Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Indignities of Motherhood

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."

You want more? Here you go: sneezing. If you can sneeze without peeing a little bit (or a lot), I question your womanhood.

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.


  1. This literally made me snort. I needed that.

    I was just thinking about "plumbers butt"... I JUST bought a new pair of jeans but guess what? Post purchase stretch and the WHOLE grocery saw my granny panties. Fab.

  2. Excellent! Thanks for the belly laugh.

  3. We just got a different part of our Son's bones xrayed due to injury for the 3rd time this year. Just a heads up of what may be coming in the next few years :)

  4. you got talent girl. love this.

  5. Ah yes, the cracker crumbs, juice stains, and boogers! I am SOOO there! Oh, and the butt thing too!

    Thanks for the laugh and the knowledge that even indignities are universal!

  6. OMG, I'm on the floor laughing.

  7. "Carefree" peer here. Thanks you guys for outing us all!

  8. EXCELLENT post! You hit the nail on about 14 heads! And just yesterday I had a conversation about my kid's poop with a near-stranger. She's a nurse, so it seemed appropriate. What.was.I.thinking? Must.stop.

  9. Lol! Oh I loved this. Why do I remember so many of those things better than more important things??

    Too funny!

  10. I have not worn a white shirt in seven years. First it's the conspicuous round spots of the nursing pads. Now it's peanut butter, pasta sauce, mud and juice of my toddler. Can't win.

    Great post.

  11. Oh my I was cringing as I read this because it just rang too too true. Sigh.

  12. Thank God, all of you. I was afraid that I was going to post this and I would hear crickets chirping because none of these things happened to all y'all. Hooray for the great equalizer of motherhood!

  13. dude! LOL. just last night my friend and I were talking about the peeing while sneezing thing AND the talking about your kids poop to strangers! oh and I've found really creative ways to bend down so that I don't expose the maternity underwear I still own because I'm too depressed to go buy news ones that are big enough to make a tent out of.

  14. Ha ha! Is it wrong to pick out what to feed a baby in the morning based on the color of the shirt you've already put on? Inquiring minds want to know and I think you may have and answer for me! Very funny post. Thanks for brightening my day! -Monica

  15. 1. You rock.

    2. This was featured on GoodMom/BadMom so get down with your bad self.

  16. Oh my goodness! This is great. Your poor doula.


  17. "You want more? Here you go: sneezing. If you can sneeze without peeing a little bit (or a lot), I question your womanhood."

    Whoa, Jean. Go easy. I love your writing. But don't forget about those of us who can't have kids because we're infertile. Believe me, I would give anything to bear a child.

    So I'll take your peeing while sneezing (and stretch marks, and sagging breasts, and whatever other badges of honor I hear so much about) and I'll raise you four grueling years of infertility treatments, daily shots, soul-crushing miscarriages, and near-bankruptcy. I know your comment was a joke, but I just had to give voice to this:

    Yes, I don't have the "scars" of child birth. But it doesn't make me any less of a woman.

  18. Anonymous, I apologize if my post hurt your feelings. Yes, it was intended as just a joke. Of course you are no less of a woman, and I would never want to hurt you over something so personal and painful. I appreciate your comment.

  19. Yay, Jean. Thanks for this. It means a lot. You are great and I really do love your blog.


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