I am in no way writing this article from a place of expertise. As a young mother of one I know (often overwhelmingly so) that I don't have all the answers. However, I did go into this "motherhood gig" with a certain amount of confidence. I felt prepared to dive in, give it my all, and take the ups with the downs. I felt that I was joining a legion of women, living and passed on, who with stood the tiring and endless 9 months of pregnancy, the fire of childbirth, and the countless other joyous, tedious, invigorating, infuriating, and unpredictable moments of motherhood. Living in a big city, I was looking forward to carving out a community for myself of other new and expecting mothers. This was my dream.
As my pregnancy developed, I quickly realized that my dream may not have been shared. I was not a "small" pregnant woman. I started my pregnancy at a slim - normal weight and quickly sky rocketed 60 pounds. I was uncomfortable and bloated from nearly the very beginning. I was miserable. As I would walk through grocery stores, the mall, the library, I would see other pregnant women. They were my hope. I would see them and smile, expecting to receive the same. I was often instead greeted with a, "What are you looking at?" grimace. Now, living in a large city I acknowledge that we may not be accustomed to grinning faces but still, I had faith in the sisterhood. One day, i was standing in a very popular chain baby store in the bottle aisle. I saw a woman who looked about as far along as I was. She seemed to be looking at the bottles with some confusion. Orthopedic, drop in, just like the breast: who knew there were so many choices? I looked at her and said, "Wow, this bottle thing is pretty confusing!" Her reply was, "Well, you better get it figured out." At which point she turned around and walked away. The only conclusion I could come to was that the sisterhood I had so longed for, didn't exist.
After my dear sweet Henry was born, I had a renewed hope in the world. It was quickly dashed. I felt like any conversation I got into with another mother became a "mommy contest". Who breast fed longest? Who didn't breast feed at all? Who's baby was still using a pacifier after 9 months? Who made their own baby food? Who used cloth diapers? Who used a wrap instead of a stroller? I will stop here but the list goes on and on. I was constantly questioned about my decision to keep working. Everyone seemed to have the opinion that my working was sure to destroy my son's universe. Every conversation I had with other mothers left me diminished, exhausted, and drained. At one point I was at the doctor's office. I had Henry in his stroller and my mother was standing beside me. Another new mother got onto the elevator. She inquired about my son's pacifier saying, "Oh, how lucky you are that he will take a pacifier. My baby won't." Thinking I was stepping into a genuine conversation with no underlying agenda my response was, "Well, he was a bit picky but we found this brand that he really likes." Very quickly, before even finishing my sentence she blurted out, "Well, I'm breast feeding. Breast fed babies don't use pacifiers." I said something pleasant and generic and got off the elevator. My mom jabbed me with her elbow and asked, "Why didn't you tell her you were breast feeding too?" I thought about it for a minute and said, "Because she needs to feel superior to me for one reason or another. I'm okay with that."