More Sisterly Comparisons
The last few times my mom has called, she has mentioned very emphatically how now that she has seen how easily my younger sister has transitioned into motherhood, she is confident that I will “be okay.” “You’ll be fine,” she tells me.
Hold on just a second. Maybe I’m reading between the lines a bit too much here, but I was previously unaware that my mom had any doubts regarding my impending motherhood, but the way she keeps overtly stressing her new-found faith in my abilities, based on the apparent abilities of my sister, makes me wonder what exactly she thought of me before. Was she just nervous for me, as a seasoned mother who has done this all before? Was she experiencing natural maternal concern? Or has she been be harboring secret fears that I wouldn’t take very well to this whole mothering business?
And again, I find that a bar has been set. My sister gets plenty of sleep, I’m told. She has found breastfeeding very easy. She has bonded well with her baby and has taken full responsibility of his needs (which is to be expected of any mother, but my parents were nervous that she would rely on them too much for assistance). She has lost almost all of her baby weight. Therefore, I am expected to do the same. Those are the terms that it is put in. If I tell my mom I am worried about my weight gain she responds with, “Well your sister lost 25 pounds in a week and then another 10 pounds the next week. I’m sure you’ll be fine.” But what if I’m not fine? Our bodies aren’t the same. Our babies won’t be the same. Our experience won’t be the same. What if my baby is fussy and I end up scared and frazzled? What if I have trouble breastfeeding? What if I hold on to the pregnancy weight and can never fit back into my old jeans?
What if I won’t be just as fine as my sister? She is surrounded by 24/7 support in the form of my parents and our sisters. If she is at her wits end, she can pass the baby off to someone else for a few minutes. I won’t have that luxury. My mom was going on and on about how she is so rested and gets up every morning bright and early, ready to start the new day, comparing it to her own experience as a first time mother where she felt like she had accomplished a lot if she managed to get out of bed and dressed before noon. Then she adds that my sister hands her baby off to my parents and goes to bed at 9 every night. My parents take the baby to bed with them so that she can get a few solid hours of deep sleep, then when he wakes up for his first night time feeding, they bring him down to her. No wonder she finds it easy to be up and at ‘em. My life will not be like that. I won’t ever be able to sleep deeply. I don’t have anyone to hand my baby too when I need some quality shut eye. It will be just me and Andrew, and he will still have to go to bed early so that he can get up every morning at 5:30 for his long commute.
I know I should stop worrying about this stuff, but I can’t help but fear that now that my mom’s expectations for me have been so clearly laid out that I will somehow fall short. What if I call her in tears because my baby is crying and I don’t know how to soothe her? Will she conclude that I’m not taking to motherhood as well as my sister? When people ask will she tell them, “I don’t know, B is just such a natural. Motherhood has been so easy for her, but C has been struggling lately.” it makes me feel like I’m going to have to sugar coat everything and that I won’t be able to be open and honest with my mom about the challenges I’m facing.
I feel like this is all so unfair for the both of us. Our experiences of pregnancy, birth, and parenting will be constantly intertwined because they happened simultaneously, never mind the fact that we very different people are in completely different life situations. We will never be able to escape each other’s shadows now.
There was a time when I used to swear I would never want to have children. As the oldest of 5 children (I’m the one on the right holding the baby), I felt like I had already had enough. I had changed hundreds of diapers, made hundreds of bottles, and sang hundreds of lullabies. I gave them baths, I dressed them, I rocked them to sleep. And I resented it. My mom needed help, and my dad was always too exhausted from work to really pitch in, so the tasks fell to me. Everyone used to joke about it and call me “Little Mom.”
As a kid, I hated it. I hated the added responsibility. I hated feeling like I was required to do things that my parents should be doing. So I declared when I was about 14 that I would never have kids of my own. I was done. People used to tell me I would change my mind, but I was sure of it. I was so sick of everything baby related. I never wanted to swaddle another child or push another stroller for the rest of my life!
Well, they were right. I changed my mind, and in a big way. After I stopped feeling so sorry for myself for having to be the “Little Mom” all the time, I realized that I had been given an incredible gift: experience!
I would never be one of those completely clueless first time moms. I have done it all before. I’m sure I’ll have my doubts in my abilities and make millions of mistakes along the way, but I feel like I sort of have a head start. So thank you mom and dad, for filling my life with babies!
Oh and my sisters are all absolutely incredible. They are my favorite people in the world.