During my young life I have been just as judgmental as the next women. With a couple of years of motherhood under my belt, I now believe that most women break out of there vicious cycle of judgment. We judge ourselves and others so viciously it’s no wonder soccer moms pop pills to survive. I used to pour out a bottle a day to survive work, and I didn’t even have a child yet. Still, I told myself if I could stop myself from drinking my bottle of Jameson, I could deal with becoming a mother.
I had no idea how difficult giving birth to a new life would be, and the aftermath was even worst. As a young adult I battled with depressive thoughts and self-harm and lived through that a stronger and better person. Since I survived such difficulties early in life, I figured that I could survive anything. I was not prepared for Motherhood. It left me defenseless and exhausted like crab after molting. As I laid in that cold white room, I didn’t feel this magical click of understanding like I did with previous situations. I had a click when I was tired of being tired, and through myself into writing and exercise. I had a click when I realized I was drunk more than sober. I had click when I couldn’t run as fast and needed to stop smoking. There was no click after giving birth to my first child, and I wonder if there will ever be one.
I started judging myself within the first hour of motherhood. As I think back, I remember having very little rest for forty hours. That is how long she took to come out. Laying in the hospital bed the whiteness of the room gave me a headache. With so much blood loss the sixty something degree temperature left me shivering in my paper-thin robe I still wore. My parents had to return home to get me more clothes and rest, and I felt very alone. The I.V. drip had help keep the real hunger pains away, but now since that was gone the empty room seemed to vibrate with the sound of my growling stomach. As I moved closer to the side of the bed I almost drifted off into an uneasy sleep, until a thought entered my mind.
In the haze of exhaustion, I thought a diaper needed to be changed. In the same moment I also thought that her mother could do it when she came back. Next came the sudden and violent realization that I was now the mother, and this snapped me back up and out of bed. The experience left me shaken and concerned. Judgment radiated from me, and I felt so stupid and guilty that I didn’t get any sleep for the rest of the day.
At the time I felt fear and worry for having to tell myself that I was the mother now. I remember telling my sister-in-law that story and having her laugh and scoff at me. Such judgment right after giving birth solidified my feelings that something was wrong with me. Three years later, with hormones almost normal, I see it for what it was, instinct. Forty hours of labor and my brain went straight to what it knew. I had always been the aunt, the cousin, or the friend. It had been more than ten years since I last changed a dipper, and times where different then. More than not I was told to let the kids pee twice, or just wait till the mother got back. Their feeding and changing times where scheduled out for me, but this was the first time I felt the weight on me. This was the first time the responsibility was truly all on me with a living breathing person that wasn’t a black and white picture. Three years later, for the most part I ignore my sister-in-law’s condescending treatment at everything I do as a person. At the time, when I was still vulnerable, I took her response as proof of my incompetence.
When I was in the Navy, I uses to stab the boxes before breaking them down. This action would either get a look of understanding or one of concerned judgment. In the kitchen I repeated this action, only now with my daughters’ box of wipes. I specifically use my pocketknife because I prefer the control I have with it. The kitchen knives are too sharp, and a pair of scissors are too heavy. These little decisions give me control in a life that is overwhelming not in my control. The little pop is a satisfy sound as I mentally stab at my annoyances. My current annoyance was suddenly my house guest who was loudly complaining about her little sister. Our brunch, like normal, turned into a gossip and complaining fest and is the whole reason I started thinking about my daughter’s birth. Her younger sister apparently had been taking her frustrations out on her older son, by unreasonably yelling at him. I’ve known my friend for almost twenty years and watched her sisters grow up. The youngest never had any patience, and at barely twenty-three her children didn’t magically change that about her. For some reason the way she was speaking about her got to me and I jabbed the knife in harder. I won’t lie and say I’ve never bad mouthed her little sister before as well, but moms are allowed to be overwhelmed sometimes aren’t they? Every mother has taken their frustration out on their kids in one way or another. On bad days I yell at mine too quickly, and on good days I take a moment and drink some tea.
Right now, we weren’t drinking tea but some mixed drinks. As unfair as it was to judge a young mother for losing her cool, I unfairly and bitterly judged my friend for having a strong screwdriver so early in the morning. Gone were the days when my drinking started at ten in the morning and lasted all day. Now, my drink was a very light mimosa that was more orange juice than champagne while her small bottle of Grey Goose was already halfway gone. As I finished stabbing the box and moved on to ripping it into smaller pieces, I voice my concerns about her ignoring how hard raising children is. The oldest of five, most days she was left to raise her siblings and lost her cool at times too. Thus, the conversation moved on to her joking about already having children, meaning her younger siblings. Like me, she is in her early thirties but is still single with no kids or significant other. Inevitably, I know, talking about children will lead to both of us judging her for still not having any. Being in her shoes just three years earlier there is no way around the small sense of shame that comes with this simple fact. Both our families still follow older traditions and even though we try not to care, we both know they still matter to us.
Throwing the box away I return to my seat next to my friend, watching as she makes herself another drink. Still reflecting on the past, I know my daughter’s birth wasn’t a magical experience that made me a new person. It was a hard experience with no rejuvenating effects. Yet, raising her has taught me how beautiful her contributions to my shell really is. I no longer feel like it is not my own, or that it is somehow unfit. Like my drinking days, gone are my all-out emotional rebirths. Our everyday victory’s show me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, and to not be so hard on others. This time when my friend pauses for my feedback I don’t ignore her look of concern and fear. I don’t remind her that she’s getting older, or that she had always said she wanted children. This time, I smile and say as long your happy there’s still time. Afterall, there’s no need to help her judge herself.
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