Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Babies--wherein I alienate all mothers across time and space

An SBD rant posted one day late:

Babies in Romance.
Kill me now.

A knife right between the eyes--here, I'll even hold still for you.

My qualifications for bitching on this subject:

I have three children.
I had natural childbirth for all three.
My first labor was 33 hours long (occipital presentation: "Sunny side up")
My first child had colic for four months.
I breastfed all my children past one year.
My infants slept in the bed with us.
I donated my breast milk to neo-natal wards.
I trained as a doula (childbirth coach) and volunteered with midwives in a public hospital where the local inmates were sent to give birth while guarded by gun-toting correctional officers.
I worked with pregnant mares on a breeding ranch for years.
In both of the above cases I have had "water" break on my shoes.
I am a stay-at-home mom.
I ran for the School Board to ensure that my children's education would not be compromised by budget cuts.
I've made at least four tons of homemade play-dough.
Over the years I brought all three of my infants (one at a time) with me to therapists so that I could learn how to battle chronic depression and anxiety and not use their presence in my lives as an excuse not to go to sessions.
I have been thrown up on.
I have been thrown up on by other people's children.
I used cloth diapers for my middle child and washed them myself.
I have sat up all night in an armchair trying to keep a child with an ear infection vertical because the ER doctor cannot see the infection and therefore will not prescribe antibiotics.
I have watched goo leak out of my son's ear after his eardrum ruptured from an undiagnosed ear infection.
I have fought with doctors on behalf of my children.
I have fought with my children.
I have gloried in their triumphs, laughing and sobbing as my daughter plays "Theme from Pirates of the Caribbean" as a flute soloist. (She's performing "Tomorrow" from "Annie" on Friday in the town library. And I have refrained from wringing her neck as she practices. Lord, how I hate "Tomorrow.")
I love my children and I'm proud to be their mother, and sometimes I wear Birkenstocks.

And yet, I do not really enjoy children, even my own children, to the point where my head tilts to the side and my face is overcome with a rosy glow as I gaze upon their innocent faces. I also hated being pregnant. I hurt all over. I was anemic (tired), cranky, nauseated, and leaking breastmilk from about week three. (Don't tell me breast milk comes in after labor--I'm apparently part-Holstein. It was thick like colostrum during pregnancy, but I still needed to change bras daily and smell like yogurt for months.) To my children's continual disappointment, I do not volunteer in the classroom nor do I attend them on field trips. Screaming at a group of children to shut-up does not endear one to their parents--I'd rather not deal with the repercussions.

Therefore, when I pick up a romance, I do not want to be treated to the blond-haired daughter of the heroine who is running away from her love of the hero. (Which Jude Deveraux book was this? He gives her a rose a day until there are bushels of roses, but he kind of forgets to actually propose?)

One day young adorable child wanders into bedroom of hero, crawls up onto the bed and wakes him. He sits up in bed to find her perfectly arranged on his blanket, at the center of the circle made by her freshly laundered skirt. She sticks her finger in her mouth, sucks thoughtfully, and then pulls her gooey finger out to ask, "Are you going to stay here with me and Mommy or ever and ever?"


Meanwhile, Suisan is fantasizing about going after the young gamin-faced child Lizzie-Borden-style.

To me, motherhood is not fulfilling. It doesn't fill me up. It is the single most ego-defying endeavor you can commit to. (Man, I'd like to go take a nap. That would make me feel better. Nope, the kids need a responsible Mom around.) It is ultimately gratifying, and I'm completely commited to the project at hand. I'm proud of myself and I'm proud of my children. I love them, but I don't expect anyone else to be enamoured of them. But it is not instantly fulfilling in that I do not feel better at the end of the day, I do not enjoy watching them on a playground, and I do not feel warmth and contenment ruffle through me as I watch them eat a wholesome sandwich I prepared with my own two hands so that they could have the most nutritional meal possible. I love my children--but caring for them is not an emotional act for me.

Of course, when other people love my children, I love that. But I don't expect it. It is expected, however, that you must fall in love with children in romances as you read about them.

The children in romances are always there to be loved in a soft-focus Hallmark way. Look! She picks flowers! Look! He rides a pony! Ewwwww. Get them off stage now before the farting and the screaming and the fighting begin.

Oh lordy, then there's pregnancy. Never is a woman more fulfilled than when she's puking into a chamber pot, basking in the knowledge that she will bring forth a daughter with the eyes of the hero or a son with the mother's hair. She's ever-connected through the ages to all the women who came before her, bearing the strong men of the Fill-In-The-Blank Clan. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

So, in summation, I'm working hard enough as it is to take care of my own kids. Please don't burden me with more when I pick up a romance to escape. Thanks.


Beth said...

So in my first romance novel that I wrote, there was a cute little kid with big eyes and a sweet disposition? And I killed her immediately. Dead of consumption, off-screen. Because I believe that is the only just and proper fate for those repellent little creatures known as Romance Novel Kiddies: quick and quiet death. And I love kids, as anyone who's had to sit through my endless tales of nieces and neffs knows.

Basically what I'm saying is - I'm right on board with you.

Bev (BB) said...

snicker, snicker

God, that was cathar-, um, cathars-, well, heck, really good. :-D

(These things need a spellchecker but I'll still need a thesaurus too . . . know what I mean?)

And, hey, been there, done that and know you meant every single word.

So, what book actually set you off?


Suisan said...

Beth: I'm glad you had the self-control to kill offstage. I'm terrified that if I ever write about a child I will go to The Dark Side and step on its head.

Bev: I sit on my thesaurus, but I still need a spell-checker for typing. I don't have a title which set me off, but it's a close-to-the-surface rant to pull out of my hat for SBD.

Now, see, for next Monday I'm going to have to plan and everything. ::kicks toe in dirt:: (I still owe Maili a meme and CindyS some anwswers to Romance Novel Questions. Not achieving at a good rate here.)

meljean brook said...

Yes, and yes. Thank you, yes.

Love my kid -- but there's nothing romantic about her.

Jay said...

leaking breastmilk from about week three and It was thick like colostrum during pregnancy, but I still needed to change bras daily and smell like yogurt for months.

See, it's shit like that that scares the bejeezus out of me. Everytime I think I've done a good job of collecting up all the things no one ever tells you about pregnancy I seem to find another gem that makes me reconsider the whole giving birth thing.

I've read more birth stories of people I've never met than anyone ever should and in each one there's something that makes me go, "Oh hell no!"

Megan Frampton said...

Now that's what I'm talking about! I so agree with you. Although I've only had one kid, and didn't have nearly as miserable an experience as it seems you did (although you did it THREE TIMES?!?).

Marianne McA said...

'I love them, but I don't expect anyone else to be enamoured of them.'

You lie, you lie.

At least ... really?

Not 'expect' exactly, but isn't there even a tiny bit of maternal insanity in your system? Could you really like someone who disliked, personally disliked, your child?
[Fathers excluded, they've earned the right.]

If so, you're a better man than I.

Apart from that, I'm not hugely maternal - don't want to cuddle passing babies for example - and I'd agree with you for the most part. [Though I thought pregnancy was fun: nice to get fat in a socially acceptable way.] But there's an occasional book with babies I like - for instance Murphy's Child by Judith Duncan. Baby has terrible colic, mother goes to bits, and that allows thew hero to see past the front she normally presents to the world. I don't mind babies in books like that.

Suisan said...

Meljean: Yes, my children are not romantic. Period. I refuse to believe that there is such a beast.

Jay: Oh come over here and sit by me, my dear. There are a few more things I need to tell you....OK, but really, it's not BAD as in *BAD* BAD, it's just not roses and cream. Pregnancy is earthy as in mud--sticky and can smell fishy or sweet and just is what it is. Let's not romanticize mud, for goodness sakes.

Megan: Yep. 3 times. I'm a trooper, I am. But I wouldn't say I was miserable either. Just uncomfortable a lot. Like hanging out in an elementary school where the chairs are all too small and your knees and back hurt all the time from not being able to find the right sized chair. I wasn't miserable, I just continue to think I can hang on for a few more days, whether that's in pregnancy or childrearing. God, I AM a saint. Listen to me.

OK, I hate kids.

Now I feel better.

Suisan said...

Marianne: Nope. I really, truly, honestly do not expect people to think my children are cute, endearing, brilliant, or whatever. I expect adults to treat them kindly and I expect my children to treat adults with respect. But immediate love from either party? Nope.

Sorry to have shattered your illusions.

However, if you decide to come after one of my kids and attack them in some way, physically or emotionally, LOOK OUT! Ignore them if you must, but don't mistreat them.

Kristie (J) said...

A woman after my own heart!! The only babies I could ever tolerate in close proximity were my own. Them I loved. Women off on maternity leave (here in Canada we get a year) will bring the little things into work and everyone gathers around the little things and oooohhhhs and aaaaawwwws and even wants to hold them. I could never understand that. Now mine are 27 & 25 and no granbabies in sight. I don't know how I would handle it if I was a granny. I suppose I'd love them too. Probably. I think so. As long as I could hand them back again.

Marianne McA said...

No illusions shattered. It's undoubtedly the adult way to be, but I always assumed everyone was like me and faked their rationality.
"I wish my Beth was as studious/well-organised/truthful/tall as your - insert other parent's child's name here."
It's just a lie, I wouldn't swap one devious malingering amoral inch of her. Over-identification, and a complete lack of emotional detachment.

I know the girls are just ordinary children - no better, no worse than most - but in my heart I can't help but believe they are endearing, cute and brilliant. I probably need therapy.

Pat Kirby said...

Oh my, but I love ya.

My mom was a good mom and she didn't think too highly of other people's children. I think my mother-in-law is cut of the same cloth. The idea that having children somehow transforms a woman into a mommy-bot whoe melts into a puddle of sugary goo at the sight of a child, is just asinine.

I guess some do or there wouldn't be so many "And Baby Makes Three" kind of novels.

The only kid I ever tolerated in a romance novel was in "Aphrodite's Secret." He was about ten and a bit of a smart aleck. I kinda dig smart ass young'uns. But babies and "adorable" kids...Ick, ick, ick.

Avid Reader said...

My tolerance level for kids had increased a tiny bit since I now have nieces and nephews. I have no plans to have any of my own. I may pop out *one* but that's a maybe.

Romance Novel Kids - forgetaboutit. I don't care to read a book where the kids are a major part of the story. Nope. No way. Love kids, but after awhile, it's time to hand them back to their parents at the end of the day.

I think I'll blog about this too.

sybil said...

Oh my... this was good.

hee I have no kids, nip, zero, nada

Don't want them either and the next person to tell me, oh honey you will some day might get bitchslapped.

Not to say I might one day wake up and decide I want to but I have managed to hit 30 without it so far ;). I have liked books with kids in them. I did adore Season to be Sinful and it had three rugrats you would prolly hate.

And I don't mind the end with the and they all lived happy ever after and had 20 kids. But I don't want to watch it and really have a hard time finding the romance it watching it.

Suisan said...

Kristie: I kind of hate that baby thing where we are supposed to all goo over the baby--what if I don't feel like it? Am I bad? Rude? What if the baby's ugly? The PRESSURE!!

Marianne: I don't know if it's more adult. Maybe I'm just lazy ;)

Pat: You're right--someone's reading them. But on the other hand, someone's reading lots of John Grisham and it ain't me.

Avid: Ultimately I think I'd be a better caustic aunt than a gushy mommy. But since I've already ahd three children, I guess I'll go with what I've got.

Sybil: Me too. To everything you said. ;)