Sunday, April 26, 2009

mamahood sisterhood

Last night we went out for dinner with friends to celebrate a birthday. Near the end of the evening, conversation turned to babies. This year at Bolivar couples are nibbling at the edges of the idea baby, planning and hoping for pregnancy soon, or already expecting. It's quite a baby making community here. Two babies will arrive within the next two or three weeks and another friend is anxiously awaiting the phone call that will tell her that their first baby has arrived for their adoption.

So it is an exciting time.

I almost wish I was pregnant again.

I admitted to my friends that last year I sometimes felt very alone. Last school year when I was pregnant with Claire, there wasn't a flock of ladies trying to conceive. With me, one other Colombian teacher, in primary, was pregnant and due within days of me. When we saw each other, I sensed a shared experience but didn't have the Spanish vocabulary to really talk about what this pregnancy meant. We touched each others' bellies and asked about health and energy and wished each other well. But we didn't see each other that often and I did sometimes feel like I was the only pregnant woman. Ever.

Last night, my friend joked that I made pregnancy look easy and maybe that's why all these women are having babies now. I did have a relatively easy pregnancy. And I enjoyed my pregnancy, especially when I gave myself over to it: sharing my body with my growing baby. There is something very beautiful about that. It is fleeting. For weeks after delivering Claire, I'd dream I could still feel her weight in me, her kicks and turns. But as simple as my pregnancy was, it wasn't without frustrations, doubts or fears.

And I felt like some of my frustrations, doubts and fears - startling at the sight of my moon belly reflected in the mirror, waking up worried that I wasn't ready to be a mama, the day that felt like a week when I was overdue; my fear that I wasn't mentally, spiritually or physically capable of a natural birth - I didn't know that anyone would really get it if I said these things out loud. So I kept much of those thoughts to myself, overwhelmed by their ebb and flow.

I thought I finally understood something my sister-in-law had said in passing - that for a period of time, she and my brother were the only young parents in their circle. And they were keenly aware that others were watching them parent. And so I was keenly aware that someone might be watching me to see what this pregnancy thing was all about. I didn't want to fully betray my range of joy and wonder and fear. You do feel alone at times. For a season.

But there is a flip side to this experience too.

Our friends Jen and Marco are expecting their first, a baby boy, any day. On Friday I told Marco how very excited I am for them. I am happy for them in a different way, actually knowing the joy they will know. That's great. Last year, we spent a lot of time with a couple who had two young, school age children. They said that having a family is wonderful and I held that word in my mind - wonderful - but still couldn't quite imagine just how wonderful. "And," they added, "Your sleep will never be the same." I laughed because I couldn't quite imagine that either.

But here I am, a mama now, able to say that it really is wonderful and your sleep never will be the same. Doubts and fears still prick at me sometimes. But joys come like the tide. I don't feel alone, not right now. I sense a sisterhood of mamas: for ages, women have loved their babies as best they can. For ages, women have kissed the smooth soles of baby feet and smiled at their baby's sleep sighs. For ages, women have wished they could keep the scent of their baby's damp, sweaty head, the feel of their baby's tiny fingers wrapped around a thumb. And for ages yet.


DC Running Mama said...

This is a beautiful post that rings true. Your comment that you feel that your non-parent friends are watching you is something that I experience as well. I feel a duty to be honest with them and reveal parenthood's gnarls (our infertility, the lack of sleep, the career struggles) as well as its beauty (the pure adoration of your child). I, too, feel a timelessness to it all and a bond to the mothers that came before me and those that will follow.

jsmarslender said...

Thank you. I did have a couple of close friends I confided in throughout pregnancy and that was a blessing. But parts of pregnancy (particularly the emotional questions) seemed too much my own to really share, though I'm fine talking about most of it now that Claire has arrived. About parenting now, I am comfortably open and honest. I think that moms today can feel better sharing with each other both the good and bad things about being a mama. We can learn from each others' experience.

Clare said...