I am gratefully pregnant, but have been quite sick these past few months. It’s been a real struggle for my husband, my toddler, and me to even get a meal together. My parents live out of state, know about this situation, but have no interest in helping out.
I’ve talked to them about this type of disappointment I’ve felt in the past, where I’ve felt abandoned to some degree. Is it so unreasonable for me to feel that sometimes, for the most basic of times (sick pregnancy, birth of a child, etc.) my family should band together and be more supportive? And, since this seems to be our situation, how do I move past these negative feelings at a time when I want to feel positive?
I know some people can find their village in friends but, as wonderful as friends can be, they have their own lives too.
Pregnant and feeling family-less
Did you ever hear about the merman who signed up for the marathon, got all the way to the starting line, and then wondered why the asphalt had no tide?
Yeah, I’m working on my own line of gefilte-based greeting cards. That one needs a little work, but hopefully the metaphor makes sense. PFF, I appreciate you signing up for this marathon of motherhood. And I’m so impressed that you continue to stretch and sprint and trust in your parents’ innate goodness. And now it’s time to stop waiting for the tide to come in.
Your parents have made it clear that they’re not interested in this kind of care-taking role right now. And you’ve voiced your complaint, which they can either heed or ignore.
But guess what? There’s a new mama-sheriff in town—you!
Repeat this mantra that I stole from a palindrome:
PFF, I know this takes a lot more than word games and greeting cards. I have been pregnant a handful of times and my parents abandoned me for all of it. They each ran off with a slimy guy named Cancer, and all I got was this lousy orphaned-at-30 t-shirt.
It took about a year of drinking wine-in-a-box and cleaning out my mom’s human teeth collection—sorry to break the Tooth Fairy news that way and please feel free to blame my mom—to admit how furious I was. And frightened. But mostly furious. My dad had died when I was 11, but my mom was supposed to be made from hearty stock. She made me eat her hearty stock every Friday night. And she told me what to wear, how to brush my hair, when to bat my eyelashes, and how to dot my t’s. I did everything my mom told me to do—for fear she’d croak.
Until I went away to college and realized there was life west of the New Rochelle mall and I had some opinions of my own. By the time she was diagnosed, I was fighting with her quite regularly. I was also living with a guy she’d never met. She came to visit us, lay on our couch, and started running a fever. Four months later she was dead.
Did I kill her with my defiance? Did I wait to procreate until she was gone? Depends on which day you ask me. But I do know for sure that I came head to head with these thorny questions when I got pregnant.
I walked through the park, usually singing and sobbing at the same time. I ranted about how alone and forsaken I felt—all to the tune of Ingrid Michaelson. But I also started to see how my mom did a beautiful thing for me. She let me go. She gave me space so I could be the mom instead of always needing to please her.
Here’s a few words from e.e. cummings that hurt and soothe me in the same breath:
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
My relationship with my (late) mom is still evolving. Honestly, I think a lot of the power struggles I have with my little girl today is about her reminding me of my mom. My daughter saves every slip of paper—like my mom. She hums under her breath when she’s thinking—like my mom. She loves costume jewelry and sucks on jellybeans and olives—like my mom.
These two ladies are like the wallpaper lining my heart, and I feel sick when I have to stand up and say no to them. But I do. I am learning—from you—that it’s just as important to our relationship to say yes, and no, and trust that we’ll find our way back to each other.
PFF, your parents are not showing up. Or another way of looking at this is that they’re giving you free reign to be the mom you wish to see in this world. (I like to imagine Mahatma whispering that in my kid’s nursery on sleepless nights.)
And you’re right, friends have lives, too. But as soon as you trust in someone else’s shoulder, I do think they will show up. For me, I found incredible support in my cousins, my therapist, my mother-in-law, and the librarian who wears hip-huggers. So throw out your vision of who should be the source of comfort for you.
I’ll leave you with a fun fact: When seahorses decide to have kids, the baby-dada is the one who carries the developing embryo in his brood pouch. The mom goes looking for food while he holds the pouch steady. Or as steady as you can be when your world is made of water.
With love and schmaltz,
Have a question for Gefilte? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you might just get an answer.