After the boys were born, a friend called and asked, “Well, how is it?” and I answered, “They are the most perfect human beings I have ever met.” They still are, and they may always be. Isn’t it odd how our children–screaming, kicking, whining children–seem so perfect, and the world around them seems to be what came unhinged? Perspective is complex.
No matter how perfect the babies, having twins is inexplicably difficult. Still, my boys haven’t been the most taxing. Instead, the most difficult thing to deal with has been other mothers. Don’t misunderstand me; many moms have been the most helpful and understanding part of this journey, but high school locker gossip and cat fights can’t compare with the strong opinions of many grown women I’ve encountered during the mothering process.
When the stick showed two little blue lines (two and blue–was that a sign?), my planning and researching began. No, continued, because let’s be honest that, with the capacity to grow human beings, women usually form ideas on these subjects from the time we are children ourselves. I researched home birth, water birth, breastfeeding, organic baby food, homemade baby food, baby wearing, prenatal workouts, and the like, and I had grandiose dreams to follow through with my plans even with double everything until one night the fairy godmother of love appeared and smacked me on the butt with her wand of confident grace.
I had given myself no grace.
People see a girl sit beside a boy, and we wonder when she’ll start dating. We find out she’s dating, and we ask when she’ll get married. She gets hitched, and we ask when she’ll have kids. Are we ever satisfied with others? I’m not sure which came first, the mom or the baby, but it must correlate with how we are satisfied or dissatisfied with ourselves. When will enough be enough for our own human sisters? Although I carried 15 pounds of babies and made it to 38 weeks and cried with my aching feet and back when I came home from only two hours of work, these women would suggest I exercise, and I attempted it. In the 37th week, when one baby flipped three times and risked my having vaginal birth and a C-section in the same day, these women still tried to talk me out of scheduling the operation. Although I physically supplied all the nutrients for myself and two other human beings for ten months and two weeks, these women didn’t want me to stop exclusively breastfeeding them, and I kept pumping and pumping.
In the very beginning I would set huge goals for mothering each day and be so defeated every night. Instead of deciding each morning that a good day means the boys were happy all day or I put makeup on, I know it’s a good day if we made it. It’s a great day if even one of us made it out of our PJs and into day clothes. No parenting advice should trump the feeling of contentment.
Still, the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome is to not judge those who judge. Sometimes we see our beliefs so clearly and so closely from our perspective that we fail to see people or imagine their perspectives. To really see them. Even to love them. Really love them. As someone’s perfect baby.
And I finally gave myself some grace. And I’m sweeping away the misplaced guilt. And most of all, I’m learning when to turn off the “want,” to be grateful for the “have” and amazed by what we, super women, have already done.
by Denise Levertov
no matter what you give them,
still want the moon.
white meat and dark,
The marriage bed
and the cradle,
still empty arms.
You give them land,
their own earth under their feet,
still they take to the roads
And water: dig them the deepest well,
still it’s not deep enough
to drink the moon from.