My friend writes a blog on mothering too, and her latest post was about the conspiracy of silence in mothering. Although I hadn't written any posts exactly like that one, I was a bit sad because I agreed with a lot of it.
Read the post so you know what I'm referring to, but from my own take, and in my own words, it's actually a huge disservice to not talk about conception, labor, birth, and mothering (specifically mothering, not just the umbrella, parenting, because they are not the same).
A friend of mine a long time ago, after the birth of her child told me it was REALLY physically painful. Like, grab-my-shoulders, don't-kid-yourself, painful. It scared me, but I was grateful. And in turn, in the midst of my sleeplessness, I told people who were on the fence about kids that if they liked sleep, didn't have a ROCK SOLID partnership, complete with previous challenges to test whether they would be able to hack this parenting thing, and had a lot of money issues, that they should REALLY think about having kids (or not having kids). I was shushed by another friend (consequently, a father), that I shouldn't say stuff to people like that. And my heart sank.
What was so wrong about telling people that this is really hard and to be as prepared as possible? I tell people all the time that if they don't have faith that their body can accomplish a physical feat (marathon, triathlon, long distance bike ride, etc.) that instead of crossing their fingers, they should either train harder, OR pick a new goal. It's not mean or pessimistic...it's honest. Hope is good for a lot of things, but not for physically demanding things or child-rearing. Hoping to "make it out okay" can actually be life-threatening. And while having a child has many awesome things associated with it, it also has a LOT (like, a lot, a lot) of really negative, horrible things associated with it.
Women die of depression from the various things they experience during this process ALL the time. We don't like to talk about it. We also don't like to talk about stillbirth, abortions, miscarriages, children birthed with permanent defects or disabilities, postpartum depression (which can become chronic depression and necessitate drugs), financial upheaval, divorce, sleep deprivation (the kind that's not just funny and cute, but really health-depleting), malnutrition, etc.
When any one of us mamas feels something more intense than "I love my kid, I'll survive this hard stuff," we often don't know where to go with it. We don't want to feel like a downer, or ungrateful, or God-forbid, regretful. No mom wants to feel guilty in public that she might have made a mistake in having a child. Because that looks an awful lot like "My kid was a mistake." And you might as well pin a scarlet A on your clothes...but actually, it's even worse than that. And the people that get pregnant accidentally (not from extreme circumstances like rape or incest), but birth control failure, or relationship didn't work out, etc., and then choose to not carry the child to term...well, case in point, I don't know a lot of those, because I think no one wants to talk about that...and I might not either. Because I don't want to not be supported in a decision that I felt was best for me AND my potential kid. I don't want to be judged, questioned, pitied. I don't want people to think I'm too weak or too (enter your thing here).
That darkness, that loneliness and isolation among women is pretty darn horrible. I want to say it's second to violence. Harsh, I know. But when we can't/don't/won't support women by sharing, listening, and not judging, we continue to perpetuate that darkness. And in that darkness, lots of things lurk. Not just treatable stuff, but post-traumatic syndrome type things. From that, a million other things come too...and I've heard friends, people I know WELL, say stuff that I myself would be deeply troubled by...and I have a support system, therapist, and health insurance. Do they? I know of several people who committed suicide or turned to drugs because they felt trapped. Yikes. They could not care for their child the way they felt their child should be cared for and couldn't go on.
I don't want to be a part of that conspiracy. I don't want to lie to someone and say that "You forget the pain, and then it's all worth it." Because I'm deathly (literally) afraid to get pregnant again. It was horrible for the first half...I felt guilty for even the THOUGHT that I wanted to stop being pregnant, let alone the though that I was not enjoying it. When people asked me about it, like it was the weather, and I told them the truth, I felt ashamed. In groups, when a mama feels bad for having negative thoughts so she doesn't share them, we all suffer. And I don't want to play that way.
I don't want a mama to not feel like she can't tell me that she's hating life. And I don't want to even think a mama is home crying herself to sleep AGAIN because she thinks she's the only one going through this. I can't bear the thought, honestly.
Another friend told me that if I wasn't absolutely sure about having kids, that I shouldn't. I appreciated that. I really did want kids. Even though this first one was hard (the process, not the kid), I will do it again. Willingly. It will still be hard, but I want to do it again. But I would tell the same thing to someone else. You have to really want it. Worse case scenario, want it. Want them. Want a life that includes their crazy path, and isn't just a complement to yours.
That was a lesson I learned quickly. I'm not just having an experience of motherhood, I am raising/guiding a PERSON. With a life of their own. Not just an actor in my play. They are writing their own play (and I'm a player in theirs, too). And if/when we have another child, that child isn't just an actor in our play either. He/she is not just a playmate for the first child. They too have their own trajectory. And I need to respect that. And respect myself in that...that waiting for one child to be old enough to not need my attention so much isn't just about sibling rivalry or affording college, it's for my own survival. And theirs too. I don't take that lightly, either.
Anyway, I've drilled the point home, I'm sure. I just wanted to say that I want to tell the truth about motherhood...I want to share both sides. I even want to listen and support people who may not have balanced sides (they may really not enjoying parenting...and that's none of my business to judge).
Thanks to all the folks who write to me, publicly or privately, about my writing and this blog. I'm not doing it just to toot my own horn or get accolades or high-fives for my opinions/methods. I am sincerely passionate about sharing and pulling the veil back and it warms my heart when mamas (papas, too, of course) feel seen and heard. That's my aim. We're all in this together.