After I woke up from my late afternoon nap in the lobby of the karate studio today, I started thinking about the indignities of motherhood. I face these indignities on a regular basis, but having to wipe the drool off my chin in a place I frequent twice a week sort of brought the concept home to me.
It starts with pregnancy and the “I don’t look pregnant, I just look fat” phenomenon. I don’t think we need to go into what pregnancy cravings, mood swings, and morning sickness does to our poise. I’ve thrown up in some interesting places. And in front of some interesting people.
The indignity of motherhood really hits its stride during childbirth. I did so many embarrassing naked things in front of scads of people while giving birth that I’ve lost count. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t pretend you don’t. I’m talking about pooping on the delivery table, peeing on your obstetrician, throwing up on your husband, displaying your nether-regions to a plethora of hospital staff.
I will neither confirm nor deny that any of these things happened to me.
Although the most undignified moment at my first delivery was suffered by my doula. After 21 hours of labor I had just started to push and she was hunkered down to see if there was any action. (See? That’s exactly the indignity I’m talking about.) It was at that moment that my water chose to break, exploding in a geyser-like gush all over her face and body. If you think you can’t laugh hysterically after almost a full day of labor, I suggest you try this.
Life with a newborn exposes you to all kinds of insult as well—especially if you breastfeed. I’m not talking about literally exposing yourself—hell, my entire extended family has seen the full glory of my boobs.
I’m talking about leaking breast milk. This happened to me over and over for months with each child. I should have bought nursing pads in bulk. On the plus side, holding a newborn to your chest is a great way to conceal the wet spot that covers half your shirt. I’ve had to wear sweatshirts in June so as not to entirely embarrass myself because of the “spots.”
Toddler-hood is fun for the fact that you no longer have spit-up on the shoulders of all your clothes. Instead you have cracker crumbs, juice stains, and boogers. And because toddlers are short and you’re always having to squat down to talk to them, you also get the indignity of showing your pants sliding down off your childbearing-widened ass. They should call it “mommy butt” instead of “plumber’s butt.”
It is also during toddler-hood that you will wake up from the previous three or so years and notice that you’ve been making casual conversation with strangers about your child’s poop. Hopefully by now you’ve stopped. (Note to self: Stop telling strangers about my kids’ poop.)
By all means, there are more affronts to come. There is the humiliation of watching your kid be a monster to another kid. There is the drama of holding a shrieking child in your arms as you try to make it through the line of the grocery store. There is the delicate situation of explaining menstruation to your children who ask about it loudly in a public restroom.
There is the joy of taking out a child who insists on dressing like a duck.
My oldest child is still only six, so I have yet to experience the trauma of the pre-teen and teen years. I can only imagine the debasement that I will fall victim to then.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful and beautiful things about bearing and raising children. Many days those things shine through brighter than the embarrassments. But then there are the other days, the days your child throws up on you in a public place and the indignities seem to tip the scale.
Cross-posted at DC Metro Moms Blog.