"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." —Rajneesh
Once you are a mother, you are a mother for the rest of your life. A perpetual contract, there is no such thing as time off. Your heart has been peeled back, your instinct turned on. Motherhood was the first time I knew without doubt that I would lay down my life for someone else. Pregnant with that first child, I asked a spiritual leader at my church how he liked being a parent. He was the father of an eight-year-old. Constant heartbreak, he said, with such honest feeling that I’ve never forgotten his words, though I’ve since forgotten his name and face.
Four children and innumerable heartbreaks later, big and small, joyful and otherwise, I stand on the cusp of no longer being vital or even necessary to my children. Our youngest, now fourteen, has begun the by now familiar parental exorcism. Pulling away from or perhaps pulling ahead of us, she’s clearly feeling the same way my thirteen-year-old self once felt towards my parents: as much as I loved them, I couldn’t help but hate them. For no reason that I can now think of, and without wanting to do so, …
My name is Willow Yamauchi, and I am a Bad Mommy. I’m also an epic mommy, an awesome mommy, a funny mommy, a loving, caring over-functioning mommy. But the truth--the real truth--is that I am fundamentally Bad, and that’s OK with me.
I had my first child at the ridiculously young age of 24. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. I had a degree, a career, a husband, a mortgage. All I needed was the baby to have the complete package. What I didn’t get was how all this mommy business actually worked. What I also didn’t get was how alone I would find myself in my mommy-life. None of my friends were actively breeding. I was isolated in a baffling world of Mommy with little guidance.
Being a bibliophile I turned to books for direction and devoured--with great avarice--the Mommy tomes of the day: What to Expect When You Are Expecting, the Baby Book and the related gang of Mommy bibles became my lifeline. I faithfully memorized developmental charts, documented poopies and pee-pees and followed these books to the letter. I’ve always been compliant with direction, that’s my thing. I was being GOOD. Alas, my infant daughter didn’t seem to be reading the same books I was reading. Despite my adherence to all Mommy instructions, things just weren’t working out …
Birth of an Era
Great Expectations: One of the annoying things that happened to me when I had a baby is that I wanted to tell pretty much everybody how I had the baby. The experience was so oversized; it occupied such a huge part of my psyche, and despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it hurt like hell and went nowhere near according to plan, I felt compelled to keep remembering and shaping it into story. Plus, the aftermath of having a baby involves taking care of said baby, which is bound to make a person look towards the baby’s beginnings – the fanfare, the well-wishers, the bright lights and balloons! – with some measure of nostalgia. Enter Great Expectations, a truly wonderful compilation of birth stories from some of Canada’s finest writers, among them Christine Pountney, Lynn Coady, Afua Cooper, and Michael Redhill. I tore through these personal essays when I first bought the anthology – mere months after the birth of my first child – and felt a real sense of solidarity and companionship with its storytellers, despite the diversity of our experiences. Since then, I have re-read pieces in the book several times and always find something new and resonant.