Thursday, September 19, 2013

the confidence of motherhood

I suppose I'm only a mother as much as my fetus is a baby, but if there's something I've learned in my embryonic stages of motherhood, it's that parenting requires confidence.

Like anyone else, my confidence is as easily gained as lost. I would say that I've mastered the art of faking it 'til I make it; in the times when I'm doubtful of my capabilities, I dive right in and act like I know what I'm doing until I believe it. I've taken enough tests, been to enough social events, sat through enough interviews to understand that as long as they think I'm confident, that's as good as being confident.

But I'm learning a little at a time that motherhood doesn't allow for as much room for such fakeries and doubts.

The times I felt most energized and secure as a child were the times when my mother exuded confidence. I liked when she requested and disciplined without feeling the need to apologize. I admired when she sacrificed her friendship with her children for the good of her role as our parent. I imagine other mothers can relate to those times when doing what's best also means being met with a slammed door and an "I hate you!" Perhaps the best thing means severing ties with other mothers whom you've considered your closest lifelong friends or putting yourself at odds with your children's father.

I had an incredibly enlightening conversation with my dad the other day about life management. If you know Big Mike, you know that he's all about management. He bought me a Franklin planner for my ninth birthday and encouraged me to forego my eighth grade one-page current affair paper about the state deficit to write a dissertation involving complicated economics and business models to prove, essentially, that there was no deficit. When I confide in my dad about frustrations, he simply says, "It doesn't have to stay that way. Just learn to manage it!" There's a management model for any situation; life is one big business, after all.

Unlike Big Mike, I let personal bias get in the way of my management. I make servers choose my order at restaurants, trusting that their decision is as good as my own. I spent an embarrassing amount of time at my sister-in-law's house this summer to obsess over which mattress Fred and I should purchase. (This process took me weeks to decide, and I even visited the mattress store every other day and spent hours researching mattress models, reviews, and even the skeletal anatomy.) And once I thought I'd made my decision, one comment from a friend who said, "Oh, we almost got that mattress, but then we got this other one instead" made me reconsider my preference altogether.

The point is, sometimes what other people think deeply affects my decisions. I claim to be fighting it. I am fighting it, in fact, and I'm pleased with my progress. But I'm quickly learning that when I'm a mother, I will need the confidence to make decisions despite who agrees or disagrees.

I don't mean decisions like flannel or muslin, cloth or disposable, breast or bottle, epidural or birthing tub, crib or co-sleep. I guess I mean the bigger, harder decisions. The ones that only Fred and I will stand by because everyone else, including our children, will disagree. The ones that will make me prove my confidence as a leader to my family and as someone who is qualified to direct--not to force, of course, but to direct.

Several of my friends have mentioned that I'm "brave" to have a child because labor and delivery is pretty painful (so I've heard). Some friends have admitted that they are scared of motherhood for vanity's sake--stretch marks, saucer-sized nipples, widened hips. I get that. I understand it takes confidence to stand up after puking an entire Subway meal outside the bank in front of a crowd of milling strangers. It takes confidence to allow people to watch you in an extremely vulnerable situation--going through the pain and panic of childbirth (or the "discomfort" and "orgasmic beauty," as I've heard some try to convince me). But that kind of confidence comes easily to me. I don't mind standing up, curtseying in front of those strangers, and saying, "Whew! Should've gone with honey oat instead of flatbread." I don't mind bouncing on a birthing ball and using hydrotherapy in minimal clothing in front of strangers.

For me, the bigger challenge will be in the other things. In the management, I suppose--the thing that comes so naturally to my dad, and even comes naturally to me, but that I fear will be more difficult to apply to my own children than to other life circumstances. I have good examples to study and imitate until it becomes more natural. I'm up for the challenge.

And now I really want a Subway sandwich...


  1. Nice. I say bring on the little gal!

  2. Rachel,

    You are beautiful, and this is beautiful. I love reading your blog and anxiously wait for new posts. You are going to be such a Kick A mom. You know yourself so well and that alone will make you the best mom. Keep the posts coming! Can't wait to read your thoughts on mothering throughout your life.

  3. I like you. And your fetus. And your thoughts about both.