Debunking Mommy P(stick an “o” right here)rn

**1-26-12 update: I’ve added “stick an O right here” to the title and content of this post so that my blog does not end up on the wrong search engines.                   

Penelope Trunk once wrote that People Magazine’s photo spread of Jennifer Lopez with her newborn twins is “Mommy P(stick an ‘o’ right here)rn:  the visual fantasy of what being a working mom could be.”                         

She is saying that, by distributing photos of a new mom so unrealistically put-together, People Magazine is perpetuating a myth which creates self-doubt in women, who try–and fail–to live up to that standard.  It’s a lot like the Barbie complex.                         

But is it just the media perpetuating this rumor?  Or is it the countless new parents, who, when asked how things are going, smile through tired eyes to say, “Great!  [Little One] is sleeping though the night!”                      

Do you know that, in new parents, “sleeping through the night” is largely defined as, “sleeps four hours in a row sometime after sunset”?  Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never–nor will I ever–define that as a “great” night’s sleep.                      

I bring this up because I have three friends whose babies are due at the end of next month and I wonder whether their expectations are like mine were.                        


Me, towards the beginning of labor. Elated. Hopeful. Mildly delusional.

  I had a plan for my childbirth.  Labor was going to be hard, but I’m athletic and I probably wouldn’t need an epidural.  After a big push, we would hear our baby cry, and my husband and I would kiss and cry happy tears, and the doctor would put our warm, slimy baby on my chest, and we would kiss our son and tell him we love him.  And then I would gaze dreamily into our baby’s eyes as he suckled from my breast.                      

[Insert loud screeching noise here, to signify transition to reality.]                      

Here are a couple of times during my actual experience where I should not have compared myself to Mommy P(stick an “o” right here)rn:                      

When I was writhing on the hospital bed, vomiting from the pain of my contractions.  When I was begging for an epidural.  When, after 14 hours of labor, the doctor told me he would have to cut the baby out of me “after all.”  When my husband had to help me hold our baby because my arms were still weak from anesthesia.  When I couldn’t figure out how to position my baby around my IV lines and  EKG wires.  When my breasts were so engorged from milk that they were painful to the touch and were spewing milk all over the bed.  When visitors came to see us in the hospital and I cried and cried because I hadn’t yet gotten a latch.  When they turned to leave and I vomited, over and over again, because I was allergic to the c-section pain meds.  When I could only take Tylenol after that.  When I tried, for three long months, to get my baby to latch, and I could not.  When I was pumping, feeding, pumping eight times a day, each session running into the next.  When even the lactation consultants stopped returning my calls.  When my mom told me my refusal to stop trying to breastfeed was masochistic.  (TGFMM!)                  

Those are all times when I wish I had set fire to the Mommy P(stick an “o” right here)rn.  Because you know what?  My childbirth and breastfeeding experience was beautiful.  It was perfect.  It was ethereal.  It just wasn’t what I had expected.                        

That’s why I think open discussion of this stuff is important.  I don’t want to perpetuate the myths.  I want people to find beauty in their diversion from their plans.                         

This is a delicate topic, because if I am not careful, I could be mistaken for being pessimistic or–worse–unappreciative.                   

I thank God every day, because I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  I am one of the lucky ones because I was able to have my own healthy, happy, perfect child–as soon as I wanted him–with the man of my dreams.                    

And I am the luckiest one because I am Punga’s Momma.  And I am the luckiest one because I am Moose’s Wife.               

I think of my friends who have tried in vitro, over and over until they had no more money left to pay for the in vitro.  And I think of my friends who have had babies who were rushed immediately into surgery upon being born.  And I think of the children in the world who are born with handicaps, and I think of the single parents who somehow conquer the almost inconceivable challenge of raising a child alone.  And I think of the millions of parents who have no means of feeding or of curing their children.  And I think of the parents who suffer the most horrific of all experiences.  I think of parents who have lost a child and my soul shakes with tears for them.                     

Then I think of my husband’s cousin, Kirsten, and her husband, Stan.            

I think of the years of utter and desolate heartache they endured while trying to have a baby.  I think of the three babies they conceived, and then lost, in three separate pregnancies.  I put myself in their shoes and I think I might very well have died of a broken heart if that had happened to me.  And I think of how lucky a baby would be to be born with Kirsten and Stan’s gene pool:  so kind, so generous, so earth-loving.                     

And then I think of how brave Kirsten and Stan are.  I think of how they are a beacon of hope for all parents who are having, have had, or will have trouble conceiving or carrying a child.   

Because today, Kirsten and Stan are the adoptive parents of the most beautiful girl in the world:  Una.  And Kirsten breastfed Una.  And Una is kind and generous and earth-loving, too.  Not because Kirsten and Stan shaped Una’s DNA; they didn’t.  Una is kind and generous and earth-loving because Kirsten and Stan shaped Una’s heart.                     

Kirsten and Stan are heroes.  They are heroes, not only to Una, but to all the people who have babies in their hearts but not in their arms.  They are heroes to humanity.                    

I have gone back and forth about whether to publish this post, because it may be obnoxious to hear the whole “OMG, my childbirth wasn’t perfect” message from someone whose experience–when put into perspective–was so darn close to perfect.                  

But, as naive as my good fortune allows me to be, I want people to have realistic expectations of childbirth, so I humbly tell the story of my Mommy P(stick an “o” right here)rn Complex, while simultaneously acknowledging and appreciating our blessings.            

So, to my dear friends whose babies are yet unborn:  maybe you will deliver a perfect baby exactly according to your birth plan.  Maybe you will breastfeed easily and blissfully.                         

Maybe you will not.                        

But maybe it’s the imperfections that make our birthing experiences perfect.  Maybe it’s the way that love perseveres over the challenges–maybe that’s what makes childbearing sublime.                         

Because no matter how many tears you have cried, no matter how badly you need a shower, no matter how much breast milk is dripping down your leg; every day that you can hold your child in your arms and whisper to that child that you love him or her, that–that right there–that is perfection.                    



I always look forward to hearing about your thoughts and experiences.                    



16 responses to “Debunking Mommy P(stick an “o” right here)rn

  1. I’m not a mom yet, but will be someday, one way or another. As a friend of many moms, some through conception, some through adoption, this is a beautiful post!

  2. Beautiful post! You have a knack for this blogging business! And along the lines of your post, have you read Nella’s birth story yet on yet?

  3. And her dad’s post today…Ugh! I wish I could write with such honesty…

  4. What a beautiful entry. You could not have said it better. You made me tear up! Being a mother is an incredible gift and challenge all at the same time! Thank you for posting this:)

  5. Like most, I went into 1st time mommyhood with blinders on. Like many, I worked on my due date even though other moms told me I should “rest and prepare”… Rest? I can rest during my 12 weeks of vacation… ha-ha – how naive I was! Truth is, nothing can prepare you for being a mom because no two journey’s are the same, but hearing truthful stories help while the disillusions we often see and read about only make us feel inferior. After crawling out of the hole I found myself in 9 or so weeks after my first son was born, I started to write… it was empowering and therapeutic. I am glad that you are writing too… I know that your posts bring a smile to your readers, and give them a sense of what to expect and what cherish – keep them coming!

    When I found out I was pregnant with the twins, after laughing hysterically at the irony, (we had just learned that my sister-in-law was expecting twins… they are 6 days apart) I went back to my own “diaper bag.” I read and reread my struggles, my triumphs… the tricks I learned. The result – 2nd/3rd time mommy hood was much easier (easier = didn‘t feel like a failure everyday) because I reminded myself to set only one expectation, be the best I can be in the moment I’m in. In juggling three mobile kids and sometimes my sanity – it’s the motto I live by…

  6. Beautifly and honestly put.

  7. Thank you for good tears this morning!

  8. Jessica Clifford

    What a great post. I laughed and I cried – that is a true test of a great writer. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I laugh because after I had my twins 8 years ago I definitely did not look like J lo! I had visions of me being in a bikini 2 months after gaining 55 pounds – boy was I delusional!
    Keep these blogs coming 🙂

  9. Amy Chilson Giampietro

    So perfectly written…..
    It is very hard to be a mother, you are right, none of it is pretty…it’s tough. I begged for an epidural and or anything else they could give me. Breatfeeding seemed impossible until it just happened..despite my trying too hard to make it so. Long tired nights of not knowing where your body ended and babies body started.
    Not washing your face, let alone showering.
    Oh I remember…
    Thanks for this blog!

  10. [Momma Goose] I so enjoy your writing. It brings me back in time. I was very lucky, I sometimes think I was born to reproduce. That may be an understatement, given that I did it five times successfully. Each one stands out vividly. My children never get tired of hearing about their unique arrival. It seems it gets replayed at every birthday. I do remember vividly after the first time, being exhausted and hearing your Uncle Kevin on the phone relaying the experience to friends, talking about how easy it was, I wondered if he was at the same birth.

  11. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful message !

  12. I am SO happy I read this post this morning. It is a wonderful reminder that the only expectation I should have for lil Camden’s birth is that he will come into this world loved unconditionally. Thanks for this perspective! By the way…such a fitting post for the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday!!

  13. Thank you all so much for your feedback and for sharing your beautiful stories!

    Elisabeth, Mariah, Mic, Amanda, Erika, Jessica, Mrs G, Kathy, Bonnie, Terri: I am not just trying to be nice when I tell you that you are ten very special women who very much inspire me in your own unique ways.

    Anonymous: Thank you for checking in!

    Elisabeth: I LOVE Nella’s story!

    Mariah: You’re beautiful!

    Mic: thank you for sharing your story, because I was kind of under the impression that you were a lot like J-Lo. 🙂 “Be the best I can be at the moment I’m in”–I like that!

    Amanda: Thank you so much!

    Erika: You’re welcome!

    Jessica: 55 lbs in 2 months…that IS funny–and relatable!

    Mrs G: I would love to talk to you more about your experiences some day. I think we have a lot in common!

    Aunt Kathi: your story of Uncle Kevin in the phone made me laugh. Someone aught to debunk “Daddy Versions of Childbirth.”

    Bonnie: and thank YOU for all of the amazingness you share!

    Terri: your comment warmed my heart because I was thinking of you as I was writing this. Yes: that is a perfect expectation. He WILL come into this world loved unconditionally…by all of us! 🙂

    Love to all,

  14. I really really love reading your blog and this post is spot on IMO. Thank you for sharing this, I know it’s quite personal. I can really appreciate the reality that you point out. Before I had my daughter, my friends who had babies bouncing around made it sound like such a breeze and so picture perfect. Considering the sources, I knew it wasn’t going to be all pillows and lace for sure but no one told me about the tearful nights of worry and making myself sick because my daughter was colicky or I wasn’t producing enough milk etc, etc. But the first time she looked at me and smiled *with her eyes* I just melted. I realized just like YOU put it that she was and is my perfection. Tearful frustrations and all! 🙂

  15. Ha ha ha… “mommy porn!” I’ve never heard it described as that, but I know exactly what you mean!

    I am very blessed with two little healthy ones, but it’s a challenging time–even when everything goes as “perfectly” as it can.

    Nice blog!

  16. Great post. I’m quite happy to see this week’s cover of People featuring Sandra B and her little boy that she’s adopted. My husband and I adopted a little boy from South Korea – what an amazing experience! He is all my dreams come true.

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