Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Who am I?

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how I feel about being a mother - I've started seeing a new therapist (I'm nothing if not proactive about stressful periods in my life) and it's been good to talk about it a bit with her. It still hasn't hit me quite yet that I am a mother - I mean, it's hit me in one sense, an immediate sense. There are 2 little babies who rely on me (and my support team) for their basic needs. But I still don't always connect them with the fact that they were inside me. I know I love them (in the sense that I would throw myself in front of a bus for them), but it's not always a conscious feeling.

I think I'm staring right into the face of the myth of all-encompassing, positive motherhood. Just like those Rockwellian Christmas myths, I thought that I would feel more connected to them than I often do. That I would feel the urge to weep with joy and unending love every time I look at them. That it would be one big skin-to-skin love-fest bonding ceremony. But I often see them as just needing from me. Now, granted, I'm feeling better after the anemia and hormonally-induced craziness has begun to calm down and I have more to offer them. But my feelings about them are still very complicated and evolving. Sometimes I have to remind myself that my life has changed so dramatically - they will be with me for so long. How do I feel about this? What does this mean to me?

People say that your life will never be the same - but what will it be? These are the big questions. Different? Yes. Good? Yes. Better than it would have been without them? I think so - in the final tally, I know I'll never truly regret having children (however much I might regret it in certain moments). But I expected to feel more...stable about them than I do. I think I might be falling in love with them. Like I did with TD. The first time I met TD, the next day I remember saying to a friend of mine, "I just really like that guy." And it grew from there to the point to where I love him with all my heart.

Could it be the same with children? Could it be that I love them in one basic, primal way, but I'm also in the process of falling in love with them in another, subtler, more cerebral/emotional way?

I've been thinking this is the case. And I've been thinking that that's okay.


dorothyk98 said...

Being a Mom is overwhelming. The surrealness (with the added sleep-deprivation) is completely normal. It's a shock. I used to call my girlfriends a lot during pregnancy and during the first year of motherhood. Their stories about the anxiety, craziness, and just general emotional and otherworldly turmoil they felt helped me center my own feelings about the whole thing. Try to get rest. Try to get out with TD if you can.

Good Enough Woman said...

When my first son was about three months old, I remember telling my husband that I wasn't happy. I don't really remember how I felt, but I remember telling him that. At the time, I was SO tired, and I was getting ready to go back to work, and I was thinking, "How the hell can I throw work into the mix?" Well, surprise, surprise. After I was working again, I felt MUCH better. For me, it was healthy to have breaks from mothering after three straight months with no breaks.

And I think I felt much as you are feeling. I remember a friend of mine saying to me, after I had my son, "Don't you just love him so much that you could eat him up?" And I looked at her, and I remember thinking, "I think she might love her baby more than I love mine."

But that all changed. I don't know when or how, but one day I realized, "Yes. I just want to eat him up. I love him so much I think I might burst."

And I feel more like that every day.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I have no direct experience of these things. But I will say that when friends have had children, I used to be surprised that the mothers remained so much themselves. They didn't take on generic Mom-characteristics. They just added an identity, rather than changing, and mothered in ways that went right along with the people they had always been.

Obviously they may have felt changed, etc., but from outside, they looked and acted like their old selves (busier and more stressed sometimes, but no big personality changes).

My 2 cents.

ntbw said...

Oh, wow, does this ever resonate with my experience. After I had my older son, I loved him with a fierce primal quality; I was ready to die for him or kill for him. But I HATED my life. I was convinced I would never be happy again, that I would never be "myself" again, and that the rest of my life would be a fairly joyless exercise, but one I couldn't imagine trying to escape. I'm pretty sure now that I had fairly serious undiagnosed post-partum depression, because it was a year before I felt anything like happy or normal. And I felt unbelievably guilty that I was such crap at the whole motherhood thing, particularly since I had managed to work things out to have several months off from my job.

The experience was sufficiently awful that, when I was told I likely couldn't have more kids, I didn't really mind. I didn't want to go through all that again.

Fast forward six years to a surprise pregnancy (turns out I could have more). I was cautiously thrilled but actually terrified. And guess what? Totally different experience the second time. After son #2 was born, I was physically in worse shape, but mentally and emotionally in much better shape. I am convinced that part of what made the difference is that I went almost straight back to work (not back to teaching, but to working on research) within two weeks of the birth. This was a necessity because son #2 was born at the very beginning, literally on the first day, of my term in a kind of la-di-dah residential research fellowship. But it was a huge blessing in the end. I too was much better at being a mother, and much happier all around, when I was doing something in addition to being a mother 24/7.

C. Troubadour said...

I have no wisdom from personal experience that I can offer, but it sounds like you've done a lot of processing, and that is really, really important. Being able to say, "I love them, but I'm not yet IN love with them" -- that's honest and, from my little corner, more than okay.


the rebel lettriste said...

It is totally OK to not be madly in love with newborn twins. Remember, there are TWO OF THEM. It takes a long time just to get to know them, intimately.

I am frequently jealous of mothers of singletons, because I do think that the whole "falling in love" with your baby thing is part and parcel of just having ONE baby, ONE set of needs, ONE diaper at a time to change. All of your attention can be focused on the one being, and it can be somewhat gratifying (in an Of Woman Born sort of way, I guess.)

With two babies, it's a nonstop need-fest, and it never ends. That alone would be a spanner in the works of instant love.

Doctor Cleveland said...

"I thought that I would feel ... the urge to weep with joy and unending love every time I look at them."

If you do feel that, MW, get your new therapist to prescribe you many, many drugs. Because that's not really a sustainable emotion.

I do not and will never have advice to give about motherhood. But I know that the foundation-stone of staying sane is paying attention to what you're actually feeling, and not pretending to feel something else. That you care for them and want to protect them is the key, I think.