People warned me that I wouldn’t quite be myself once I had a baby. As with most things pregnancy/baby related, I didn’t think they were lying but I also didn’t really believe them.
Then I had a baby and totally see their point.
I’m not really a baby person. You know, there are people who just looooooove babies. They walk up to a baby they don’t know, coo at them, try to smell them, and ask if they can pet said baby as one would ask to pet a golden retriever.
Which is probably why most people are surprised I had a baby at all. Of course, my end game has never been to have a baby per say, but to have a family. It’s a subtle distinction that most people don’t recognize.
But then… I had a baby. And I love this baby. Love him. I have taken to calling him “MY baby” when I’m talking with Mr. O. Yes, this is funny because Chick is technically our baby. It comes out at times when I’m trying to impress upon Mr. O how important something is to me in regards to Chick. For example, I don’t want to cut Chick’s hair, but Mr. O thinks it is getting shaggy. I reply “You don’t understand. MY baby isn’t getting his hair cut until he is at least three.”
It’s weird and a little territorial. But then again, that might just sum up parenthood in its entirety.
The odd thing is how frequently I seem to have to remind other people that Chick is, in fact, my baby. I’m speaking specifically of Mr. O’s family. They are mostly lovely people. Mostly. But they are also a little bit… how to put it… clannish. No, no, not in a white sheets and cross burning sort of way. More like tribal, cliquey. And Chick is the latest member.
Mr. O’s mom is particularly tricky. She has been dying for us to have a baby for YEARS. Like before we got married. She wouldn’t stop pleading for grandbabies, even after Mr. O asked her to because we were having difficulties conceiving. She will, on occasion, make comments about “Why did it take you so long? I was waiting for-EVER!” Perhaps she doesn’t remember we are infertile. Perhaps she is idiot. I don’t know.
Anywooo… When Mr. O’s mom held Chick for the first time, she cried. Which sounds sort of sweet until she kept on crying, then it quickly devolved into just awkward. It gets weirder. Later, she told Mr. O that she and Chick have some kind of psychic bond, and that the moment they locked eyes, he knew her. Really? At this point, Chick likes lamps almost as much as he likes me– and let us remember that I am his primary food source.
This weekend, we invited her over to spend time with Chick. It had been awhile (about a month) since we’d seen her, because well… we have LIVES. We also invited Mr. O’s sister and her three kids. (I’m still not sure who decided this was a good idea, but whatever… clearly I wasn’t in charge of this play date.)
That morning, Mr. O and I went to our local farmers market to pick up some stuff for the week, and food for the hoard about to descend upon us. On our walk back home, we got into what our respective parents want to be called.
MR. O: My mom wants to be called “Ma’am-AW”…
ME: Yeah, she mentioned that already.
MR. O: But it’s weird how she spells it.
ME: I would think it would be M-A-M-A-W.
MR. O: Me too, but she is spelling it M-A-M-A.
Mama? Say what what? This is about the time my brain exploded. I’m mama. I AM MAMA. As in, I am literally this child’s mother, but also because I am calling myself “mama.” I picked this in part because it is the same in English and Spanish, I’ve never really liked “mommy”, but whatever… I shouldn’t have to justify this because, I AM MAMA. (Obviously, you end up being called whatever your kid wants to call you, but at least I’m starting out with my preference. And my preference includes not having my mother-in-law confusing the crap out of every one with esoteric spellings of her unusual name choice.)
Later that day, the brood arrives. It’s fine, particularly since Chick is sleeping for the first few hours. Secretly, I loved this. I wanted him manhandled as little as possible. As we waited for his royal highness, Mr. O’s Mom dropped all these hints about how her sister is babysitting her grandchildren all the time, and oh, isn’t that so nice for everyone? More hints about her babysitting included a refusal to change Chick’s diaper because “I only change diapers if I’m babysitting.”
Once Chick was awake, there was no putting off the inevitable. When Mr. O’s Mom got to hold him, she never let go. She rocked. She sang. She insisted that no one else could calm him like she could. At one point, she even implied that Chick likes her more than me and Mr. O. I closed my eyes, and went to my happy place.
While I was changing Chick’s diaper (because she doesn’t “do” diapers unless she is babysitting …), I overheard Mr. O’s Mom talking to one of my nieces– “Just like you are one of my babies, Chick is now my baby.”
I tell you right now my head almost spun around exorcist-style.
For unrelated reasons, I had to take a phone call just about when this happened, which likely prevented a visit from the local PD. As she was leaving, Mr. O’s Mom said that she can’t go another month without seeing Chick. Mr. O said “Um… we’ll see!” and quickly ushered her out the door.
After they all left, Mr. O and I talked about this whole Mamaw as Mama dynamic. Thankfully, he and I are on the same page here. In fact, I think this annoys him more than it does me.
I do find myself wondering if this is compounded by our infertility. We worked SO. HARD. for this kid, and thanks to science and a wee bit of luck, we are finally parents. Of all the obstacles and challenges, I have no interest in vying for the lead Mama role in my kid’s life.
I AM THE MAMA!