Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On Being A Mother - Why I'm Not:: Part Two

I promised you this post way back here when I wrote Part One. I didn't intend to get into this today. No, I had a far more intellectual post I want to write for BlogRhet, but epiphanies being what they will, this is what you're getting.

I just watched Leahpeah's interview, now on Alpha Mom, with Amy Storch of amalah.com--and I had an Aha Moment. Amy was telling Leah about the day when she first started working at home full-time and she got so furious with her infant son that she wanted to shake him. She didn't, but the depth of her feeling so scared her that she realized she needed to put him down and leave the room for a minute to calm down. Then she realized that whatever other mom's could or could not do regarding the number of children they could effortlessly handle while still chopping wood and pumping gas, she had met her limit. The solution for her was to get childcare. Amy wrote about it on her blog and the response from women who had felt the same and what they did was overwhelming, she says.

So, here's another response from a woman who felt the same.

The backstory: Miss B, my niece, had the wisdom to be born right in the middle of December, just in time for Christmas vacation. Thus, entire village--namely, my mother, my father, and me--was there in situ during the early weeks of her life. Holding her, feeding her, diapering her; you know, all that stuff. When it was my turn to do the middle of the night feedings, they wheeled her bassinet into the den where I was sleeping on the sofa bed. Now, I am the baby of the family, of all the cousins, in fact, so I had never really spent a lot of time with a newborn in the middle of the night. Certainly I was a dab hand at babysitting, and I prided myself on how I could calm my crying charges. But this middle of the night thing--well, really, how hard could it be.

Let me tell you, short and sharp. Hard.

Miss B was a pacifier baby, which was all to the good as long as she was sucking away. But when she'd fall asleep, those little cheeks would go slack, and, plop, the pacifier would fall out of her mouth. Which would wake her up and cause her to wah wah wah, where's my paci in that relentless way that only a newborn can do. This interfered, as you might imagine, with my sleep. And by dawn of the morning, I was ready to kill her. I tried to think of a way of attaching the pacifier to her mouth. When I was a kid, I had a doll whose hair bow was stuck into her polyvinyl head with a straightpin. I couldn't pin the pacifier to Miss B's cheek. I couldn't do anything. Everytime I'd lie down and start to fall asleep again, she'd be all wah, wah, where's my paci. I remember getting up for the umpteenth time, and standing over her cradle, filled with such, such--a strong desire to shut her up any way possible. I remember the feeling in my arms as I held them by my side with my fists balled. I was shaking with the repressed urge to pick her up and--what? shake her? swing her against the wall? hit her?

In that instant I knew, viscerally knew, how moms end up hurting their kids. I had walked half a block in their shoes, and I was wise enough to know that it was the fact that I had choices, that enabled my repressing that urge. I did not have a house full of other kids. I was not the only one responsible for the baby. I was not post-partum. I did not have a husband nagging and bills waiting. I could, and did, say to my sister and my mom, "nope, not for me. The middle of the nights are yours."

I also did not think, specifically, directly, consciously--ooooh, better not have one of my own that I can't hand off to someone else. I don't even know that I suspected how that night might have played a part in why I just never got around to having kids. Until today. Until I heard Amy tell a similar story about her baby. Until I heard her say that this was a common experience. Then, I realized that I had not known it was common. My mother never expressed such frustration; nor had my sister. I thought I alone was the uncommon woman. I thought, I guess, that I was unnatural, deeply flawed, not Mother Material. So I protected my unborn children in the only way I knew: by not having them.


  1. I had one of those moments with #1, when he was crying in the middle of the night and I couldn't get him to stop. I picked him up and held him and cried, "Why won't you stop crying?" That's when I realized that in one more second I'd be shaking him. Too hard. So I put him down and woke the spousage to help.

  2. I think most moms have one of those moments. The ones who don't shake the baby and we read about them in the papers. Taking care of kids is hard and it's a vocation that is definitely not for everyone. The same way that being a ballerina or veterinarian isn't for everyone.

  3. I am childless, and one of the reasons is the one you stated. I was afraid of what I could do. I have thrown books, broken tables, etc when angry. I didn't want to find out what I could do to a child.

  4. ratphooey: what would you have done if he hadn't been there?

    queenofdysfunction: very true--never wanted to be a vet, but a ballerina, yes.

    sueb0b: I was never consciously afraid of what I would do. And in later years, I did the whole night thing without any problem. Maturity is a great teacher, I guess. When I took care of Miss B's newborn, I had no such problems. Too bad my eggs matured as well!


So--whaddaya think?