There’s this image a lot of expectant mothers have. They see their own moms coming to help with the birth and the new baby. She’s a sort of universal mother-image, incredibly patient and nurturing, all knowing, peaceful and loving.
Well, that image got blown out of the water for me when the friend I was living with at the time invited her mom to come and stay with us for a month and a half. She was three months further along than I was, so I got to observe her mom’s behavior close at hand; a gift for me, although gift was not the word I would have used at the time.
My friend’s mom turned into someone neither of us recognized, although I’m hearing from others her behavior was not unusual. One friend shared that her mom threatened to commit suicide because she didn’t get her way about the baby shower. Who are these people throwing temper tantrums when they don’t get their own way? Where are our real moms?
My friend wanted a home birth. When the time came, she had everything in place but her mom became frantic because her labor lasted nearly three days. Her mom walked around like a mad woman, complaining and carrying on, telling me I had to get my friend to a hospital. Finally, my friend told her mother to leave. The baby arrived almost immediately. I can just picture the little one holding onto the sides of his mom’s uterus, thinking, I’m not going to be born into this negativity! Get grandma the heck out of here!
Needless to say, as the time approached for me to give birth, I was very cautious about my own mom. For as long as I can remember, my mom has been something of an energy leech. I always ended up being her care-giver but this time just had to be different. I made it very clear that I wouldn’t have the energy to take care of her, my newborn baby and myself at the same time. This birth was not going to be about her. My mom seemed to understand. She agreed and said she’d do everything she possibly could to be there for me.
For a little while, I was ecstatic about having my mom with me. I had created an amazing version of her in my head, seeing her as nurturing and comforting. Since my father had died just a few months earlier, I was craving this parental care.
The call came about a week before my due date. It was my mom. “Hi honey, How are you? Fine mom; how are you? Not so great honey. I just got back from the doctor and I have really bad news. And I didn’t say anything before because I didn’t want to take the focus off you, Guilt trip alert! I knew what was coming next.
Kimmie, I just got back from the doctors and they say I have a failing kidney, my heart is bad. I have high blood pressure, I’ve been getting dizzy, and I can’t see well at night. To top it off, my car is on the fritz and I’m afraid to drive it, but I’m so excited about the baby and can’t wait to drive down there, three hours after dark, to see you. We’re gonna have so much fun. I thought to myself, Are you fucking kidding me?
She was clearly letting me know that when she got here it wasn’t going to be about me or the baby at all. It was going to be her way, and we were all going to have to nurture her. I felt torn. What was I supposed to do? My mom’s sick, and I’m getting ready to have my baby in just a few days. I didn’t want here, but then if she didn’t come, I would be the asshole.
I sat and cried that whole night. I so wanted a nurturing mom that I had let my guard down and trusted that she could be there for me. The violins were playing so loudly in my head, I’m surprised I was able to get clear. Why was I expecting her to act differently? This is how she had been since I was a child. I knew she wasn’t going to be able to be there emotionally for me, so why was I trying to get water from a dry well?
Finally, a friend helped me realize that my mother was loving and nurturing me, but in different ways. For example, she gave me most of the money to hire my friend Sayida, who was my doula and who nurtured me throughout my entire labor. My mother really did love and care for me, it just wasn’t in the way I wanted to experience it.
I decided I couldn’t have her with me, and wrote this email.
I just wanted to say I’m so sorry for what has happened to you. It must feel so overwhelming to have all of these conditions going on.
It got me to thinking. I think it’s best that you take care of yourself, and make sure you get better.
I need you to love and nurture yourself back to health, and I feel like I would be worrying about you with your hip, your heart, your kidneys, and then having you drive here, alone. All the while me trying to take care of a newborn baby. So my suggestion is for you to get well, and then when I have the energy and the baby is past her 30 days, I’ll drive to you.
I know you’re excited to meet Summer, but the most important thing right now is your health, and that means more to me then anything. It’s important that you take care of yourself before you race down here to take care of us. We’ll be fine.
I love you and please let me know if you need anything. I will keep you informed with everything play by play.
See you soon.
I called her a few days later, expecting another huge guilt trip. But there was something different this time. She told me that she had done a lot of soul searching and that she really admired me for being strong. She said that because I was setting my boundaries and standing up for my child, it gave her a reason to do the same in herself.
Miraculously, after she read my note all her problems weren’t an issue any more. All the symptoms from her heart, her hip, her kidneys, high blood pressure, and her dizziness; All of it went away.
The same with my friend’s mom, the mom who had been so irrational about her daughter’s home birth. Because my friend had responded to her with love, and lovingly set her boundaries, she didn’t have anything to argue about. After she went home, she started eating healthier and lost thirty pounds. She started living life again, and in fact her husband asked her if she was cheating on him because she had this newfound confidence to set her own boundaries and not take his abuse anymore.
People, we dictate how others treat us. If someone is manipulative, controlling, overbearing, it’s our own doing, because we are allowing them to be that way TO us. The minute you say ‘No More, that person will either shift or go away.
I can honestly say that I am so thankful to my friend’s mom for staying here for over a month, because it taught me to set my boundaries. And because I did, I was able shift the relationship with my own mother.
Even my friendships are much better now and I am more respected in my community, because people know where they stand with me. They don’t have to guess. Now I attract respectful people into my space.
Some of you may ask, what does this have to do with losing weight and being thin? I say EVERYTHING! When we set our boundaries and stand up for ourselves, we no longer need to have that whole box of cookies to nurture and comfort us. We don’t need to keep that protective layer of fat on, because we know that we’re worthy of so much more.