Saturday, February 23, 2008

On being...

Pamela Jeanne at Coming to Terms wrote another great post this week. She writes of grasping for a child-free role model and an uptick in the child-centric nature of women's lives. I think about these issues quite often. Although I think I always envisioned myself having children, I rarely met a mother who I felt exemplified the kind of balance I perceive my own mother as having attained: a balance between herself as a mother and herself as an individual with goals and aspirations. So I am looking for a role model too. One where a women can be more than an infertile and more than a mother. (Depending on where I am or will be.)

My mother is accomplished in her own way. She hasn't wracked up degrees or awards, but she is always pursuing something that is entirely for herself. She was a school teacher for nearly 25 years. She has an absolutely incredible garden. She spins and dyes her own wool, which she then knits. She is a skilled seamstress, having produced probably 10 wedding dresses in the past decade - including mine. She has done all of this while raising my sisters three kids. She is so generous, with her time, her energy and her resources.

When I was a child, she never let us (me and my siblings) slow her down. We knew that we were the most important thing in her life, but we were never the only thing in her life. Because of that, I think we could step back and see her as a person, not just a mother. And when you can see your mother as an individual, she becomes something more a matriarch. She becomes a person to emulate, someone you want to be like.

When my life gets wrapped up in trips to the RE and counting the days, it is the beginning of the process of forgetting myself. I have been so focused on my body and its failures, that I have allowed it to begin to erode my identity. I am the woman, of all the women I know, who has failed to have children. And lately, I see myself as little else. Yes, I think it has a lot to do with infertility's blow to the self esteem, and in some ways I may not have been able to control it. But I can step outside of that now and stop the disintegration of myself. I do this in part because it is the right thing to do. But also because, if I can not have a child, I will need myself when that dream is unrealized. I need to continue to be me, in the best way I can.

These are questions I will have to negotiate as the issues actually arise. But I do fear that I am stepping into motherhood with an identity disadvantage (although I have yet to change my avatar into a trans-vag U/S wand). I don't want my (in)fertility to be all that I am. I don't want my children to be all that I am. I want to find balance, because I believe that the best kind of mother is the mother who is someone other than a mother.

I can imagine what I write might offend some. And that it might be said that it is easy for me to say this because I am not yet a mother. You are right, I am not. But I was a child once. And I know the advantages to being raised by a woman who knew just who she was. She was the mom who wouldn't pack my lunch because there was too much to do in the morning: getting 4 children off to school and herself in by the morning bell. And I was jealous of the sweet little notes written on the other kids napkins inside their lunch-boxes. But what she gave me instead was the ability to do for myself, to be assertive, to be strong, and to be an individual.

So I am finishing up and wondering how I can share these ideas with my nieces without scaring them. How can I soften the blow for other young women? How can you prepare a woman, so that she might come to understand that her expectations are just that: expectations. I wish to god that someone would have told me something might not happen in my life. How do you show someone in the landscape of the American work ethic that "hard work" does not always get the job done, that sometimes our bodies do not cooperate? Because I wish I had known. I wish I could have been just a little prepared. Just a little might have helped.


orodemniades said...

Yes! Although my mom just had me and was unemployed and on welfare and certainly wasn't as active as your mom (dude, spins and dyes her own wool?!), somehow she too made it clear that while I was the most important thing in her life, there was a whole other life she had outside of my presence. I don't know how she managed that as a single parent.

I, too, hope to achieve that same balance, and I, too, worry that I'll become one of those women who only talk about their children, whose personalities seem to become subsumed in the pictures their children draw, or how much they pooped, or the funny things they said in the bath.

So, yeah, I get ya.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what I have been thinking myself lately. I have had 2m/c, 25week SB, and 2 surgeries to fix a septum. I feel that my life revolves around having a baby. I feel like my life has been put on hold - I have lost focus at work and home. Such a struggle.

Freyja said...

I lost myself in IF for a while. I once told my husband that "wife of an amputee" was part of how I described myself. He responded "That is sad". I told him he was right. But the truth is that for about a year I felt like most of my identity was wrapped up in what he or I didn't have, what we couldn't do... I managed to start reclaiming the old me by throwing myself into my job. Now that I'm starting to recognize myself again, I'm actually getting a bit of cold feet about changing the rules again... i.e.,TTC...

Finding yourself, knowing yourself, balancing your different selves... all such hard work.