There has been a smidgen of chit chat on the internet as of late on living in a culture that doesn't much like children. And what kind of influence us children-havers might have or not have within the larger scope. I'm not disagreeing or intending to beat a dead horse, but when I read what Kendra had to say, in light of what Haley had to say, compared to what Cari had to say, my mind wandered in a different direction. And it wandered in a direction it's wandered in before. It wandered there when I first read a post about nursing in public, and then again when I read a few posts about covering up while nursing, and it sort of wanders back every time us moms chat about they way we do things or the way we think we should do things and why. It makes me wonder about who we are doing it all for and, in a way, how to measure whose opinion matters most.
See, I can read all the "nursing cover" posts without feeling offended in either direction. Sometimes I cover, sometimes I don't. When I do, it's not in protest- it's because I want to. And when I don't it's not in protest either... it's just because I don't want to. The longest I've nursed a kid is 3 years. But I don't consider myself a "lactivist" by any stretch of the term. And perhaps some of my both/and feelings come from the experiences I've had of other mothers who have lived both/and and how heavy the weight of self-imposed expectations can really be.
When I was a young(er) mother, I was really worried about appearing like I was doing it right. I remember fidgeting with my changing pad and my diaper bag and my nursing cover and most of the time I was a sloppy mess. I wanted to have it all just so. But I didn't. And let's be honest, we never do. Not at the start, and not even in the middle and probably not at the end, either. I would sit at the park with a crew of seasoned mothers and I'd watch them handle their newborns with a grace and finesse that I longed for. No one was judging me, no one was chastising me for my wobbly-legged newness, but I saw the divide. I felt it. I saw a picture of the mother I wanted to be, it was the same as them- capable, relaxed, composed. And so I kept fumbling under that nursing cover, because if I didn't, I would be the one distracted from conversation with my shirt pinched under my chin, one hand on a boob and one hand on a newborn's head. And I didn't want to be her. I didn't.
But one day I watched a veteran mother of many pop up from her shady spot under a tree to chase a wandering toddler away from the street. I watched her run with a newborn at her breast, soft, postpartum belly exposed, underwear bunched up above the waistline of her jeans... yelling, running, towards the 2 year old on the sidewalk. And I loved her for it.
I loved her for being a mess in that moment. I loved her for allowing me to see her- breast, belly, running, all of it. Of course, she wasn't putting on a show for me, she was just being a mother to her wandering little one and to her nursing baby- but she gave me a profound gift. And in that moment, I mentally untied all of the tightly wound expectations I had given to myself. Because I saw a good woman being a little bit messy, just like me. And I realized that meant I was just like her.
This isn't a post about how to blog, what to share, or pretty vs gritty, or nursing covers, or any of that. And it's certainly not negating the fact that I think it's important to find joy in it all and to share how worth the crazy all these babies really are. But I found a special blessing in the mess. And I can't ever shake how important it is to me.
I still think of it often. When I find myself changing a gross poo diaper with not enough baby wipes, or when I'm standing next to Johnny, peeing on a palm tree in the Trader Joe's parking lot (yesterday). My default emotion might be "oh my GOODNESS, I am so embarrassed" and maybe even "OH MY GOODNESS THE PEOPLE AROUND ME WILL NEVER WANT CHILDREN AFTER THIS" and, maybe, maybe, that's true. But there might also be a young, struggling mother that catches me in the chaos and smiles. Maybe she will go home blessed, renewed, a little more confident, and, at the very least, not feeling so alone.
And so, I don't necessarily disagree that a window into the mess might encourage one community to dislike children even more than they already do, particularly with no positive as a counter weight. It very well might be true. My point is that I don't really care. I have a special affection for that other community. Mine. The ones that might really need to see us with a little postpartum flab exposed. The ones that might need to see us toss off the nursing cover every once in a while. The ones that maybe need to see those crumpled up Taco Bell wrappers spill from the slider door of the van.
I think that's why it's either/or, both/and for me, and why I really hate to be part of any parenting clique. Lactivist, homebirthers, bottle feeders, pretty, gritty, blah blah. I just want to a friend to you, wherever it is you are. Just like that woman in the park was a friend to me in her awkward, exposed moment of messy when she didn't even know it. Maybe that moment appalled one or two, but it changed me.
So, you there, fumbling around with that newborn baby. Don't you forget that I am a mess just like you.
Because you are a mother, just like me.