Inspecting the Meaning of Expecting
Being a mother is tired and re-worn as ancient jeans.
Being a mother is completely unique. Brand new.
I am doing the same things women who have given birth have always done.
I’m so alone. Nobody has ever done this before.
I have never felt this kind of love.
I have never suffered like this.
I do not care.
This is monumentally important.
So goes my mind. It’s a carousel ride, every day.
And I wonder: Do other parents feel this way?
When I was newly pregnant with my firstborn child, the woman on the cover of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” looked so placid. Like this:
I kept waiting to become that woman.
Reality check: There is no part of me like that woman.
Here I am, writer of poems, survivor of multiple, horrid abuses at the hands of strangers, practitioner of constant meditation in effort to keep anxiety and panic attacks at bay, sitter in hundreds of hours of therapy, painter, sculptor, questioner, rebel, runner, boss hater (and, maybe even hated by bosses? Hence the freelance life).
What made me think I could be that woman?
Now, it’s thirteen years later, and I am just now getting comfortable with the idea that a parent--a mother--can contain multitudes.
Truth is, my children do not want or need me to get a lobotomy and grow Frankenstein feet. Living a candy-shellacked, Super Perky Mom charade would be a lie to them and would force them to also deny the parts of themselves that are complex, coiled, coated in mud, creative, ceaselessly evolving, and interesting.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my son was only a year old. I spent most of that second pregnancy creating a clay sculpture that was full on one side and empty on the other, because I felt both full and also sucked dry. I was, I perceived, losing a vital part of myself in this motherhood calling.
I wasn’t happy about it.
The grief was deep and constant. The art gave me a vocabulary I could use to express this ambivalence. A few years later, I wrote a chapbook called “Finding Betty Crocker,” (Naissance Press, 2011) in which I created the persona of Betty Crocker, who was never a real woman but a character created by the General Mills marketing team. Using that voice, I felt I had the permission to let the creative, crazy, depressed, angry, self-conscious feelings out.
The impact of that book, while it didn’t sell many copies, nor was it read by very many people, gave me enough energy to power through my children’s adorable yet often dreadful toddler and preschool years. It was an important book for me to write, not for fame, but for my own survival. The following poem falls about halfway through the book, which tells the story of Betty Crocker slowly falling out of her expected role and behaviors. This is an uncomfortable process, to say the least, for Betty and her family. By the end of the book, she is in yoga corpse pose on the basement floor, unresponsive, as her husband calls to her.
I hate to admit that I have felt that way more than a few times as a mother. I am glad that poetry and art gives us all a place to express the raw and real feelings that come with living.
Sculpture (pictured), "Ambivalence"
Another night with the sauces.
Betty Crocker calculates them.
her whisk, too large at the middle,
and she wonders how to word it,
how to show
the exact moment you know
the egg yolks,
like bread turning to God,
cease to be themselves,
cease to long for days in the sunshine,
lose the beating chicken heart,
the power to pucker,
the power to grow legs and fly.
Amy Alexander is a writer and artist from Baton Rouge whose work has appeared most recently in Anti-Heroin Chic, Cease, Cows, The Mojave Heart Review, and Dirty Paws Review. She'll have a poem in Issue Three of Rhythm & Bones Lit. Her chapbook, "The Legend of the Kettle Daughter," is forthcoming in April of 2019 from Hedgehog Poetry Press. Follow her on Twitter @iriemom.