I am Mama, hear me roar 

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.



  1. spiteorflight · September 27, 2015

    I felt the exact same way after my son was born. My MIL constantly referred to my son as her baby, and even now two years later she posts stuff online, always with some variation of how he’s hers. It makes my blood boil.

  2. lucy50 · September 27, 2015

    I was never a baby person either. Even now I have a baby I still don’t go up to other people’s babies and breathe all over them.
    My mom, who is cool, was saying “how is my baby” for awhile and I think she caught on it bugged me and amended it “my grand baby”. If life hasn’t taught me about boundaries before, it has now.
    Just this weekend, we were at a family party and my boyfriends mom was holding her. I turned again and she had passed her off to some strange woman. I almost flipped my shit, and I sent my boyfriend over to retrieve the baby from the stranger. His mom. Lord.

    • thecommonostrich · September 28, 2015

      At least she caught on. That’s progress? Maybe?

      I also don’t understand this desire to pass babies are parties like footballs. The only way I’ve been able to handle it is by looking away.

  3. Jenny F. Scientist · September 27, 2015

    This is apparently surprisingly common. And yet completely inappropriate. Read it and weep. (http://community.babycenter.com/find/sa?q=Boundary%20stomping%20mil)

    • Jenny F. Scientist · September 28, 2015

      (Which is to say my in-laws are also pretty terrible but Dr. S takes all responsibility for telling them to fuck off. Memorable: the time they insisted the only day they could come was the day of Child 2’s bris. No, retired people, you can reschedule that doctor appointment. Also: 9 month old they’ve never met. They are dead to me.)

      • thecommonostrich · September 28, 2015

        There are over half a million search results for boundary stomping MILs. This is just sad.

        Why is it that mothers and mothers in law pretty universally lose their minds? Of course, my father-in-law lost his shit too…

        In summary, human beings are weird and I’m moving to a compound in the mountains so I don’t have to deal with them anymore.

  4. thebarrenlibrarian · September 27, 2015

    My mom is soooo like this. She’s a baby hoarder, and she sees her at least twice a week and STILL guilts me that it’s not enough and that she doesn’t get to hold her enough. She also guilted me about how “she’s never changed her diaper.” I was like “uh, go ahead- no ones stopping you.”

    I also hate mommy. If C calls me that I’ll be fine, but I call myself momma (specifically spelled that way) and hope she will too. I call chief Daddo, which I love.

    • thecommonostrich · September 28, 2015

      Baby hoarder! Ha! That’s exactly what my MIL is. This whole thing is seriously making me consider a move to the other side of the country.

      Mommy, mama, momma… It’s all fine, as long as WE get to decide. I just know the moment Chick says “Mama” my MIL will insist he is asking for her. Not me. You know, his actual mom.

      • thebarrenlibrarian · September 28, 2015

        YES. It’s why we’re moving just as soon as chief finishes school!

  5. C.L. · September 28, 2015

    Oh dear lord I am going through something very similar with my mom. She kept calling herself mama! And I’m like no, IM THE MAMA! So then she tried mama Dee. And I nixed that too. Now she insists on being called woo woo because that was the only thing K would say at first. So she says he named her that’s his first words. Woowoo. SMH

    • thecommonostrich · September 28, 2015

      Sweet bejesus… You’d think they were the ones experiencing irrational hormonal imbalances.

      • C.L. · September 29, 2015

        They’re imbalanced alright… Lol

  6. Molly · September 28, 2015

    I feel like my in laws are a big clique too. They make me pretty crazy. I would have totally flipped out over the whole mama thing. Not cool. Not cool at all.

    • thecommonostrich · September 28, 2015

      Nope, not cool with me either. Maybe Chick will call her something else like “Grammy,” “Nana” or “intrusive older lady.”

      • Molly · September 28, 2015

        Charlotte has Oma, Grammy, Nana and Gigi. What the heck happened to Grandma?!

  7. InfertileGirl · September 28, 2015

    Oy, this would also not fly with me. My mother in law is obsessed with *my* baby too and even if she’s doing something innocuous I find myself oddly territorial and easily annoyed. Like she makes sounds at my baby like she’s a dog. Drives me up a freakin’ wall! Clearly you are not alone ha ha. I hear you mama, we are protective of our little cubs.

    • thecommonostrich · September 28, 2015

      Yes! At this point, i’m seething even if she’s saying it it in the most banal sort of way. The trouble is I’m not sure that talking to her would change her behavior.

    • thecommonostrich · September 28, 2015

      Damn – hit reply without finishing my thought.

      I’m going to leave that to Mr. O. It’s his mom and she’ll take it better coming from him. If not… We’ll go underground and relocate to another state.

  8. bionicbrooklynite · September 28, 2015

    1. That whole not really liking babies and then getting surprisingly (to me only) obsessed with my own baby thing happened to me, too. I started to be afraid I had become one of those baby-obsessed people who don’t like kids better. (Spoiler: no.)

    2. I have heard a lot of complaints about MILs that seem to me like not that big a deal, families operate differently, kids do well with lots of adults who love them, blah blah. But holy shit, your MIL is pathological. That mama thing…ALL THE NOPES.

  9. hopingforatakehome · September 29, 2015

    Omigod would I ever freak out about the mama thing. I can’t believe she doesn’t get it. What is good though is that your husband is on your side and seems willing to speak up to his “mama”.

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