Friday, October 11, 2013

Meditations on mommery

My sister came to town this week, much as the circus does, with a full complement of side acts, including a boyfriend, lederhosen, and her best friend, the best friend’s boyfriend, and their 8-month-old baby boy.  The whole crew were represented at a family dinner last night, giving us a not-accidental vision of our future—lederhosen excepted, I hope—and it was disheartening.

Kristin’s friend Tabitha gave me a lot of guidance when I was in the throes of homebirth indecision.  She and her boyfriend, Tim, are free-thinkers of long standing, so they were a little more qualified to take a free-thinking approach to childbirth than Heather and I are.  I actually wasn’t sure what Tabitha had done, but I e-mailed her assuming that someone who makes her own cheese and kimchee probably gave some thought to how she brought her child into the world.  Assuming did not (itself) make an ass of me in this case, as I hit the nail precisely on the head and was rewarded with a wealth of information on doulas and reading materials.  Heather, not knowing Tabitha, was not especially swayed, but I contended that she was a sensible person who, despite the kimchee, was still pretty trustworthy.  For naught.
 Nonetheless, I felt a little more invested in the couple and infant who had set an example for us, and I confess I spent some time checking to see if the little one’s head was unusually shaped by vaginal birth.  He’s got a solid, shapely noggin, though, with none of the warped pointiness I anticipated, and the whole family seemed pretty relaxed, with little indication of lasting trauma.  However bonded they are, the baby did not bond with Heather or me.  Like, distinctly.  The pressure was on, of course, for us to be spectacularly maternal, and it sure wasn’t a small audience that witnessed our failure.  My mom—somewhat tipsily—commented as the baby was passed, “Heather, let’s see how your parenting skills are.”  Tears and cries immediately ensued.  As we left, Heather murmured to me that she was relieved he had cried as much with me as with her.  United we stand?

The parenting collaboration is an especially sensitive topic in our household right now.  For one, Heather is feeling what, to me, is a familiar anxiety about being “the other mother,” who will perhaps not be recognized as “the real mom” by acquaintances, and whose breasts will not be the focus of our child’s early life.  For two, we asked our friend Whitney, “the other mother” of her son with Mamie, how her adoption efforts had played out, and the answer was not a good one.  We’d heard there were some early disappointments in their legal efforts, but then there was another report that everything had come together entirely with their second-parent adoption.  There’s really just the one lawyer in town who handles such things, and we figured if she made it happen for them, it could happen for us, too.  Whitney said that was most definitely not the case, and the adoption hadn’t gone through.  She said she felt it wasn’t worth trying here in town, but that there was a lawyer in Florida who was rumored to have success with such things.  The fee, she said, was supposed to be around $3,000, but didn’t include travel costs.  Travel costs.  To Florida.  WTF? 

It was kind of a big blow to our plans.  Heather said that she was relieved I didn’t seem likely to run off and steal the child for myself, so that’s nice, but I don’t know what this means for the everyday.  Baby will have Heather’s last name, but I don’t know if Heather can sign forms as her guardian for school or medical stuff.  How does that work?

Last night after our big dinner, I went home dejected and climbed straight into bed.  Babies don’t like us, I don’t know how to take care of them, and I’m just not sure I’m qualified to be a parent.  I know it’ll work out—or so I tell myself—but it’s not a small thing to worry about.  On top of that, I have an ugly zit and I need to shop for our trip to New York.  This is some bullshit, man.


  1. Forget about the bullshit. Have your home birth, or not, and if your baby's head is misshapen, you can rub it out. Really, you can! Don't worry if other people's kids don't like you. YOUR baby will LOVE you both! You two are going to be awesome moms! It WILL work out. Try not to think too much and just let nature take its course. You got this! (I know getting unwarranted advice can be very annoying, but I can't help it I'm excited for you!)