Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Real, baby

You know that BBC show, "Faking It," where they take a house painter/burger flipper/sheep shearer and turn him into an artist/chef/hair stylist? The bumbling volunteer has four weeks to effect the transformation, with the help of skilled subject-matter mentors and the motivation of a national television audience. The process is invariably gruelling, emotions run high, the words "I can't" are muttered and shouted and cried, the mentors give tough love and there's just no going back.

At the end of the four weeks, expert judges are brought in to spot the faker in a field of pros. More often than not, the house painter/burger flipper/sheep shearer succeeds in fooling the judges, if only just. And we, the audience, say to ourselves, Boy, that pole dancer sure does look like a genuine equestrienne! or, Goodness me, that classical cellist makes a really good DJ!. More impressive, however, is the fact that so many of the volunteers find themselves thinking that maybe, just maybe, they are meant to be artists or chefs or hair stylists. That it's for real.

When I was pregnant, each new symptom and predictable body change surprised me: I would think to myself, How funny, that's just like a real pregnancy. And when Olivia arrived, and cried and pooped and squirmed, I thought, Huh. Just like a real baby. (My dad, after first being introduced to Olivia, said that he was so impressed with her; that somehow, knowing how she was made, he had this idea in the back of his mind that there would be something wrong with her. And while it sounds rather horrid and blunt, who am I to judge? Even knowing that there's no basis for such an assumption, isn't that just what I feared and expected, too?)

Motherhood has, from day one, seemed like a high-stakes Faking It episode. The sheer fact that I was allowed to name her--that this name I decided on is now official, printed up neatly on a Social Security card with a number she'll use for the rest of her life--makes me feel like an impostor. I go through these often joyous motions of motherhood--the feeding and changing, smiling and chirping, carrying her in the sling and pushing her in the stroller--but still think, Who, me? whenever someone asks how old my daughter is. My god, the word "daughter" alone is enough to daze me.

I remember feeling something similar when Jeff and I first got married. He introduced me to someone as his wife--his wife?--and it sounded like something silly we'd made up between us. It took me a good six months not to giggle inside at words like "husband" and "spouse".

Of course, six years later, it feels perfectly natural. With the help of my own subject-matter mentors--you, for example--I think one day motherhood will, too.


Anonymous Jessica said...

I sat here nodding my head through this entire post, and all I can think to add is "I totally hear you, sista. Me, too."

10:18 PM  
Blogger Lindy said...

I felt that way at least once a day during G's entire first YEAR. And I still have those moments. It's all just so bizarre.

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

I feel that way about being pregnant. Every ultrasound I'm amazed that they look like real babies. That I have things in my house for real babies.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Cricket said...

Yup. When J was born and was put on my stomach, the pictures of my face spoke of my horror that this was it, the thing I'd waited for that I had no idea what to do with. Put it back!

That overwhelmedness went away a bit at 4 months and mostly by 10 months. It's such an adjustment and you're doing such a good job, especially by being so honest about it.

5:16 AM  
Blogger Dee said...

So true, Bugs.

Juliana will be one in three days, yet there are still moments when I say "my daughter" to someone and wonder who the heck I'm talking about. I have a daughter? Holy crap.

I wonder when it no longer feels or sounds weird...I guess I'll see in the time to come as will you.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Mellie said...

I've never seen that show on BBC, but I completely relate to the feelings you're describing. And I have no doubt that I'll continue to feel that way too.

I think it must occur with all life changes. Getting married certainly, and even in college sometimes, I'd be walking across the quad and think "My g-d, I'm really in college."

8:05 AM  
Blogger Susie said...

It's taking awhile for me, too. I'm way more settled in now (at 4.5 months) and don't feel like I'm babysitting so much anymore... but I think this has to be a normal feeling, especially for those of us who had a tough time getting here. Hang in there. You ARE the mom. :-)

8:09 AM  
Blogger MsPrufrock said...

I went through the same thing when I got engaged, and married. Using the words "fiance" and "husband" were so foreign to me and sounded like they were coming out of someone else's mouth.

I have enough trouble currently associating this 31 week fetus with being my soon-to-be born child, that I can't imagine using the words, "my daughter". I know it's a common issue, particularly with the IF crowd, but it's still nice to read about and know you're not the only one that feels that way.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so agree! When I was pregnant with IVF twins, I kept thinking, "it will seem real when I hit 12 weeks" and then it was "it will seem real when I get the amnio results" and then it was "it will seem real when they are viable" and then "when I feel them move." I thought surely when they were born it would seem real. But it took until they were about 4 months old when it finally hit me. Very strange.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Puppermom said...

I have 16 month old twins. I still say to dh, "I can't believe I have a SON and DAUGHTER!"

Every night that I look at them before I go to sleep, I thank God that he gave me the gift of them. It took me 11 IVFs, 4 IUIs and 2 m/cs, but all that is forgotten now.

A fertile friend just asked me if I miss work since I am now a SAHM, and if I hate that my life is spent picking up toys and saying "no" a lot. Not yet, sister, not yet. Hopefully never.

I hope I never lose the wonder that accompanies a miracle. That is the only positive thing that came out of the hell of IF. That I will never take my beautiful babies for granted.

Congratulations and mazel tov to you.

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Fawn said...

I agree it's normal to feel like you're playing house or the words sound funny coming out of your mouth. As you know,it took over 10 yrs to have my second child.He's 19 months old and I still feel funny saying "my kids" or "my son" I've caught myself a few times calling him "son" when talking to him and I always DO catch myself and kind of smile because it seems odd coming out of my mouth.But it also reminds me how long I waited for him and that helps on days when he's bouncing off walls.I think you are doing a great job and babies like Olivia who were so long in coming are the luckiest kids in the world.



5:09 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

I felt and still feel that exact same way and tried to write something to the effect, but the post came out all lumpy. Thank you for putting this into words.

5:53 PM  
Blogger PJ said...

You wrote exactly how I feel. I hope one day it will be as natural as being referred to as wife.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Menita said...

Ha! When I talk about "my daughter" I still have trouble keeping a straight face, thinking it's amazing how no one calls me on it...

11:18 AM  
Blogger elle said...

I am SO GLAD you wrote this. I feel *exactly* the same way! Like such afraud. I'm still waiting for someone to tell me Jackie was dropped off at my house by mistake, and they will come by and get him first thing in the morning. It's like living in the Twilight Zone.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous thisgirl said...

I felt the same way when Rob and I got married, and I feel the same way pregnant. I keep thinking maybe It'll feel more real when the baby is here......but when the baby is here I'll be saying it'll feel more real when he talks, and so on...

10:40 AM  
Anonymous away2me said...

I thought only I could feel that way because we adopted. I feel like a fraud sometimes. When it is just him and I and I'm doing mommy things I think... does he really think I'm his mom?

Lucky for us his bio family allowed us to name him and put on his birth certificate and his Social Security card his name, the name we chose and it came to our home. So it feels real, but it still feels fake. I hope that when he starts calling me mommy it won't feel as fake. My feelings of love for him and being protective of him aren't fake. I just feel like people view me as a fraud. Does that make sense?

11:34 AM  

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