Photo by: Shutterstock

Still a Lady

by Emma of "Your Fonder Heart"
Photo by: Shutterstock

Parenthood happens in stages. Like grief.

There’s the beginning (primary maternal preoccupation stage): disbelief, euphoria, sleeeeeepiness (cause you still change diapers at NIGHT – remember that?!). You would do anything for this baby – whip your engorged, spraying boob out on the bus in front of strangers if he/she gets hungry; go to the bathroom with them strapped to your chest; let them sleep where they may, even if your arm/leg/butt cheek falls asleep and feels tingly for hours; forgo showering/haircuts/eyebrow maintenance/pedicures/any sense of personal hygiene. They are your (entire) world. Partner? What partner?

There’s the part after that when reality sets in: the challenges, the growing person who suddenly needs boundaries and real meals and a sleep schedule.

You wonder how to get them into their crib for a nap longer than 15 minutes, you let other people take care of them for the first time, you hate them just a tiny, tiny bit sometimes, and spend more time than you thought you would trying to get them to stop crying.

You have some growing pains as a woman, as a mother.

Then there’s assimilation. You have settled into your groove, your routine, your rhythm. You really get your kid, and they know what to expect from you. You can hold both joy-bursting, gigglefest moments of love in your mind simultaneously with the way they look you right in the eye and pinch you – hard – after you take something from them that they wanted to keep. You reclaim just a tiny bit of…you.

Each stage lasts a different amount of time for different mamas. Some revel in the newborn-ness and still have that proud, dreamy twinkle in their eye when their baby is two months old. Or four months old. They glow as if they were still pregnant. They make parenthood look so good.

Some ladies, especially those with more challenging babies, pass right through the Anne Geddes phase, and plow straight into sleepless nights with hours of crying. Their dry, pale skin and dull, lifeless, bag-bottomed eyes are battle scars born of too many marathon nursing sessions, not enough water or sleep, and immense, sometimes painful, emotional growth.

But eventually, no matter how long it takes, every lady remembers that she is just that: a lady. Still. That the crusty, bloodshot eyes; the spare, deflated tire around their waist; bushy eyebrows, foul armpits, stinky breath and shredded cuticles still belong to them. They exist – as an independent human being -outside of their motherhood.

I have just arrived here.

I am a straight-up hippie of the old school, people. I don’t shave my armpits and I make our shampoo, ok? I have had a pedicure once in my life. But one day, shortly after Hazel’s 10 month birthday, I woke up and wanted to, like, put on makeup (which I don’t own) or, like, wear a gown to a ball or something. I wanted to be pretty and pampered and – this gross word I would never use to describe any girl or woman who isn’t one – PRINCESS-y!

Because all of a sudden, I find I have to claim my lady-hood.

It doesn’t just exist, hovering around my person at all times, anymore. I am mostly her mom. I am mostly a boob; a pair of arms; a familiar smell.

It hurts, but it is true: she is more important than me.

Strangers want to talk to her, to look in her eyes, to sing her praises. I am invisible in a way I have never been before. And mostly, that is fine with me.

But, I have to carve out these small moments to care for myself the way I do her – to be my own mom. To feed myself, not just stuff my face while holding a baby and a bunch of junk while walking to the car. To bathe myself, not wash only my armpits with the shower curtain open while singing some stupid armpit-washing song to my kid who is getting into trouble in the bathroom. To read, to exercise, to SLEEP.

There’s this great moment in an episode of “The Office” where Michael is sitting behind Pam’s mom in a church (at Pam and Jim’s wedding? Phyllis’ wedding? I don’t remember) and he asks her if she has a snack.

“Excuse me?” Pam’s mom says.

“Oh, I just thought, you know, you’re a mom. Moms have snacks,” replies Michael, matter-of-factly.

And then, OF COURSE, Pam’s mom pulls out a fruit leather or something (‘cause, duh, we do all carry snacks at all times!) and Michael asks IF SHE HAS A DIFFERENT FLAVOR BECAUSE HE DOESN’T LIKE THE KIND SHE HAS.

This is what I’m talking about. If I’m going to be a vending machine for the rest of my life, which is cool, I’m going to have to pepper some spa days, some fancy dresses, and maybe even some lipstick throughout.

Cause I’m a mom, yes. But I’m also a lady.

Post script: I should say that I love my daughter very much and I feel truly blessed to be her mother. I do not wish for a different life, nor for a different child. But those growing pains, man. That business is for real!

Emma Summer is a mama, writer, doula (and LADY!) living in Seattle. She posts recipes, hosts birth stories and explores parenting on her blog, Your Fonder Heart.

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