Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Prior to motherhood I wrote that I would need some strong mental reserves to avoid being consumed by my children, and this has proved true in ways I failed to imagine. For I didn't understand then how physical, how primal, and how consequently irresistible the urge to become purely maternal would be. With the accumulated force of hormones of two pregnancies, two births, breastfeeding and bonding, my body is nearly taking over my entire mind, and its purpose is singular: MATERNITY.
In my rational (aka non-parental) mind, I am still an individual adult. Aesthetically I have plans for my body and wardrobe that submit neither to long-term breastfeeding, nor to accepting a move from pear to apple. Recreationally I intend to flirt and dance and occasionally get high, to once again have long, late-night chats with my husband. Professionally I hope to advance my wee career, do clever things for decent pay. Creatively I need to keep singing and writing and get back into some artistic projects. And domestically I still intend to move abroad in the next few years, after improving and enjoying our newly acquired first house. Somehow I would also quite fancy some more sleep. All of these aspirations require regular escapes from parenthood, and all of them will be sooner (and more likely to occur at all) if I stop having babies now.
And that is the plan. Only in lah-lah land do I want more children. In real life, with my real brain, my real stress levels and my real coping mechanisms (not to mention real age and very real budget) I am at my limit. Yet my body compels me otherwise. My once reliable instincts are drowned out by the screaming of my now maternal body, protesting that I am now "Mother", and must continue with no other purpose. This is the thing I didn't account for; my body becoming so notably mammalian, so... female.
Simone de Bouvoir pointed out that women are disadvantaged by being more bound to the species than men, and in my second undertaking of motherhood I have felt it. The physical burdens of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are all a woman's alone, and subsequently the emotional consequences are ours alone too. And I have felt alone, and burdened.
At the other end of the scale I notice that babies are genderless. Other than a different genital-cleaning technique, the needs of brand-new-boy humans and brand-new-girl humans are identical. Both require love, physical affection, food. (Frighteningly, I also notice with my two babies - both the hungry one and the one who lives on air - that they would choose the former two before the latter; humans would starve for nourishment before touch.) Yet very early we are told that in fact we boys and girls are very different.
I have tended to think of gender differences as almost exclusively societal, not biological. As a feminist mother I want to burden my children with as little gender-based expectation as possible. But early motherhood is inescapably biological. Now I have been feeling the weight of the old myths of women; becoming a "nurturer", despite all my former life as a roaring, independent, traditional-gender-role-hating human. Turns out there is nothing mystical about it, we aren't emotionally designed to be goddesses of life; it is pure mammalian fact.
I am woman: hear me breed.