“Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women’s opportunities, not to limit them. The self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering.” ~Elaine Heffner
I hear so often that motherhood is sacrifice. And I read so often that this sacrifice is welcomed. I know I certainly welcomed the changes to my life when I became pregnant for the first time. The excitement and the love I felt was tantamount to any drinking, dancing, work or study that I would be missing out on. And then I had to sacrifice all of my hopes and dreams that I had pinned on that pregnancy and my baby for the previous 18 weeks.
And so I began to view motherhood as very far removed from sacrifice, and only as a blessing. The most wonderful blessing that could be bestowed upon me or anyone in my (then) opinion. I couldn’t think of anything more wonderful to happen to a person. I also couldn’t think of anything else that made me feel more envious or more physically ill than hearing that someone else was pregnant. Why did they deserve to be pregnant and not me? It didn’t matter that we weren’t trying for a baby after our loss. It didn’t matter to me that we were about to move into the house we had bought. It did matter that there was an entire element to this life that Pal and I were living, completely missing. A void space. I threw myself into planning for our home and finding a new job. I couldn’t face the people at my work anymore, knowing that they knew what I had been through. Knowing that I was meant to be on maternity leave. Knowing that I just wasn’t meant to be there.
A year later, when Roo was born, I thought I knew what sacrifice was. With a fanny torn in two places to the 3rd degree, pre-eclampsia, the last two weeks of my pregnancy in hospital and a week after her birth. The pain of a simple wee was excruciating. Breastfeeding whilst sitting on a torn fanny was excruciating. The way her cry would tear at my soul was excruciating. The fierceness of the love I felt for her was excruciating. Here, I thought, is sacrifice. My body, my pain, my peace of mind.
Twelve months later, with a still sometimes sore fanny I was pretty sure that the sacrifice was well worth it. I wasn’t sure how my already-ripped-into-pieces anatomy would cope with a twin birth, and this was my primary concern at the news of twins. How the hell was I going to get them out and remain whole? Then my body stretched beyond the limits of what I thought was capable. Then they were born, via c/s, and the fears of a another new rectum were replaced with the business of NICU life.
Then, I thought that the medical appointments and continuous travel was sacrifice. We weren’t living a life, we were living in a waiting room. Oscar’s health slowly improved and I realized that this wasn’t even close to sacrifice. I had three happy, sometimes healthy, children. There was no sacrifice to be found.
My sanity is often in question. I can be found screaming maniacally at the children from the pantry, in as funny and high pitched voice as I can manage in order not to frighten them: “You are ddriving Mummy CRAAAAZZZZY”, looking something like this:
But once the kids are in bed and a glass of wine has been deposited in my hands (on the truly terrible days, and then some others…), my sanity returns. And so I guess that’s not really a sacrifice either.
If motherhood is sacrifice I’m probably doing a pretty terrible job at it…
No! Wait! Hang on!
Today I did have a moment of motherly sacrifice!
I began changing the children’s nappies. Once I start the round of changing all three nappies, I try not to stop. It’s best just to get it over and done with while they are all in the near vicinity and don’t need chasing down again. I got the the last one, and thought: Ooh, should I go?
No I thought to myself, You’ll be right.
And so changed the last baby’s nappy. As I ran to the loo, Yes! I’m gonna make it.
And then I sneezed.