Motherhood Has Changed Me

Dear Cat,

I saw a recent post that said you had weaned your son. Congratulations! I’d love to hear your reflections on motherhood post breastfeeding. How do you feel that having a biological child has changed you? – Amy

motherhood

Dear Amy,

Motherhood has changed me, in epic and unimaginable ways. Weaning was something I had mixed feelings about, but I gotta say, I feel like a new mommy. My boobs are back to normal. At least, they are as normal as they can be after breastfeeding for 18 months. I think they look like tiny pancakes with pepperoni garnish, melting in the July sun. I am told that this observation is nuts.

I just hit the two week mark of weaning Noah, and the pain of my body shifting away from lactation lasted exactly four days. Physically, it was uncomfortable, but tolerable. Emotionally, I think I’m at the rainbows and dew drops end of the hormonal shit storm that was visited upon me. Noah has adjusted beautifully, and he’s happy to snuggle instead of nurse, and he’s thriving in his new normal. As for me, I’ve given up on normal because I just can’t seem to find a way to feel like myself anymore. Maybe it’s motherhood, maybe it’s just life.

Giving birth to a baby has changed me. Moving away from the city has changed me. Moving in with my mother, and now father-in-law has changed me. Homeschooling my children has changed me. Losing yet another beloved relative to cancer has changed me. Witnessing the horrendous loss that my dear friends faced has changed me. All of these epic changes, all in less than two years. I am changed.

For example, I will likely never live in a city again. After having a baby, it was like all of my senses were perpetually heightened and the city became too much. The peace and solitude of the country agree very well with me, even if it means that the people I love and crave are far away. I always fantasized about having the place they would run to if my friends needed refuge, and right now, I think I’m there. I do not, for a second, miss city personalities or the crowded transit system. I missed the convenience of being able to walk somewhere interesting where I can be with people if I choose to, but then I got a driver’s license like a real adult, so I could go and have coffee with all of the university kids in town and pound angstily on a keyboard while I listen to music that is completely alien to my almost-middle-aged ears.

I used to think I could never have roommates again, but having children has illuminated the importance of sacrifice for the greater good.  Living with my in-laws has been an adjustment. I don’t feel like the beautiful house I currently live in is my home, and despite my mother and father’s incredible warmth and hospitality, I’m not sure I’ll ever think of the place as “mine”. It may be a product of my own cultural upbringing, it may be because property ownership is on my own bucket list. There are tremendous advantages to having wonderful grandparents very close by – the very best babysitters and an outrageously talented chef being two HUGE perks. I’m grateful for the love they shower our children with each waking moment of the day, and I’m eternally grateful for the ability to take a financial load off by saying goodbye to our oppressive Toronto lifestyle.

My in-laws have treated me with incredible respect and kindness, and have been supportive of our family, despite some social pressures (this is serious understatement right here) and the sharp learning curve I’m faced with as a parent. They are really the best kind of in-laws you could ask for, yet I miss our independence, and the ability to wander sleepily around the house without pants, and perhaps a few other things you’d never consider doing if your parents were around. I know that makes me sound like a shit because the trade off is 30 acres of what I consider paradise, and more loving hands to raise my family, but there you have it. Our current dream consists of one day building our own house on my in-law’s land. I think that’s the best way to enjoy this utopian setting, and each other’s proximity. After all, I’m sure my in-laws miss their total privacy too.

Motherhood has made me hate the world sometimes. Or at least the world as presented by any major media outlet. This is why I will often stare at you with horror when you blithely reference the latest shooting, typhoon, mudslide, or celebrity scandal. There’s a real chance I will have no idea what you’re talking about, unless we’re about two weeks after said news event. The media continues to focus only on tales of abject sadness and destruction. There is still a dire shortage of feel-good stories of help and humanity, and I just know these must outweigh the bad, because if they didn’t how the hell would any of us get out of bed each day? I ask Nekky to give me the abridged versions of any major news events that I think may impact my ability to be perceived as a functioning member of society, like the strife in the Ukraine, or what’s happening in Syria. Meanwhile, I exist in a bubble of my own creation where I  continue to not give a flying fuck about Bieber, any cats that become famous on the internet, or Rob Ford.

I’m a mom who sometimes needs a vacation from my kids. If you know my children, you know that they are awesome human beings. They are smart, funny, kind, creative, thoughtful – poster kids for awesome. Ask anyone who isn’t related, and they’ll agree. Hanging with my girls has warmed the ovaries of some die hards who swore they would never parent. However, too much of anything can be a serious foray into the negatory. If I ate peanut butter and chocolate ice cream every day, I would no longer want to drive around in the middle of the night to find some. Spending over 12 hours each day homeschooling my daughters has made me want to fall on my knees and worship every great teacher I’ve ever known. If you ask me for my opinion (which I assume you are doing by sending that note), kids and parents SHOULD NOT be together all of the time. Even if they are living on a beach in Thailand. We’ve all done well considering the number of tears we’ve shed, and the Botox-worthy furrow lines on my forehead, but holy god are we looking forward to September when the kids start at a new school.

Another post-motherhood conclusion: the underwire bra is a tool of misogynistic oppression. I spent so much time in the latter half of my breastfeeding days pining after my old lingerie. I waited until all of the weaning pain subsided, and then donned a fancy matching set of underthings, complete with padded, push-up, underwire bra. What. The. Hell??? How in the name of all tits did I go so many years wearing such things? Wearing an underwire bra is basically wearing a tightly wrapped band of medium gauge wire around your sternum all day. Sure, cleavage is fun, but at what cost? I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like my heart was skipping a beat. I felt like I had to take it off in the grocery store bathroom and go free and floppy amongst the Saturday Costco throng because I couldn’t take it for another minute. Breast feeding has reduced me to a B cup if we’re being generous – I don’t need any support that requires the use of steel. And while we’re at it, you can keep your high heeled shoes too. I NEVER thought I would see the day where I said that high heels were oppressive, but maybe there’s something about squeezing a tiny man-head out of your lady bits that makes you seek comfort wherever and whenever you can. Henceforth, push up bras and heels are reserved for date nights and special occasions. Like when hell freezes over.

In my new motherly life, I’ve traded hot chicks for chickens. In Toronto, I used to surround myself with a bevy of babes who I count among the fiercest, most beautiful people I know. I would hear a song on the radio, and instantly dream up an elaborate way for them to turn that tune into art. These days, my beautiful friends visit once a month if I’m really lucky, and I spend my days gazing out the picture window in the kitchen dreaming of a little hobby farm with a pair of goats, some alpaca and some egg-laying hens. I find the smell of manure just as exhilarating as the backstage perfume of hair spray and I’m now the Artistic Director of my own destiny. In many ways, leading a bunch of emotional, feisty artists who had synced up their menstrual cycles was easier and less intimidating than venturing forth into this new unknown.

I’m smack in the middle of a sea change here, and I’m truly uncertain of where I am heading. After we tackle the mountainous terrain of financial planning and future dream lining, where do we end up? All of the things I used to rely on, count as certainties, assume to be fixed are gone. All but my family, and a select group of friends.

What’s next in store? Do I write some books? Travel? Build a home? Create a legacy for my children? Drown in debt? Get cancer? I miss the carefree feeling that my non-parent Toronto self had when I was blissfully unaware and utterly self-absorbed. Now my eyes are open, and it’s hard to fight the fear that keeps creeping in.

How’s that for a pretty fucking long-winded answer?

Kisses on your nose,

cat skinner

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