Having a baby has made me insecure and guilt-ridden, apparently. How the hell did that happen?
My subconscious drew up a complicated birth plan and a rigorous set of rules for RR. Worse, I find myself comparing our actual experience and techniques to those imaginary standards and the experiences of everyone we meet and coming up short. Imaginary standards. In moments of clarity, I’m reminded that this unflattering and inherited tendency is one that nudged us toward D carrying.
Aside to RR: Look, I’m sorry. I don’t know about these hidden expectations until they actually happen. So if I inexplicably want you to wear that plaid skirt on the first day of school or take pottery classes, just chalk it up to mama’s craziness. Hopefully, it’s not contagious.
Here are the things I apparently boxed us into without even realizing it: all natural, drug-free childbirth (complete with a grassy hidden glade and frolicking fawns), breastfeeding, baby-wearing and cloth diapers. And when it hasn’t worked, I feel like we’re doing it wrong. Don’t hit the comment button yet. I realize this is insecurity. I know it’s unflattering. I know we’re doing what works for us. But what’s WRONG with me? Here’s what’s happening:
We had the perfect childbirth for us. Sure, it could have gone differently. There was, in fact, no grassy hidden glade. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have witnessed the miracle of my wife laboring. When I hear other mothers talk about their eight centimeters dilated and water breaking and no epidurals, I feel a little as if we didn’t try hard. In fact, we tried very, very hard.
We can’t breastfeed. It didn’t work. Thank goodness we don’t have to contend with cholera, hoards of the unvaccinated, or distant medical care. But when other mothers talk about breastfeeding and how they have to feed on-demand, I hear the implication that we have it easy because formula fed babies don’t need to eat when they first get hungry and that they sleep for days straight. We don’t have anything easy.
We opted not to cloth diaper and thank god. I see other mothers do it and I’m so incredibly envious. This was something I actually articulated that I wanted. Disposable is what worked better for us, but when I see other mothers sighing about having to change their babe from cloth to disposable for the ride home I feel an intense pang of regret. I’m suddenly certain RR will be in diapers until she’s 18 and will be scarred for life with permanent diaper rash, not to mention the gas mask she’ll have to wear cause I’ve single-handedly ruined the environment.
Also, I said I’d wear that baby everywhere. But you know what? It’s summer and she’s hot. I get enough screaming at home without poking her with a hot stick while we’re on a walk.
I dread the other imaginary standards at which I don’t even I know I’m about to fail. I got a hint of this the other day when one of the other mothers said that they don’t ever have time to watch tv. In fact, she can’t imagine the last time she turned it on. At our house it’s on. Perhaps RR’s brain has rotted already. Good. Then she’ll wear that plaid skirt I mentioned.
All those other mothers aren’t trying to be superior – I’m generating this inferiority complex on my own. I wish I could be less hard on myself. Because I’m not the mother I expected I’d be, I’m a better mother than I expected I’d be.