Feeble Knees

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bad Mama Guilt Trip

I experienced another pregnancy first this morning at approximately 4:50 am. It was my first "What kind of awful mother am I?" guilt trip.

I should not complain. Compared to what some women go through, I have had it so easy these last twelve weeks. I've never been sick, I've been pretty much able to eat whatever I feel like eating and things have been going really well. I got a great bill of health at my last OB appointment. So if I start complaining now, well, you and a bunch of other people are going to think I have a few screws loose.

But that's one of the things we humans do best, right? Complaining is our forte. I also happen to think that New Englanders tend to be world champion complainers; I could write a whole separate dissertation to support that claim. I am particularly vulnerable to indulging my plaintive nature very early in the morning, particularly after a bad bout of insomnia. If I have a single defense on which to base my case at all, it is insomnia-induced insanity.

I dropped off to sleep pretty quickly last night. We'd had a long but very nice visit with my family for Easter. I was beat. Mr. F dozed off pretty quickly too. At four AM I awoke for my nightly trip to the loo. To my surprise, our senior citizen kitty was still on the bed with us. Usually we put both cats out of the room once we go to sleep, so I figured Mr. F just dozed off without laying down the usual law. Since he'd been sleeping peacefully, I decided to let the sleeping kitty lie.

But shortly after my return to bed, kitty was wide awake and purring. Kitty wanted to sit by my head on the pillow and purr in my face. Loudly. I buried my face in the pillow and hoped he'd just go back to sleep. Whiskers and a little wet nose burrowed into my cheek. I rolled over facing the other way. Little paws climbed over me in the dark. I rolled again. He eventually made his way over to Mr. F's pillow to sleep by his head.

By this time the hungry horrors had kicked in - hunger pangs that could not, would not be ignored. "No!" I moaned. "I don't want to get up again! Please, can't we just sleep?" The hunger pains continued and intensified. "We had mounds of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and dessert today," I bargained. "What more could you possibly want?" Rumble, rumble rumble. "Feed me," came the response.

I grabbed the kitty and lumbered downstairs to the kitchen. Both kitties decided it must be breakfast time and began mewling for food and pacing around me. My stomach growled and my head ached and I nearly tripped over a kitty in dark. The clock over the microwave beamed 4:45 in bright luminescent blue. I wanted to be in bed, all cozy with blankets and pillows. I wanted to be able to sleep on my side without my back aching and my belly stretching and my tummy rumbling. I wanted to sleep through just one night without having to get up in the dark to go pee. Then I realized in several months I'll just be adding a crying, hungry nursing baby to the mix.

"This is it girl," I thought. "Welcome to your new life as a mommy!"

That is when I started to feel just a bit bad for myself, and I started to remember the former days when I could come and go as I pleased, eat whatever I wanted and generally carry on however I wished, free as a bird. This lasted approximately 0.05 seconds. Then the Big Guilt hit.

"You selfish, awful person! What kind of mother are you going to be? You better straighten up your act and ask God to help you and quick lady, because you haven't even begun to be inconvenienced yet, and you're already complaining. Quit yer whining!"

So it was that at approximately 4:50 AM on the first day of my 13th week of pregnancy, I became convinced that I had already badly flunked the mommy self-sacrifice test. Clearly I am a monster and unfit to raise this child. Other mothers are probably happy to wake up in the middle of the night to feed their children, both born and unborn. They probably thrill at every gentle reminder of the life that is growing within them. Yessir, I am a bad, bad mommy.

In the light of day, I suspect I'm not the only mom-to-be to find herself a little overwhelmed and downright cranky about the changes taking place in her body. Most likely there are other parents who are not overjoyed to be awake at four in the morning when they'd much rather be sleeping soundly. But I'm probably also not the first to feel guilty for getting cranky about it either. But in the cold, dark quiet of the pre-dawn hours, it's pretty hard to tune out the voice of the accuser.

At about 4:51 am, in the dim glow of the stove light, I glimpsed the text of my little daily promise calendar on the kitchen windowsill. The text for the day leapt off the page.

Thank You that You will work through me and I don't have to strive in my own strength. Amen.*

At about 4:52 AM, I bowed my head and acknowledged my weaknesses and my need.

"God, you know I can't do all this without you. There is no way. You're going to have to help me, because I really need You. How else am I going to do this?"

There is no doubt in my mind I will continue to be weak and have less than stellar moments. This has been true of me up to the present time, so I have no illusions that my faults and weaknesses will be in any way minimized or eradicated in motherhood. I'm expecting that even my little hidden faults and quirks will loom large in the months and years to come. There is no mirror like a child that can reveal everything about yourself you never wanted to admit.

I'm trying to see my weakness as strength, in that more I admit it and accept it, the less I'll try to do in my own power and the more I'll rely on the Lord. Well, hopefully that's how things will go. I know that's how it should go. Honestly becoming a mom is such a big and scary thing to me, at present I have no problem at all running to my Father in complete vulnerability and saying "Lord, I need your help!"

Come to think of it, I suppose that's not a bad place to be. No, that's not too bad at all.

*Excerpted from A Thankful Heart, ©1993 Chatham Publications.
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