Friday, August 6, 2010

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Musings on the 'Hood

Parenthood and motherhood, that is. Anyone who has heard me talk about the beginning of my adventure into the uncharted territory of life with Cati knows I had a difficult time adjusting. Sure, I had read parenting books and tried to prepare as much as possible, but nothing ever fully prepares you for life with a baby other than having a baby. I was anxious (what if I break her?), scared (how could they trust me with a baby?), overwhelmed (when will the crying stop?), worried (what if she doesn't eat enough?), and I felt like a failure (why can't I breastfeed her? why did I have a c-section?). Nothing could have ever prepared me for the loss of all rationality because when your child is involved everything is laced with emotion. I couldn't think straight because every ounce of my being pounded with the most beautiful and heartbreaking love. I just wanted to do what was right and make my child happy. The thing is, and I can only say this now (you might disagree), my baby didn't feel the emotions I projected onto her. Her needs and emotions were at their most basic form, meaning she cried for everything. Now her emotions have more range and there are ways for me to make her happy. But in the beginning, I let my perceived inadequacies and insufficiencies color my relationship with her. I felt like I was failing at this thing called motherhood even though I had no basis for comparison. I had never been a mother before, never experienced what it was like to have my own child, and never knew how my mother emotions would differ from my motherless emotions. All I knew is that I felt overwhelmed because I couldn't read my little stranger. I did not know her. I still don't know her but now I am comfortable with her. And that comfort makes all the difference.

I used to think that one of the main reasons I struggled with motherhood in the beginning was because I had to do so much of the mothering on my own. Alex was busy with work. His schedule erratic and unpredictable. Even when he was home, he wasn't really home because he still had a lot of work to do to prepare for the following day. His body was here but his mind wasn't. At one point he even joked that I should write about single parenthood on the blog. And that's just it. He understood the source of my uncertainties and frustrations long before I did. Parenthood and motherhood are not the same thing. I realize this now. In the beginning I had issues with both motherhood and parenthood; I just didn't realize it because I was so consumed by my relationship with Cati. I had to grow into my new role as a mother but we didn't grow into our roles as parents together. Evidence of this was the fact that Alex used to say he didn't feel like a father in the first few months of his fatherhood. His journey into fatherhood was delayed and this affected our journey into parenthood.

Some will say that I knew what I was getting into when I married Alex. I knew the road to becoming a doctor was littered with personal sacrifices. When I was pregnant I knew that I would be spending a lot of time alone with Cati. I knew that I would have to be her all and her everything. But once she was here everything changed. As it does so often when you have a child, the things you thought wouldn't matter, matter the most and the things you thought would matter the most, don't matter at all. I thought that his love for her would make him want to be around more and to do more. I forgot, however, that he has a mistress to answer to and she doesn't care that he has a family or that he wants to be home before his daughter lays her head to sleep or that he wants to share stolen moment with his wife free of cries, diapers, and bottles. He has others to answer to and, at this point, it is their care he has to focus on.

Now I love motherhood and know that becoming Cati's mother is one of the best things to ever happen to me. Once I knew this I was better able to evaluate why I feel so frustrated at times. How can I love being a mother but still feel anxious and overwhelmed at times? The answer lies in the fact that I am happy with motherhood but not parenthood. I'm not satisfied with the relationship Alex and I have with our daughter. I'm not satisfied with how my mothering role and his fathering role intersect with our parenting role. We decided to have this child together, to raise her together, to meet all her needs together. And yet, something's amiss. Maybe this is all part of having a child: first, coming to terms with yourself as a mother and then coming to terms with yourself as part of a parenting team. Whatever it is, I'm happy that I am able to distinguish parenthood and motherhood. Now the introspection and doubts of myself can end. It isn't just about me; it's about us.

1 comment:

Alissa said...

Thanks for this. My husband and I are about to start that same journey together (kids) with him starting his Masters in Nursing, so I know a lot of my "parenthood" will mostly be "mommyhood". I know it will be rough on me, and rough on him, but we're ready for the adventure.