This past weekend I discovered a fail-safe method of making myself feel like an astounding idiot, more fail-safe than that time my mother-in-law told me that she saw someone in church with shoulders just like mine, you know, so wide that they blocked her view of the pulpit. I didn’t even have to leave my house or open my mouth which more than half of the time ends up in a spectacular display of stupidity anyway. Sometimes, more often than not, I don’t even have to leave the house. For instance, this morning I sat on my couch and told the Internet that my husband was taking a dump.
Saturday night Jon and I watched two shows on the Discovery Channel, the first one about two families raising sextuplets, and the second one about three families raising triplets. Not once during the entire two-hour period did any of those parents throw heavy objects at each other or turn to the camera and say, “Let this be a warning and have your legs sewn shut.” The only complaint anyone had was, yeah, sometimes we don’t get much sleep, and we don’t get out like we used to. And every other sentence ended in, “It’s so worth it we are literally shitting sunshine.”
I watched in horror as these families had to bathe and feed and clothe one infant as a multitude of other infants screamed and waited their turns. I watched diaper changes multiply by six and strollers fold out into aircraft carriers. I kept waiting for the part in the program where the mother got so fed up that she said that she was leaving for Montana and that if she didn’t return no one should go looking for her. But they didn’t show that part. Or the part where maybe she started seeing sores on her body that didn’t exist because the she was supplementing her sleep deprivation with an excessive amount of vodka.
These women were clean and pressed and from all appearances were changing their underwear on a regular basis. And they were doing it with six times the kid I have. And no one admitted to being on any type of mood enhancer, not even French fries. I barely made it to the end of the second show before I had my head buried into Jon’s armpit, apologizing through sobs for being so damaged. How could I, under the weight of only one child, have collapsed with such epic incompetence while these women juggled six times the responsibility without showing a single crack or blemish? Jon let me cry, but then he rightfully pointed out, “Heather, there is no valedictorian of motherhood.”
These feelings of inadequacy were compounded by the fact that I started a new drug last week that for two days made me feel like a normal human being, so normal in fact that I thought something must have been wrong. Part of me feels like I’m not allowed to feel normal, and I called Jon in the middle of the day to say, “YOU PEOPLE FEEL LIKE THIS? IS THIS EVEN LEGAL?” But after watching these women handle six babies with so much ease I started to let my negativity get the better of me. I don’t know many people over the age of 65 who take as many drugs as I do. In order to feel okay like every one else, in order to be able to handle stress like every one else, I have to endure a pharmacist who sees me coming, turns to the technician and mumbles under his breath, “Oh God, here she comes. It’s your turn.”
But I know fundamentally that I shouldn’t doubt myself like this. It’s not fair to me, nor is it fair to women who suffer like me. Just like it wouldn’t be fair for someone who suffers from another disease to think of herself as less of a person just because of the disease. But when I see shows like the ones we watched this weekend I can’t help but come face to face with the reality that my disease, the one so many of us suffer in silence, carries with it such an unnecessary stigma that a cable channel that would go ahead and show the inside of a 200-pound tumor is unwilling to show the inside of motherhood.
Maybe I just haven’t seen the Inside Motherhood program, but if it exists it had better show the mother during the first year of the baby’s life turning to the father and saying, “If you want to live to see daylight you had better not even look at my boobs as ANYTHING other than vessels of sustenance for the child you deposited in my womb.” I know that the mothers on those shows were feeling some of my same feelings I had, but the producers and editors didn’t let any of it through. Perhaps the mothers themselves didn’t let any of it through, and I can understand why. I want an A+ in motherhood, too.