Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Warning -- prochoice post

Merrick! 9 lbs, 11 ounces, 4:43 a.m. Feb 20, 2003

Before the Matron fully bloomed and she was Youngish Miss, she had her first child--Stryker. Here is how long Youngish Miss and her husband discussed becoming parents:

Youngish Miss: "Should we skip the diaphragm and see what happens? Just once. If I get pregnant, we'll know we're supposed to have children. If I don't, we're not."

John: "WHATEVER! Come here."

When the Youngish Miss found out that she was pregnant, she suffered some serious regret (not pretty but true). She wasn't sure motherhood was actually up her cigarette-smoking, alcohol-adoring, intellectually edgy, creatively potent, privacy-loving alley.

That baby? Was going to cramp her style. Plus, consider the weight gain! Stretch marks.

The unfinished dissertation.

Sigh. . . .

The Buddhist view on abortion sort of varies by continent. But the very Pro-Choice Youngish Miss dismissed that option at the get-go. Religious and moral reasons aside, she had political concerns. Because being married, well-educated and deciding NOT to use birth control and then having an abortion due to Unpleasant Emotion, would make her sort of the Poster Child for Bad Reasons to Have an Abortion and therefore, she herself personally would be playing right into those Pro-Life hands.

So political strategizing kept her pregnant.

At four months in and past the puking, she had settled into Acceptance, if not excitement. Then a very bad thing occurred.

Youngish Miss spent an afternoon with an infant.

Her sister-in-law (John's twin, we'll call her Jan) brought over her 4-month old son, Sam. Youngish Miss, Jan and the Proud Grandmother had tea and talked about that baby. And looked at that baby. Held the baby. Talked more about the baby. Took pictures of the baby.

Ever have one of those moments when the Red Sea parts or God otherwise sends you Vital Communique? The Matron vividly remembers this next moment, in brain-shattering Technicolor.

Youngish Miss was in her bedroom with Jan and Proud Grandmother and all three women were looking down at the baby while Jan moved his chunky little meat legs up and down and tugged at his arms and Proud Grandmother made apt observation about Sam's adorability, in all ways.

The light illuminated the bedroom, just so, and in that second, Youngish Miss understood that this afternoon was THE most boring time she had ever spent in her entire, entertaining lifetime and that this very moment might be the most BORING moment she experienced during that BORING afternoon.

She was not interested in that baby.

Throughout the next few months, she quietly took note of what happened to her when she was around babies:

  • She wanted to read a book

  • She needed a snack

  • Oh? Is it time to go already?

  • She yawned

  • She wasn't in the mood to touch, thank you

  • Where is that thing's mother?
When she admitted her complete disinterest in other people's infants to a few friends, they all reassured her -- it's different when it's your own.


The first problem was that once you have a baby, YOU ARE THE MOTHER. Unless somebody else happens to be around, you are required to take care of a baby 24 hours a day (literally), seven days a week. Or else you might get arrested.

This is grueling.

And for the Young Miss, largely, unpleasant. Turns out that her instincts and concerns were right -- Young Miss was not much of a baby person. She found her first two, well, tedious. Work. Struggle. Yawn. She never got enthusiastic about the baby fist grip or the first tummy flip. She had a hard time adjusting to the inability to get up, hop in the car and go to a grocery store or library whenever she felt the need.

Or shower.

Stryker was born without the sleep gene, so there was that, too. All in all, Young Miss so stumbled through and grumbled during Stryker and Scarlett's first year that when she got pregant a THIRD time, people who knew her well hugged her and said, "Haven't you been through enough?"

But a couple of things happened throughout that journey. First, babies grow into toddlers, then preschoolers and then (Hallelujah!) 4-year olds! There is nothing more magical than the self-sufficient, curious and beautiful 4-year old. Finally, four years into motherhood, Young Miss experienced the deal-maker.

More significantly, when she got pregnant for the last time at 39, Youngish Miss wasn't so young. Her laissez-faire attitude had suffered a few knuckle punches over the years. She lost her father. Jobs and houses and health had some major unexpected hiccups. Not-So-Youngish-Miss finally understood that bad things happen because many had recently happened to her.

So the third time, she appreciated success! She appreciated lightening speed conception at a ripe old age. She appreciated the miracle of a third perfect child. She appreciated that first month birthday, the baby's ability to eat with a spoon, the gift of big brothers and sisters.

Lest you think that Matronly edge softened entirely, not to worry -- appreciating isn't the same as being intellectually engaged. Still, lots of tedium and drill. Just that the third time around she was wise enough to be grateful (even as she still felt the need to read a book).

These days, the Matron enjoys holding a baby, now and again. The pleasure isn't in every detail but the bigger picture -- that astounding gift of new life, coming at her again. Babies remind her of her own place in history: tiny teeny. Miraculous and humbling, those bobbing reminders of mortality and life's cycle.

Oh, and those cigarettes? How did she solve that problem?

Took three years ON the gum. Not that she's addictive. (But if you're smoking an expensive French cigarette blow some smoke her way. . . . )


thefirecat said...

Wow. That's one of the most honest posts about motherhood I've ever read. And yes, I have dooce bookmarked.

I'm particularly fond of the observation, "once the baby is born, YOU ARE ITS MOTHER." So many people seem to not make that connection.

Still, I'm pretty sure I hope to have one someday. I'd at least like to exercise the, er, option. If you know what I mean.

Minnesota Matron said...

Thanks, firecat! I think it's an exceptionally fine post myself. And exactly how I experienced it . . . . and I hope you get to experience it if you want to. It's a slice

Anonymous said...

Political strategizing kept her pregnant . . . LOL!

thefirecat said...

Yeah, that was good too.

Did y'all see that Dooce Almighty is pregnant?! So excited for her, especially after her recent trouble.....

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear someone else who is in my camp. Not much interest in babies, but three/four-year-olds seem like good fun.

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh! Heather's pg? I was just there earlier today. . that's terrific! Now she can add one million more readers. . . .sigh.

Anonymous said...

There are still days that one of my girls calls me Mom, and I still think to myself, "Wait, that's ME. I'm someone's mother." It was made really very clear the first time I sent an e-mail to one of them and signed it "MOM." Because they might have called me Mom before, but I hadn't called me Mom before, and it was a little weird.

Your post was great and honest, and new Moms need to hear more of that - it's okay to NOT ALWAYS LIKE IT. Thank you.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Let's make a deal. I'm infatuated with babies until they turn 4. Then I'll turn them over to you.

Heather said...

I used the gum too, when I quit almost 9 years ago now. (woo hoo) But I only used it for about 2 weeks. I was just ready to quit I suppose.

I was more infatuated with my babies than I ever thought I would be.

The wonderful thing about babies is that they don't talk back.

Jason, as himself said...

Great story. I, too appreciate the brutal honesty.

So...are you still pro-choice? Just curious. It's such a gray area for me.

Anonymous said...

I adore your honesty. And I felt so many of the same things (except I didn't smoke--asthmatic). And that line about "political strategizing" is brilliant.

Becky said...

I am totally with you on the wonderfulness of a four year-old. They should come packaged that way.

Minnesota Matron said...

Jason -- the answer is yes. Still prochoice, because I don't believe abortion as currently legally defined, is murder. If I did, I'd be prolife.

Jenny Nymoen said...

Oh dear, I am 111 posts behind. Well, 110 now.

This was great! I think it is important to acknowledge that not everyone is completely in love with motherhood from the very first moment.

Also, I don't think your warning was really necessary. I've read things that probably should have had such a disclaimer but I don't think this post falls into such a category.

Zenmomma said...

Such a beautifully honest post. I,myself, am infatuated with babies. The younger and blobbier the better. *g* But I too am pro-choice, even though I know my own mom would have exercised that right had it been available to her when she was pregnant with me. My spirit would have ended up somewhere, just not here.

Daisy said...

I was a preschool teacher when my first child was born. Diapers? Huh? I had no clue. Four year olds really are fun, and they use the potty themselves, too.

Angie said...

What a great, honest post. I think we all have felt this at least once, but rarely admit it. For me? I loved the baby stage - it was when they started getting an opinion and talking back when I was ready to jump ship:)

Didn't they realize I was in charge here??

Great post. Not to pressure you, but when are we going to get these Minnesota/Wisconsin bloggers together? I'm ready! I'll help in any way I can, just let me know.

M said...

I'm with you Matron.

I was never a baby person. I'm still not a baby person. Never did babysitting. Couldn't think of anything worse. The only babies I really liked were my own - it's some damn hormonal response you have to them. Now I'm damn close to being a helicopter parent. Touch my babies and I'll hurt you bad.

Just don't expect me to coo over anyone else's baby. Toddlers, I agree, are much cuter.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hot SWEARS by the gum. I swear by 3 cigarettes or less per day. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was never thrilled with being the mother of a fussy newborn. Once he learned to sit up by himself he got better; I think he was bored before that.

You can keep your four-year-olds (although I loved mine dearly at that age, too) -- the best years were the teenage ones. Smart, funny, sassy, opinionated, optimistic and idealistic and trying desperately to fit it all together -- teenagers are a delight. (Mine two are boys of stoic Scandinavian heritage, so your dramatic progeny may vary.)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think it's important to remember you're having a "person" not just a "baby." It's funny--I'm not much a baby person, though I was enamored of my own.

Anonymous said...
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JCK said...

Great post! So glad I read it. Your honesty leaps out.