This is getting real.
It’s as if this week is coming together with the sole purpose of reminding me that Peeper is coming. Soon. And that his or her first few months won’t be a tearless shampoo-scented cloud of joy—at least not exclusively.
First, I had a day at work when my belly made me so uncomfortable that I ended up lying on the floor for a half-hour. There I was, fingers pecking at my laptop as I sprawled as modestly as I could on the industrial light-pile carpet next to my cube. Very mom-glam.
And today I got a blister on my pinkie toe. But when I bent over to put on a band-aid, I couldn’t reach around my belly. It took several tries to maneuver enough to perform the once-thoughtless task of administering first-aid to my foot.
The internet has been hinting at the difficult days ahead, too. I read Jody Pelatson’s essay “Before I Forget” on The Atlantic, which was a refreshingly honest perspective that caring for a newborn isn’t a one-way ticket to “cloud nine.”
“We thought it would be sitcom-style hard—not necessarily with a feel-good resolution at the end of every episode, but at least punctuated by those frequent moments of uplift indicating that, in spite of everything, life really is beautiful, isn’t it?” writes Pelatson about the challenges of becoming a new mom. “I’m pretty sure it’s like that for some people, but for many of us, it’s not. For many of us, it’s not good hard, as in a ‘good hard workout’; it’s bad hard, as in, it sometimes feels like something bad is happening to you.”
Lest anyone think Pelatson is trying to dissuade anyone from procreating, she goes on to say that she now loves parenting, and that those trying first months have blended into a soft-focus “New Motherhood Montage” in her memory.
When I told Eric about the article, he was somewhat aghast. He doesn’t think it’ll be quite that traumatic, and it might not be. But the essay was reassuring to me, not terrifying. It felt good to read an account of early parenthood that recognized and validated the fact that it can be lonely, confusing and extremely difficult at times.
This week the internet also provided a counternote to the Atlantic article, and to what I’m beginning to suspect is the cult of perfection around motherhood.
“No matter how many doubts you might have, you never need doubt this one thing: You are not perfect,” writes Lea Grover on her blog Becoming Supermommy (and on the Huffington Post).
“And that’s good. Because really, neither is your child. And that means nobody can care for them the way you can, with the wealth of your understanding and your experience. Nobody knows what your child’s squall means, or what their jokes mean, or why they are crying better than you do.
“And since no mother is perfect, chances are you are caught in a two billion way tie for Best Mom in the World.”
Granted, the premise of this blog is that I’ll become competent, or even expert, at being a mom after devoting 10,000 hours of practice to caring for Peeper (a la Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers). I’m not striving for perfection by any means, though. And the recognition that the very lack of perfection is what your child needs is a beautiful, even liberating, idea.
So although this week has thrown some ridiculous reality checks at me (barely being able to reach my toes—come on!), I welcome them. Because with them arrive the understanding that those challenging moments are precisely what I need.