Thursday, August 03, 2006

Splitting Open

The poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, "What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”

I heard this quote a couple of years ago and pretty much dismissed it. To be blatantly honest (and isn't that what it's all about?), I still kind of do. Without getting terribly political, I have a few issues with the outlooks of certain particular modern-day feminists, and this quote struck me as consistent with some of those outlooks. It seems a bit Ivory Tower for my tastes. I'm a garbage-taking-out-29-year-old-lawyer whose husband cooks her dinner every night; I feel like I know a thing or two about how actually to live a solid life as a woman in the real world.

Yet, this quote sprang into my mind around 3:30 this morning, as I kept an eye on my minor bleeding, rubbed my stomach to stimulate healthy collagen production so that I'll hopefully spring back a little easier after I drop twins in the spring, and debated whether to risk waking my husband by turning the air conditioner back on, or whether it was better simply to sweat.

I have sent some brutally honest e-mails to Mama Tulip and Mignon in the past twenty-four hours. Stuff that I'm feeling in light of the shock of being pregnant after so long, and being pregnant WITH TWINS, no less. Fears and mixed feelings that I may not want my babies to know for a very, very long time, if ever.

Stuff that, as Mignon told me, is perfectly normal.

My parents, in my opinion, instilled a tremendous sense of self in me when I was a child. I was even less of a pushover then than I am now. And I think it was partially due to the fact that they were constantly showing and telling me how great I was, and how much they wanted me. When I asked if I was a good baby, I was told, "Oh, yes, you were the best. Sweet as sugar, and always smiling." The worst thing my mom said about me when I was a baby was that I was "always hungry." Practically a compliment. Of course, when I got older and read between the lines, I realized that meant that I woke her up with my crying every few hours.

I want my babies to know how much I love them already. And I also want them to know, for the sake of knowledge and for the sake of their future mental health, that it's ok--normal, even--to love someone and to have tremendous mixed feelings about putting them into the world. But I can't write exactly what those feelings are on this blog. The world wouldn't split open, I know. But even moderately bad shit might happen, and I can't take that risk with my babies. Not with the written word; it's just too powerful.

Someday I'll probably talk to them about how I felt in the first 24 hours after I found out that I was having two babies at once, how excited and scared I was, and the thoughts that raced through my mind in the middle of the night. And I'll tell them that it's normal to feel this way about babies. But I'll also tell them that the real challenge of being a parent isn't skinned knees or curfews, but how to balance nurturing your children's self-worth while encouraging them to be honest about their own feelings, by example.

I don't think this skill can be taught. I think it's something we each just have to figure out as we go along.


Anonymous mamatulip said...

You are absolutely right -- it is something that you learn as you go along, hitting the bumps and relishing in the beautiful moments.

And I have no doubt that you'll love it. And at times wonder what the hell you were thinking. ;)

12:09 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

You are going to be an incredible mother.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Yes - good for you. You have to give in to all of your superstitions, intuitions and craziness or else you'll worry yourself to no end. If that means keeping negativity to minimum, so be it.

For quite a while we gave Madeleine only glowing memories of her infancy, but then Quinn came along and she saw all the hassles associated with having a baby. After that we had to tell her the whole story, but as long as we made a joke of it she was perfectly happy hearing about what a nightmare she was in the car and how she used to nurse so hard my nipples bled. Ha ha ha, Mommy, I was a riot, wasn't I? Yes honey, a gorgeous, smart, funny little asshole!

2:25 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

You can tell me that stuff as well. Greyson was only 5 months old when we found out we were pregnant again and, truthfully, I WAS NOT HAPPY. I had just lost the 50 pounds I had gained and was signed up to play soccer again. I was not happy and I felt guilty because I was not happy. The guilt? It made me angry.

I came to my senses about a month later. It was still hard, but sweet lord, he was the easiest baby of the three I had. He still is a delight...not that the others are not. (See? Still feeling the guilt for not doling out the equal compliments to each kid!!)

You're going to be a fantastic mom because YOU DON'T expect it to be perfect. Anything else is just delusional...and you're too smart for that.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have I mentioned recently that I love my wife?


5:24 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Well it's a good thing, Mr. Arabella, because there's going to be a lot of her pretty soon. ;)

11:15 PM  
Blogger mamalujo1 said...

I'm glad you have people you can talk with in detail like mignon and mama tulip, and that Ty is there for you. Selfishly, I'm also glad that you can also at least let someone like me know that you have these feelings. Mixed feelings are a part of it, and having mixed feelings about something like having babies is natural, but still it's disconcerting. I remember the baby part, and it continues on. Ours are 12 and 10 now, and life continues to be "interesting." But no matter how difficult it was, how demanding and hard, you know deep down that you wouldn't trade it for anything. Welcome to the other side.

10:51 AM  
Blogger ceece said...

uggh afreakingmen sister. pregnant with our 2nd, I am terrified to bring her into this hell-in-a-handbasket world of ours.

Ever heard the quote,

Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
—Elizabeth Stone


It's so incredibly true.

For a while when we first found out, I found myself thinking, you know it's early enough that I would be OK if we lost this one. Ha now I think that I am the worst mother on the planet for even thinking something like that, but you know what?

A lot of us do.

Good luck.

4:07 PM  

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