Last week we gave you part one of Marriage and Early Motherhood, a two-part interview series where I get to pepper Meg with questions about her thoughts on choosing to have kids, being pregnant, and her perspective on the past few months of being a new mom. While the idea for this feature might have been ours (well, mine. I possibly harassed Meg into talking more about motherhood in one post than she probably plans to for the rest of time), the content is decidedly yours. The questions we’re asking were sourced from the almost five hundred comments you left in our open thread on the same subject back in March. And man are they good ones. If I’m being honest, part two is my favorite half of the interview, because today we get at some of the more taboo topics in motherhood—the stuff we aren’t talking about in a lot of other places: bodies, support systems, and the pressure for motherhood to be an all-consuming force. So if you missed part one, go check it out and come back. If you’re here for round two, let’s dig in.
Cage Match: My Thighs vs. Awesome Baby
Maddie: Ok, I just want to throw a few words out there and have you respond to them. I want to hear you talk about vanity. Because I feel like there is a lot that goes into, just, body stuff.
Meg: I think people are kind of ashamed to say that they have issues around vanity. And I mean, I think humans do. I don’t even think that’s something just women do. I gained more than forty percent of my body weight during pregnancy, and I was not made to feel awesome about that by the medical establishment. I did not do anything funny; that’s just what my body wanted to put on. I then turned around and it is almost all gone, I have a four-month-old, and I have not spent an inordinate amount of time at the gym. In fact, I could not go to the gym until week twelve because of medical stuff. So, my point there is not that you should be required to lose all of your pregnancy weight. If you can’t breastfeed, for example, it’s just going to take a long time. My point is the human body is way more resilient than we’re led to believe.
That said, there are parts of your body that will never be the same. There are things that’ll never be the same, but I hear people talking about it like that’s a reason to stop themselves from having kids if they otherwise want to. My problem with that is not the vanity, because you’re allowed the vanity. My problem with that is that shit’s going to happen anyway because you’re going to get older. So if you want to have kids, the idea that you would, like, worry that your boobs aren’t gonna look as awesome? Newsflash, your boobs are not going to look as awesome. That train has already left the station. So, there are parts of your body that will never look the same, though for me it hasn’t been terrifically extreme. I don’t want to say this in a minimizing your fears kind of way, but it literally is like, I look at my thighs and think, “I have a lot of stretch marks,” and then I look at my baby and think, “There is a new human being who lives here who is awesome.” I’m not saying I don’t have huge amounts of vanity like everybody else, but you can’t even compare. I’m like, “My thighs vs. awesome baby? Whatever, I’m going to buy a different swimsuit this year. Moving on.”
Everything Will Change…Right?
Maddie: Okay, so the other word. Motherhood and identity and all that goes with it. Motherhood and identity. I feel like you have a lot to say about motherhood, so I’m not even going to ask you a question.
Meg: Not everyone shares my opinion on this, but I do not feel like I have a new identity. At all. Period. The interesting thing about this is there are a lot of very smart women in my life who I’m very close to and respect a ton who have really felt like motherhood sort of internally rebuilt them. And I do not feel like that. I feel like I am exactly the person I was before I had the baby. I just now have a baby and in a lot of ways—and I don’t mean this in an everyone should have a baby sort of way at all—but the change for me is that I feel like I have a richer and deeper interior life than I did. I would say that I’m happier than I was, but you know, my interests are not any different. And my identity is not any different. And if I can say that now, when I am still deeply in the thrall of hormones, then that is a pretty radical thing to say. Because I think often your identity really shifts when you’re in the thrall of the hormones, and then by the time you’re the parent of a twelve-year-old, you’re not—I have friends who are parents of twelve-year-olds because, again, people we know got pregnant right after high school—by the time you kid is thirteen, you’re not like, “My identity revolves around my teenager.” But I didn’t even really experience that in the short term. Your mileage may vary, however.
Maddie: What about the flipside? Maybe it’s because, I dunno, I’m a couple years behind, or because of where I lived, or whatever, but on the flip side, I feel this extreme pressure to, if we do have a kid one day, to make it sort of no big deal. I did the same thing with my marriage where I was like, “Just married, no big deal. I think I like this guy, he’s okay,” kind of thing. And I’m afraid that I will be…
Meg: Why is that?
Maddie: I think it’s a rejection of the cultural narrative that it’s this huge, life altering…
Meg: …everything will change.
Maddie: Yes, exactly. So I feel like I need to say, “Nope, all the same here. Fine and dandy.” And I don’t know if that’s something that will change, or if I’m shooting myself in the foot with that.
Meg: I think you have to allow for the fact that things change. My identity has not shifted, but that doesn’t mean that all kinds of things haven’t changed. You know, there’s a whole new person in our lives. So, I think it’s a little bit of a balance. I also think that I’m in a weird situation in terms of identity, because super weirdly to me—because friends of ours had kids twelve and thirteen years ago—but super weirdly to me we are young within our friends circle to have kids, young within the greater Bay Area professional scene to have kids. In David’s office, the people who have kids the same age as ours are partners in their early forties. So, I’ve been in this weird situation where I roll up to daycare and I’m wearing some—David always mocks me that I’m wearing some trendy crap. I’m wearing like, Hunter wellies and patterned tights and a jean skirt and a striped shirt. And everyone else is noticeably older and wearing office clothes. There really can be this sort of mismatch, I feel like I look like the babysitter. Which is ridiculous because I’m thirty-two. So it can be sort of interesting the ways your identity maybe doesn’t shift, and then how you relate to other parents. I haven’t figured that part out yet. At all.
How We Stay Sane
Maddie: One thing I want to talk about is this idea of support. Because I feel like there is this myth of you and your partner, and that’s it, and you just do this. And I’ve noticed just by spending time with you—you have a pretty big support system.
Meg: Maddie knows that because she had my baby at her farm all day on Saturday. And she couldn’t do it alone at her farm.
Maddie: I couldn’t!
Meg: She had a husband and a roommate and a box of Chicken in a Bisket. And a dog.
Maddie: So true.
Meg: I think support is the most key thing to talk about. Continue reading Marriage And Early Motherhood Part II