Thoughts on maternal identity

12 November 2009 at 1:15 pm 1 comment

Before I had my son, I’d heard people with children talk about how having kids is the best experience of their life, and about how it changed them as people, and I’d react skeptically. Honestly, I thought it was a line–it was strange, I admitted, that everyone said the same thing, but still, I couldn’t believe at all how it could be true.

Well, I was wrong, and yes, they were right.

But given that parenthood does change everything, and–no offense to the wonderful fathers out there, my father and my husband in particular–I have to believe that motherhood, especially, changes more than everything. It’s like that C.S. Lewis quote (“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.”): motherhood not only changes our life itself, but also our experience of life–the world–around us.

Of course, there are tons of novels, poems, stories, and memoirs written on this subject (Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution springs to mind as a fabulous, moving book). It’s just the nature of the subject, though, that it’s hard to stop wondering over and thinking about.

Recently I’ve been noticing how hard it is, really, to remember life before my son was born (he’s fifteen months now, for the record, so it’s not like I’m trying to remember that far back, really). A friend was saying something about her car, which she hardly ever drives, and I suddenly remembered a great time about four years ago when she and I took a drive in it out into the suburbs and had a laughter-filled fall day. Then I got confused, thinking about the memory. Where was Marcus (my son)? Was he with us? Nothing made sense. Logically, I was able to convince myself that he wasn’t there because he–obviously–wasn’t even born yet, but I still had a nagging feeling that something about the memory wasn’t quite right.

Does this happen to other mothers? I feel like I’m so connected to my son that I sometimes don’t know where I stop and he begins. I know that this works for me physically: if he’s sitting on my lap, eating, and we get messy, I lick a sauce-y finger–mine or his, I don’t really notice the difference. Apparently it also works on the abstract level of identity and memory, though, too.



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An OB muses on medically managed labor. . . Quick Link: Telegraph on Sheila Kitzinger and choices about birth

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Cave Mother  |  13 November 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Me too! I have been having the same thoughts recently. Always nice to know when it’s not just you. As my daughter gets older, I feel we are gradually splitting wider and wider open into two separate people instead of one.


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