Baby madame is almost six months old, a milestone that has caused me to reflect on a few aspects of new motherhood, among them the things I did not expect. Today one thought that keeps nudging at me is the idea of motherhood and humanity. Of course, motherhood is humanity in its purest form. It is after all about the most basic of human practices and instincts – to care for, love and protect another human during their most vulnerable and vital years. But the word ‘leveling’ comes to mind for me because while I had heard of the many horror stories of motherhood in a world of judgement and over-zealous mothers while pregnant, for me the reality has mostly been the opposite. I have perceived motherhood to be a great leveler. I have met incredibly interesting women, fellow new mothers, in a very short space of time – much shorter than pre-baby. I have developed some fantastic new friendships and I find myself more open to these new friendships and more open to the prospect of meeting new people than I ever would have before having a baby, especially as a married, professional 32-year-old with a long-established social and work circle.
Part of it evolved from the disheartening sense of isolation that overwhelmed me in the first couple of months of my baby’s life: while I remained in contact with my ‘pre-baby friends’ I felt disconnected from that old life, those old people, even my husband and the person I felt I had left the furthermost behind – myself. So I made it my business to meet new people and to embrace motherhood front-on. I filled my diary with mother’s lunches, post-natal mother and baby yoga, baby sessions at the library et cetera. I felt more than a little bit exhausted taking my baby out almost every day and eventually I dropped some of these activities, but I was careful to follow through with nice new women I had met. Maybe it was the particular people I connected with but I have never experienced the kind of stinging judgement and righteousness from other mothers that I’d so frequently heard about. Or maybe it is because we sensitively and diplomatically withhold any remotely judgemental thoughts we might have.
Regardless, I have, as I wrote before, found motherhood to be a great leveler. People I may not have considered becoming friends with previously are not only suddenly on my social radar, but they have become genuinely supportive confidants. I feel a bit awful writing ‘people I have not considered becoming friends with’ but that is often the truth once a person hits their 30′s, or even late 20′s. We somehow become more astringent in our edit of friends, only opening the door for a certain type or prescription of person (Alex Williams wrote about this for The New York Times recently). But as a new mother it was important to me not to judge at face value because my own experience of motherhood, in the early days, was not the peaches and cream experience I’d dreamed of. I loved my baby from the start but it took a while to connect with her and to feel comfortable with the fact that she was dependent on me (and physically attached to me) for the best part of 24 hours. I loved her but it was six or so weeks before I fell madly, absolutely in love with her, and with my new life.
So there you go. A more personal piece than others I have written recently but it has been on my mind and I might explore some other things I touched on here more deeply in the future. I hope other new mothers out there can identify with it, even in a tiny little way.
Ps. I adore this painting I featured up the top- it was painted in 1789 by French artist Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and it looks so modern because of the genuine tenderness and liveliness of mother and baby.