So much of life as a birthmother is a Catch-22. I was reminded of this at my last visit, when I took Dominic to the largest playground near his house.
He clambered around on the playground equipment, looking so proud as he descended the slide by himself. Children of all ages swarmed the equipment, while parents either followed or chatted together on benches nearby.
Dominic kept mostly to himself, letting older children step around him (one used Dominic’s head to balance) and watching as they jumped from the monkey bars. I wasn’t looking to strike up a conversation with anyone, either, so we made the perfect pair.
The close proximity of the children, though, naturally led to a few conversations with their parents. As Dominic and another, somewhat older child navigated how to share the same toy steering wheel, I stood silently while the other child’s mother chided him.
Then she looked over her sunglasses at me and said, “Is yours good at sharing?”
My head spun for a moment.
“Yours?” She means, MINE? She assumes I’m his mom, and I don’t actually know the answer to her question.
I stammered, “Well, he doesn’t have any brothers or sisters, so he’s still learning.”
That seemed to satisfied her.
I was prepared to tell anyone who asked directly that I was “just babysitting,” but her question on top of an assumption of my parenthood threw me off. It also played into my pride.
Yes. Yes, this child IS mine.
During my visits, Marie lets me take on as much responsibility for Dominic’s care as I want — and I want as much as possible! I dress him, feed him, change him, play with him, put him down for a nap, bathe him and put him to bed at night. Because I’m there for only a couple days at a time, I have all the patience in the world for his poopy diapers, cranky moods and testing of boundaries.
For two days, I “play mom,” like a little girl playing princess.
When Marie is present, it’s very clear who his mom is; no one fixes a boo-boo like Mom, after all. But when I take Dominic to the playground, he only has me.
My heart soars every time he reaches for my hand, or turns to me and laughs. But while he explored the playground that day and I ducked adult conversations, one word replayed in my mind:
Because I only “play mom” for a short span, I can pour all my energy into it. Many of the moms and dads running around the playground are tired, slightly impatient, or too busy to play. They have been there for every sleepless night, every full diaper, every drop of blood, sweat and tears.
“Is this your first?” A mother of two asked me.
“Yes,” I said, hardly hesitating this time.
As she recounted the differences between her two children and outlined the challenges of early toddlerhood, I felt like such a faker. A poser. A fraud.
On the playground, my shame and my pride duked it out. My internal battle didn’t ruin the beautiful day or the precious time with my son. But it did remind me that as a birthmother, in so many ways I just can’t win.
Have your shame and pride ever been at odds? Birthmothers, if you take your child/ren out by yourself, do you encounter similar situations? How do you handle them? Leave a reply in the comment box below; your thoughts are very welcome! Please be familiar with the comment policy.