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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Instant Motherhood

Yesterday, I was looking out the kitchen window while I made lunch and I noticed a bundle of fabric on the grass next to my car. If I was a normal person, I would have thought it was a discarded sweatshirt or a rag. But since I'm not a normal person, my first thought was that someone had finally left a child on my doorstep. Okay, so next to my doorstep. Okay, so next to my car. But, nonetheless, a child, who we'd ultimately adopt.

I used to have these fantasies before we had the twins. The fantasy always included a few dilemmas--how would I drive the baby to the police station if I didn't have a car seat? And how would I keep the baby in the house without any baby supplies on hand until Josh could come home and help me? Especially since I wouldn't be able to get to the store for diapers's back to not having a car seat.

Yesterday, the fantasy included twenty new layers that had nothing to do with me becoming a mother and everything to do with how this child would feel later in life. How would this child process how he/she came into our family? Would everyone get along? What would life look like twenty years from now with the twins and this new baby?

It was a moot point. I discovered the reality of the fabric bundle a few hours later when I went to look for my coat prior to leaving the house. It wasn't in the front hall where I usually hang it (read: drape it over the small table). A trip out to the car wiped out all chance of instant motherhood that day: the bundle was my coat. My damp coat. Which my husband pointed out later in the evening was not a baby--it was a polartec pullover from L L Bean that was probably currently soaked with deer urine.

I continued thinking about instant motherhood the rest of the day because I began a new tutoring job. Tutoring jobs--that one-on-one work--are maternal jobs. You're imparting information, building self-esteem, creating independence. It takes a freakin' village to make a child and then it takes another freakin' village to raise him.

Back when I was a teacher (way back...oh...two years ago), I got a taste of instant motherhood every September when a new group of kids filed into my classroom. For all intents and purposes, I was their "parent" for the eight hours that they were on campus. I nurtured them, I taught them, I listened to their stories where they questioned their self-worth and celebrated with them when they earned an "A" on a paper.

Of course, then they went home to their real parents and I went home to my Follistim injection. It really sucked to be an infertile teacher. It really sucks, in general, to work in any field with children when you're trying desperately to have a child. Perhaps it's more a testament to my lack of coping skills, but I found it very difficult to grow attached to these children over the course of the year and then never see them again. But more on that later since I ran into two former students this week.

Instant motherhood is such a strange fantasy. On one hand, it's completely understandable. You're in such emotional pain (and sometimes physical pain) that having someone hand you a child feels like a panacea for infertility. But at the same time, it's this crazy idea that your life would--without warning--be turned on its head and you would be given this ultimate responsiblity not just to care for but to raise this child.

There was a Kevin Kline film called Grand Canyon that contained this storyline. The couple had a sixteen-year-old son who is off at camp. One day, the mother is jogging and hears a baby crying. She finds a child in the woods and brings the baby home. And instantly falls in love. And wants to raise her (him? I think it was a girl. Which probably brought up another layer of a mother wanting a daughter, but I missed that point if it was there because I last saw this movie over ten years ago). Of course, the husband struggles with this idea of becoming a parent--instantly--to this baby girl. But the story unfolds and they end up adopting this child and raising her. The movie is about the connections we make with one another--the random meetings and how we become entangled in each other's lives.

I don't think you can get much more entangled than that.

I have a reoccurring dream where I am delivering a child and I didn't even know that I was pregnant. It's a complete shock and everyone is completely calm. Except for me. I am freaking out. I've never really understood those stories where a woman goes into an emergency room and discovers she is in labour. And she never knew she was pregnant. She just thought she was putting on weight. She just thought she was having some stomach pain. I'm certain that there must be women where this is true--they really didn't know. I'm certain that if I don't put that sentence in, I'll receive a comment or two from someone who either had this happen to them or who knew someone who delivered a baby without being aware of the pregnancy. But at the same time, I don't really understand how that can happen. Is the person just out of touch with their body? Is the person just heavily into denial?

Perhaps I was just acutely aware of the sensations of pregnancy because I was searching for signs of pregnancy.

But back to the dream.

In the dream, I'm instantly becoming a mother and I'm terrified. I don't want this baby. I don't want this huge change. And in the dream, everyone stares at me incredulously. But, Melissa, they say. You wanted this. You wanted to bypass all the pain of infertility. You wanted to just become a mother instantly.

I did?

Once, my husband and I tried to try without trying. You know exactly what I'm talking about. It sounds like a great idea--let's just have sex without consulting a calendar. And if it happens, it happens. And we're pregnant. And if it doesn't happen, then we weren't really trying so there isn't this pressure or sense of failure.

Except that our one attempt as casual trying didn't work at all. Once someone tells you not to think about your cycle, you instantly start thinking about your cycle. And then I spent the two weeks where I wasn't supposed to be stressed feeling incredibly stressed.

And was it because I wasn't ready to try? Or was it because I wasn't ready to try in that way? Is there a part of me that likes knowing--even if the knowing causes tremendous emotional pain and a loss of self-esteem (damn, I sound like a real winner)? A part that feels like it's the one ounce of control that I have in my pocket? A part that wanted to know the first second I could possibly know--who didn't want to miss out on the first few days of pregnancy because I was too busy scratching my head and thinking, "wait, is my period late?"

I started unpacking all of these thoughts just because my jacket got caught on a bag my husband brought to the car. And it transformed itself from a simple pullover into a possibly life-changing bundle.

And it made me wonder: if someone handed you a child tomorrow when you weren't in the midst of trying to adopt or you found yourself in a delivery room, giving birth to a child without ever being aware of the pregnancy--would you be happy? Would you feel like you were missing something irreplaceable in that situation? Or would you just be relieved to have the path to parenthood complete and instant motherhood?


Anonymous said...

Okay. You're really not kidding with the "what ifs".

(For the record - I did have an aquaintance who was in labour before she knew she was pregnant. I, too, am incredulous. I mean, she was a large girl and apparently had highly irregular periods, but still. I wasn't nearly close enough to ask her these questions.)

I'd like to say I'd be thrilled, because, you know - to say otherwise would sound ungrateful. But in reality I'd be going back over everything I'd done for nine months and wondering whether it was going to have a long-term affect on my child, and oh my goodness the baby seat, and so on. Plus, yes, that wistfulness on having missed out on the process, and the anticipation. Still hoping to enjoy some moments of that and not just feel terrified all the way.

But I really think I'd cope, and I think Mr Bea would too. With a little help, perhaps, from our friends.


C said...

What an interesting question. I think I'd be completely shocked and overjoyed at first. From everything I've heard from friends who've had babies, even when you think you're completely prepared to be a parent and have had 9 months to get yourself mentally ready, the first few weeks and months are completely overwhelming. If you didn't even have that time to get yourself (and your home, and your life) ready for a baby... well, it would be even harder. I'm pretty sure that focusing on the experiences I'd missed would be the last thing I'd initially think about.

Still, I know it would eventually start to bother me. As soon as I started getting a handle on the day-to-day care of a baby and wrapped my brain around motherhood, I'd start wishing that I'd gotten to experience pregnancy.

Would I be thrilled? Yes. Unquestionably. Would I know I'd missed something by not being pregnant or not realizing I was pregnant? Definitely. It woudn't change how happy I was to finally be a mom, though.

lunarmagic said...

I would be terrified. Downright terrified. I need those 9/10 months to prepare myself. We're trying to get pregnant, have been trying, have been crying when it doesn't work... but KNOW the moment I get pregnant I'm going to start freaking out about how I'm going to handle motherhood and this huge lifechanging experience. I need that time to process it. (I always do. I DO NOT do well with surprizes, ever.)

Plus I have a very deep-seated desire to experience pregnancy. I would definitely feel cheated.

Anonymous said...

As you know, I've had this dream, but in my dream, it was all mixed up with food it was really strange. But since I've done pregnancy, yes I would take the baby and be thrilled, in a freakin' second.
For me pregnancy and birth are terrifying because I'm never sure the baby will come out alive. If I could ever go back to the normal world, and just have a baby, that would be great, but I can't. Pregnancy was such a gift to me at one point, but now, sometimes I feel like I wish I could just steal a baby, get a baby, take a baby....crap, crap, crap, now I want to go look out the window and check.

Korin said...

i'm a 'it's not just the destination' kinda gal. the journey to where ever may suck, but it sure does teach us something about who we are, how strong we are, how brave we are, and who our true friends and champions are. s yeah, i'd freak out, then i'd call target and have a carseat delivered.

DrSpouse said...

In a funny kind of way, this happened to me. It's a long story so I may have to blog about it...

But this seems to be what happens for adoptive parents, especially those that foster first - they are called about a child who needs a home (if they are foster carers, they need one NOW), and they have only a few weeks (or even hours) to decide if this is the right child, and (if they are already in foster care) to introduce themselves to the child.

Serenity said...

Honestly? I would be thrilled. THRILLED. No more decision making, no more trying, no more waiting. No more worrying if being parentless is a punishment for something we did or didn't do. No more obsessing over what can go wrong. No more negative "what ifs."

I confess - the only worry I'd experience is that someone would come and take that baby away from us because we didn't go through enough pain and suffering to get it.

(As a complete aside - isn't it funny and kind of sad that I have the idea that we actually need to SUFFER to get a baby? Fertiles don't think like that. And anyway, haven't I suffered enough pain to deserve getting a baby? Hm. Something to think on...)

TeamWinks said...

I agree with everything Serenity said. I too would be thrilled. Perhaps, because I have come to terms (and am thrilled) about adopting. Rest assured, I could be prepared in two hours if a child were to need a home. :-)

Josefina said...

I think it's a tough question...because the first thought for almost everyone I believe it's "it would be great!", but if you start to rationalize it a little bit, I think I'd be full of doubts, scared...terrified...I think if it were a baby that came to my door (it's difficult for me to imagine it, as I leave in an apartment), I'd first try to call the police and inform about it, if not I'd feel as if I were robbing the baby I think...then, I think I couldn't be able to leave her or him in an orphanat, knowing he/she would probably have a lousy childhood...hmmm....I believe I'd finally try to keep the baby, thinking it was God's will somehow...

Instant motherhood coming from being pregnant without knowing it...I really really REALLY think something like that would never EVER happen to me. I'm so aware of everything related to my cycles, symptoms and everything, that there's no way I could spend 9 months without knowing! Unless of course, I kept having my period (unlikely), no hurt boobs (unlikely)...but I really think it's not possible. I do have a friend who learned she was pregnant at somethink like 12 weeks, she said she had 1 period in between, but I'm sure it wasn't a normal it's not possible for me to imagine it, but if it were the case, I would be worried sick about having smoked and drunk all that time...but apart from that, I would feel VERY relieved to have avoided 9 months of panicking if the baby would be alright or not. But then again, I would also be a little sad for not having enjoyed the pregnancy...but I insist, I can't imagine that...

Anonymous said...

That's some crazy "What if's"! This is just my opinion and that's the opinion of someone who has been pregnant and had a child. I can't begin to speak for those who are unable to conceive and/or carry.

I think if someone handed me a baby or I was suddenly giving birth, I would ultimately feel happy, but I would also be incredibly sad for missing the joy of pregnancy. I would have missed that time of preparation and anticipation. Pregnancy is as terrifying as it is joyful, but I wouldn't want to miss out on it for the world.

Kir said...

I would be thrilled, relieved , scared out of my mind, but overall, so Freakin happy. It would take all the indecision out of my life, it would help me believe in miracles again.
I too, would wonder (If I was in labor) about what I did the past 9 months and How Could I NOT know,,,but overall I would happy and overjoyed that I was being given this chance.

Serenity, I totally agree, when I am not feeling guilt about my past , I am thinking that we just need to "pay our dues" with infertility and then we'll be able to be parents. It's a very unfair and messed up way to go about this baby making. So I empathize, because I am there with you.

I think Mr Kir would be happy too, overjoyed , thrilled.
I can't think of one bad feeling, other than, "we don't own diapers ..." (I am Just Kidding of course) it would be scary but exciting. Hey that's the life of an IF anyway, it's scary and hopeless and then it's wonderful, exciting and hopeful. I'm used to all those feelings.

GLouise said...

What a fun "What If."

Absolutely yes, to all of your questions :-)

DrSpouse said...

OK, I've blogged about it now... or at least, the very beginning of the story.