Becoming mothers.

When we were younger (and by ‘we’ I mean my small group of childhood girlfriends) — not yet driving, still celebrating birthdays with pool parties and sleepovers, passing multicolor notes in study hall — we would comment on the fact that someday we’d attend each other’s weddings.  If we weren’t then distracted by another pressing topic, the conversation would continue:

“Just think about when we all have babies.

“And when our babies hang out together.

“Hopefully we all have babies at the same time.”

“Yeah, we should definitely plan it that way.”

“We have to.”

“You and (insert name of current love interest) will have super cute babies.”

Etc.

I was thinking of this a few weeks ago as I sat cross-legged on jumbo puzzle pieces made out of multicolored foam, in a little nook created by three low bookcases and jewel-toned beanbag chairs.  A two year old I knew went about the work of selecting the right book from the many eye-catching options on the shelves, while an eight-month old I had just met calmly palmed the sparkly beads hanging at the end of my long necklace.  Their mothers, two women who I’ve known since we were all twelve and the two women with whom I’d had the aforementioned conversation many times, sat on kid-sized wooden chairs, their knees bent at steep angles.  We had just finished lunch and were now on the second floor of the New York Public Library near St. Mark’s Place, in the children’s section.

Our collective imagining of ourselves and each other having babies had always been in the form of entertainment (anyone remember the game MASH?  Now, apparently, you can play it online), accompanied by a bit of humor and having more to do with the girlish thrill of inventing one’s future self than anything else.  And these future selves we created were not exactly us.  We knew we would be other people when we had babies.

Now we were having that same childhood conversation about babies, but in reverse.  As we caught up on baby- and non-baby-related life issues (we live in three different states and hadn’t all been together in two years), D. and N. paused to tend to small noises, lifted diapered bums to their noses, seemed both comfortable and also at a loss when one of the wee ones screamed.  They were very much mothers, and also very much themselves as I had always known them.

“Did you ever think,” D. said, looking at the five of us rather incredulously, “that we’d get to this point in life, that we’d be getting together in the kids’ section of the public library?”

This was an interesting question.  In the not-too-distant past, we would’ve gone dancing or grabbed cocktails at some swank spot downtown or eaten a late brunch in a crowded cafe.  The fact that we were huddled together in a miniature, multicolored reading corner was certainly, in the long view, out of character.

N.’s response is something that I’ve tucked away in my own bucket of motherly pearls:  “Well,” she said, “we are still in the East Village.”

Some continuity in life: that was the important thing.

 

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7 thoughts on “Becoming mothers.

  1. Funny isn’t it how we thought we’d be such different people as adults (and as moms)? But we’re always ourselves, no matter what roles we take on or how old we are.

    And amazing how quickly life can change. All of a sudden, you realize you’ve passed through a threshold without even noticing.

    I love the image of you all sitting in the kids section of the library contrasted with dancing, martinis and late NY brunches.

    • Thanks, BH. Yes, I think the crazy thing about it is that, at least in my case, I thought of myself as an adult as really an entirely different person. Not necessarily materially, but more internally, as if that adult person had woken up one day in my body and replaced me. I suppose that’s because it’s so hard to imagine what we haven’t experienced– which is what is so strange and interesting about thinking about being a mom before the fact. It’s sort of inevitable and impossible all at once.

  2. MASH!! love it. I’m going to go and play that now…
    to be honest i still don’t quite feel like myself right now as a mom. I mean I’m sure others who have seen me will say I am still very much me, but I do still feel bereft of some part of myself from before. i think its cause i’m so all or nothing with everything. so when motherhood came along, i dropped everything else and am slowly trying to figure out how to pick some of it back up again. balance was never my strong suit.

    that said, i am definitely not the mother i thought i would be when i was playing that mash game. i’m not even the woman i thought i would be back then (not that i really gave it all that much thought). but that is not necessarily bad. if i was the incarnation of what my 12 year old self expected… well how little would i have grown!

    sorry rambling comment. it’s late here.

    btw, writing note: absolutely LOVE how you ended this post.

    • So interesting what you’ve said here about being so all-or-nothing. In some ways, maybe then you are entirely yourself as a mom– in the sense that you’ve done it in your own all-or-nothing, give-everything way. Maybe? It seems, from my outside perspective, that there are quite a lot of pressures on new moms as to how it’s supposed to be done, which leaves little room for doing it in the way that comes most naturally and feels best, and a lot of room for guilt and insecurity. No?

      (And thanks for the writing note!)

  3. I relate to you, BZ, on the all or nothing thing. I never thought I would be like that, but I am. I think that motherhood demands it, though; or at least very early motherhood. I feel in some ways like the continuity is there is my longterm friendships — we’re still [insert something here]! But I’m also alarmed by how much the relationships have changed, or how much I’ve needed relationships with people going through it all with me. Or perhaps I’m just jealous of people who are still in the East Village! I so wish I could have my Brooklyn baby, and my old Brooklyn life. And yet I know it would never, ever fit!

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