Sunday September 25th 2022

In The Name of Smotherhood

Smother Hen BETH COOPER finds perfection is too high a price to pay where babies are concerned.

I entered motherhood with a healthy ego and hefty, holier-than-thou attitudes about the Earth Goddess I was to become.

Eight months and a baby later, I emerged with stringy, floppy boobs and no gall bladder. The emotional shock of making a person and raising her had robbed me of any semblance of feminine dignity and a once-pretty, pear-shaped organ.

The hard truth is that some moms are mothers, while others are smothers. The latter type smugly think we truly get what goes into being a parent, while the former know they don’t, so end up getting it because they didn’t pretend to in the first place.

My sister-in-law is a mother. She only knew as much as the next bump, but quietly got on with growing, birthing and raising three delicious children. When the pitter patter of tiny foetus happened to me – accidentally, incidentally – I unwittingly set about becoming the world’s perfect (s)mother. I literally smothered my belly and brain in knowledge, convinced that the fruit of my well-oiled loins would be The One to save the planet, topple the Bush empire and massage my feet on Friday nights.

Pregnancy consumed me. I planned a natural, candle-clogged water birth without pain relief. My child would breastfeed till age three, co-sleep well out of nappies and eat only organic, raw foodstuffs lovingly harvested at full moon by me or the new age nutritionists I avidly followed.

That’s where smotherhood lets you down with a thigh-splitting thump. Whoever invented this parenting lark will see to it that your stork bundle upturns any grand plans with a well-timed burp.

My wake-up call began with a frowning gynae refusing to buy my water delivery story. Then I was faced with an unexpected caesarean, which poured gripe water on my vision of Samara entering the world between my legs after hours of primal, sweaty pushing, a doe-eyed Doula sending telepathic waves of strength into my uterus and the sweet strains of Debussy’s Claire de Lune enveloping us all.

I took ages to recover from the operation (self-pity slows healing, don’t you know) and even longer to erase any guilt I felt about not giving natural birth. To reclaim control, I began building a skyscraper of a routine involving exclusive breastfeeding, two timed naps a day, organic fruit meals, 46 minutes of fresh air (either side of midday sun) and developmentally appropriate activities to boost my baby into orbit.

And so it all crashed around me again, as things do. I ended up in hospital several months later for the emergency gall bladder op. Panicking, I ordered the surgeon to organize an electric breast pump and told my partner to bring Samara to my ward four-hourly to suckle. “Even if I’m unconscious, just plonk her next to the nipple. She’ll know what to do.”

Funny that nobody seemed to rally to the urgency of this situation. The baby stayed home – on formula – and the maternity ward wouldn’t bring me the damned pump. Two engorged boobs later, I called for a wheelchair, figuring that if the pump wouldn’t come to mother Mohamed, then she’d better go to the pump. I fainted in the chair and that was the end of that for another few hours of blessed unconsciousness.

When I returned home two days later, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Samara was alive. My partner informed me that she had seemed unusually chirpy during my absence. I asked why. “I think,” he proffered, “because she wasn’t being micro-managed all the time.”

The baby and I, my pop psychologist mate concluded, just had bad chemistry. “Perhaps it’s time to have some fun instead of throwing your toys because she didn’t poo at 7.15am.”

The gall of it. But he was right, of course, as our modern Renaissance men often are. So I decided to kick over some new leaves and start again. First, I looked up the spiritual cause of gall bladder disease. Heal Thyself guru Louise Hay says it’s all to do with excessive pride and stubborn attitudes. Quite.

Then I compared myself with my friends. Take, for example, Kerry, who is the antithesis of a hard-headed, ego-driven smother. She earned herself the nickname “Kerry Shortcuts” because she wasn’t too proud to help Kian hold his own bottle, giving her some yummy mummy me-time. I, on the other hand, was of the lofty opinion that every second must be a Madonna And Child moment, believing my bubs would be irreparably damaged by a too early independence.

Funny how things change. Oft times now, when she naps, I read a trashy novel instead of plotting her next activity in my Baby Duty notebook (yes, I really had one) or setting my cell phone reminder to play pat-a-cake.

In fact, I’m fast on my way to earning real Motherhood stripes without the “s” prefix. Just as soon as I can stomach deleting the daily poo flow chart.

© Beth Cooper, 2010