that all kids were taken care of. We'd design and fund parks, day cares, and schools that would nurture kids. We don't take care of our moms, and we don't care for our kids.


Having your own kids is really the only way to repay the debt you owe to your parents.


Horseshit! You repay the debt you owe to your parents by being the best human being you can possibly be. Be happy, be kind, be independent and loving. Laugh and embrace the world. That is how my kids have repaid me. Yeah, the grandkids are nice, but they are hostages to fortune, and I worry as well as love.

...longing for this person who had only existed in the world for five minutes.

There we go with the mythology again and stigmatization of moms that have a rough time bonding with their babies. Not all moms have this great longing you speak of. Some women bill and coo at their newborns and wind up abusing them.

My second granddaughter is now 2 months old. She was a bit of a terror, as the second one can sometimes be (my theory is the first little angel suckers you into having the next one.) My daughter had the quintessential pregnancy from hell, and the delivery lasted 48 hours. Everything was so out of whack, she wanted nothing but sleep, and wasn't interested in the baby for nearly four days. G-babe cried frequently and wouldn't settle, absolutely wouldn't latch and suckle, and every time she wailed, it caused mom to cramp badly. Post-partum depression and mastitis dumped her deeper into the pit. Not fun. After three days, new mom called in absolute tears and panic, sure she'd never love this baby and what was wrong with her that she was an unnatural mother? Dad stepped up, grandma went down to stay a bit, doctors, vitamins and meds did their magic, and baby grew and settled, learned to coo and smile-all is well now.

Motherhood isn't instantaneous for every woman. Some of us have to work at loving our kids. We learn to love and develop our relationship with our kids every day--by changing dirty diapers, wiping snotty noses, taking temperatures, washing clothes, putting up with backtalk, reading bedtime stories, hugging, kissing booboos, and pushing swings.

I love them because I can't help loving them. I love mine because of who we are together. I learned to love them, and I like to think I taught them a little bit of how to love other people, too.

Some women want to be mothers. Every mom, pregnancy, delivery, and child are different. Some women don't want to be mothers. Everyone needs validation that their choice and/or experience is OK.


On preview, young rope-rider beat me to it, but it needs said with vigor.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:57 PM on May 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


...longing for this person who had only existed in the world for five minutes.

There we go with the mythology again and stigmatization of moms that have a rough time bonding with their babies.

To be fair, that sentiment is not mythology. I, too, was immediately over-the-moon in love with my kids following childbirth. If I could package and sell that feeling of euphoria...well, it would quickly be outlawed as a Schedule I Drug, I'm sure.

I understand that this is not a universal experience and I'm not dismissing (or condoning the dismissing of) mothers who don't feel this way—just saying that this mere mortal has never found the words to describe the experience.
posted by she's not there at 5:38 PM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


There we go with the mythology again and stigmatization of moms that have a rough time bonding with their babies.

How in the name of Pete is it mythologizing to talk about *my own feelings?!*

I know not all mothers feel the same way about the birth experience, but my goal with my comment was to explain to people on the fence about parenthood why anyone bothers to do it if it's so awful. I forgot to add in the MetaFilter required sixteen caveats about how my experience is not everyone's experience and so on. So, there it is.
posted by sonika at 5:52 PM on May 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Having your own kids is really the only way to repay the debt you owe to your parents

My parents would seem to disagree with you. They told me many times since our reconnect after the bitter 17-year Tiger Parenting estrangement that they were very proud of me and that I had made the right decision not to have kids, what with the world being so messed up and so many people my age in such bad shape financially because of so many broken promises in the social contract. And my father was a teacher, one of the best I've ever known, and I'm not just saying that because he's my Dad.

Anyway, Mom died on December 27. Today I drove 150 miles so Dad could dress nice and buy me lunch and take me to see Iron Man 3, since he couldn't do those things for Mom. Even my wife, who is childfree at 54 due to diligent attention to contraception, agreed that this was the way I should pass the holiday. It's not really our holiday, and Mom isn't here herself, but we remembered her as a family.

Mom would have liked the movie. Most of the Moms who could make it to the theatre were seeing Gatsby which seems terribly depressing by comparison.
posted by localroger at 6:25 PM on May 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Today I drove 150 miles so Dad could dress nice and buy me lunch and take me to see Iron Man 3, since he couldn't do those things for Mom.

This is so nice. This is really nice. I'm not certain why, but I think it's so lovely.
posted by discopolo at 6:49 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cygnet, times have changed. Work FT, be pregnant, have the kid, head back to work, do a million things at once? A mom should be allowed to cry over the toll it takes on her to her kids.
posted by discopolo at 7:09 PM on May 12, 2013


discopolo, My mom did work full time while pregnant, and she did head back to work and do a million things at once. Things weren't always easy for her, either. Moms should absolutely be allowed to cry. My mom isn't a prototype for how all moms should be, but I admire her a lot and from the standpoint of an adult child, I deeply appreciate her attitude, whether or not it's "correct". My opinion isn't a statement about how others should be; just a statement of gratitude.
posted by Cygnet at 7:41 PM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


BlueHorse -- you're right. I didn't mean to imply that it is always easy, or automatic. Just that I have a much more difficult time articulating why I feel the way I feel about my kids which doesn't feel like a conscious choice, than why I had them -- which very much was a conscious choice. There are two different senses in which they are worth the "toll": the way in which generic "kids" are worthwhile, and they ways in which my real kids really are important to me. But really nobody gets to choose how they feel, at least, not at first.
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:45 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of us are sharing our own positive experiences and others are inferring that this is an endorsement of whatever aspect of parenting. I didn't read Cygnet's comment as saying that her mother's outlook was a model for anyone else, just that this is a thing that she wanted to share in a discussion about motherhood.
posted by sonika at 8:05 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some parents are awful. If having children is how you repay them, I would be afraid for those children.
posted by 3491again at 8:31 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My apologies. I did not intend to devalue anyone's experience. Many women are joyfully overwhelmed by their birth experience and feel a total bond with their babies immediately. Many women don't, and it makes it that much harder to begin to bond when you're drowning in a sea of hormones and trying to process what happened when society expects women to be automatic loving mothers. I've a friend that said when her adopted infant was put into her arms, she was immediately overwhelmed with love and that there was no other experience that had ever or could ever transcend that feeling. Lucky woman.


Can I repeat this?
Everyone needs validation that their choice and/or experience is OK.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:41 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I changed the Divinyls song to "When I think about you, I pee myself" thanks to my son's big head.
posted by stormpooper at 7:39 AM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


No paid leave, no daycare subsidies, no in-home care when babies are small and exhausting, no flexibility at work, no real support during lactation

I'm a career freelancer, and I didn't have any "paid leave" from my producing gig at a PBS station because--freelancer. I chose this type of career. I don't want a government-paid nanny to help me do anything. I don't want a visiting nurse or babysitter that I didn't get to pick and pay for myself. My career is as flexible as I choose to make it. I know this isn't popular here, but I don't actually want any government "support" with my family life. Those who do, great. I had plenty of useful support available to me through my health care provider and health insurance company that I paid for. It wasn't all kittens and cocktails, but that's life.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:19 PM on May 13, 2013


I know this isn't popular here, but I don't actually want any government "support" with my family life. Those who do, great

Problem is in the US, it's not even an option for those who do. So, it's not "great" it's "totally non existent." For something to be a matter of choice, it has to first, y'know, BE.
posted by sonika at 2:47 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a freelancer now, by choice. I enjoy it, but let's be honest -- it's not an option for most people. You have to have a valuable skillset, be willing to assume risk, and ideally a spouse who can provide the healthcare. It works for me, but let's not pretend that solutions that work for a very small, lucky few are a good basis for policy.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:15 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a career freelancer

I had plenty of useful support available to me through my health care provider and health insurance company that I paid for.

A career freelancer with health insurance is not an easy thing to come by. How fortunate you are.
posted by ambrosia at 3:37 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I chose this type of career. I don't want a government-paid nanny to help me do anything. I don't want a visiting nurse or babysitter that I didn't get to pick and pay for myself. My career is as flexible as I choose to make it. I know this isn't popular here, but I don't actually want any government "support" with my family life. Those who do, great.

Those who do, can't get it because it doesn't exist. Not sure what your point is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 PM on May 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you don't want any government support with your family life, you'd probably need to move to rural Kyrgyzstan where there are no roads and buy infant formula with melamine in it and cribs that strangle babies and save your family nest egg and future college tuition in banks that don't have FDIC insurance or 529 plans and the other various generous benefits that the U.S. financial and business systems accrue from the government.

I think you most likely mean that you only want the kinds of government support for your family life that financially secure people can't easily afford or ensure the quality and safety of on their own.
posted by XMLicious at 4:40 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Having your own kids is really the only way to repay the debt you owe to your parents

How does this repay those who were abusive or horrible parents?

Do you make them eat the placenta?
posted by Dynex at 9:50 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a non-parent, it looks to me from the outside like if you become a mom, you pretty much die. The person you were before is obliterated. You utterly change--your body is at best somewhat ruined, and your soul, life, and personality are kind of eaten for at least the next five years or until your youngest turns five, because having a child is THAT ALL CONSUMING for women. The only friends I have with kids are ones whose kids were at least five before I met them and they were just starting to get back into the world, and I lost another set of friends when they decided to renege on the only child thing. And all of that scares the living shit out of me. I don't know how any woman chooses it. Much less 99% of them!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:38 PM on May 13, 2013


I don't know how any woman chooses it.

Call it a biological clock or what have you, but my drive to have my own child was all consuming. Motherhood hasn't obliterated my identity - it's given me the greatest joy and sense of purpose. I was previously married to a man who decided that he didn't want kids and my desire to have them not only made the marriage unworkable, but trying to suppress that desire and accept a life without kids drove me out of my mind.

Perhaps it was a trick of biology trying to perpetuate the species, but for me it felt more like a "need" to be a mother more than a choice. I totally get that most women don't feel this way, so I can't speak to rational reasons for having kids. For me, it was a calling of sorts and it's thus far been amazingly fulfilling.

Also, my love for kids in general extends to a career - such as it is - in child care. I'd been up to my eyeballs in diapers and sippy cups long before I gave birth. Having my own kids is a natural extension of this - caring for children is simply something I love to do much as others love being scientists or hairdressers or race car drivers or whatever.
posted by sonika at 4:13 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, I still am the person I was before having a child, just with different experiences. I am down with not having kids. There are huge expectations for unpaid and unappreciated labor. However, the language of destruction, death, and the idea that everything that makes a woman unique disappears when she has a small child is part and parcel of the dehumanizing (and, at its root, misogynistic) way that we conceive of motherhood.

There's a lot about motherhood that should scare you but it is primarily systematic and, frankly, due to a lot of the attitudes about motherhood that you express in your post, which is refreshingly honest, by the way, so I hope I don't come across as thinking that you're uniquely awful about this topic. You're just saying what many, many people seem to think about the "right" or "real" thing that happens when you have a child and it's nice to be able to respond to it instead of just sensing it as an unspoken assumption.

Anyway, there are lots of women with children under 5 who do lots of things. I started the weekly meetup in Brooklyn when my son was just a couple of months old. But anytime you do something not child related there is a good chance of subtle (or not subtle) backlash--"where is your child" is an extremely common question I am liable to be asked at any time, regardless of its appropriateness, as a reminder that I do not make complete sense as a mother who is physically distant from her son and should explain myself somehow.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:36 AM on May 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


As a non-parent, it looks to me from the outside like if you become a mom, you pretty much die. The person you were before is obliterated. You utterly change--your body is at best somewhat ruined, and your soul, life, and personality are kind of eaten for at least the next five years or until your youngest turns five, because having a child is THAT ALL CONSUMING for women.

Wow. That was not my personal experience in having a child at all. Maybe other people think that about me, but that's their baggage, not mine. I agree with everything the young rope-rider says. Like she says, your opinion is far from uniquely awful. "Ruined" seems to be a common word for the postpartum body. Ruined for what, I always wonder? Did I have some sort of naked supermodel career potential pre-baby that is now RUINED? There are actual physical effects a woman can suffer from post-birth (incontinence, etc), but it never seems like that's what are people are talking about.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:45 AM on May 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Having your own kids is really the only way to repay the debt you owe to your parents


Do you make them eat the placenta?


Oh sweet baby Jebus, eating the placenta is now the thing for nursing moms. Supposed to aid in immunization or something. My daughter told me both her doula and the nursing support group recommended it. Apparently you make a smoothie with it. I didn't have the internal fortitude to ask her if she'd actually done it!
posted by BlueHorse at 1:34 PM on May 14, 2013


"Doula" has always sounded to me like a term straight out of the Dune novels, so eating placentae and perhaps gaining mystical powers from doing so totally fits.
posted by XMLicious at 4:28 PM on May 14, 2013


In Spanish dolor, in French douleur, in Haitian Creole doulè, the English word is pain.
posted by localroger at 7:54 PM on May 14, 2013


Dolor and dolorous are English words, too.
posted by XMLicious at 8:26 PM on May 14, 2013


And actually, come to think of it, that isn't the etymology that is given in the Wikipedia article, which says
originating from the Ancient Greek word δούλη meaning female servant or slave
posted by XMLicious at 12:33 PM on May 15, 2013


« Older These photos are the first official releases of ra...  |  It's that time of the year aga... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments