Undoubtedly, motherhood has changed me. In four short months, Sarai has made me eat my words as I have found myself doing (even embracing) certain things that I thought I would never do. The list is long and growing every day but here are the top five switcheroos.
- Wearing a “duster”
The duster. A formless, shapeless tent of pastel-coloured or floral cotton with a frill at the collar. The ugly step-sister of the negligée. I went into the hospital with two in The Bag. Now, I own five – in all the colours available – and…wait for it…these have slits on either side so I can quickly whip out my boobs. One, two, three…Draw! Booyaka, Booyaka!
Before becoming a mother, I associated dusters with my old aunties and my grandmother. Even in the countdown to my due date, when packing of The Bag became the magnum opus of my life, I never contemplated purchasing a duster. It was my mother who forced the point. And God bless her. They are so comfortable and the cotton so lightweight, it keeps me cool all night even with the additional body heat of my daughter.
There is no item of clothing more un-sexy and yet more practical. A woman who has just had a baby does not want to wear anything that clings to the new, ample, post-partum form that she has not come to terms with as yet. A duster is an equal opportunity liar, no matter your body-type it covers all imperfections, stretchmarks and fat rolls in a tee-pee. O triangle of cotton, O triangle most tolerant, how I love thee. Now, I finally grasp the wisdom of my Tanty who used to put on a broad belt and a good shoe and wear her duster to go down High Street to shop. Give me time – I’ll get there.
- Showing my boobs in public…for free
In the mall. At the beach. At a wedding. Upstairs. Downstairs. In the presence of visitors. Surrounded by workmen. Over the past four months, my boobs have seen more daylight than a solar panel in Hawaii. Ordinarily, that would not be such a bad thing…ladies you know what I’m sayin’…but I don’t even have any Mardi Gras beads or cash to show for it. I been big pimpin’ pumpin’ these totots for free all over the island.
The first time, at the mall, was a little difficult – for both me and my hubby. He stood guard over me with a dark scowl, flexing his pectoral muscles like The Rock, daring passers-by to even look upon his Madonna and Child. After that, I tried using the breastfeeding cover-up but Sarai hates it. It makes her sweat. She prefers to eat in fresh air and, given the popularity of bistros, which of us adults could fault her. So, I have come to realise, embracing motherhood means accepting the de-sexualization and the democratization of my breasts. They are containers of milk. That is all.
It’s not just about the boobs though – this changing perception. It’s about everything. Modesty lost can never be regained. You can’t become a virgin again (not even with “vaginal rejuvenation” surgery). You can’t undo giving birth. Modesty is a state of mind. After a doctor has separated your thighs as far as the East is from the West, put on a coal-miner-looking helmet with a head-lamp, peered into you like he’s looking for workers buried after a mining accident and invited an operating room full of medical staff to come have a look – well, you ain’t never gonna blush again. I do not feel sexy or attractive anymore. I do not feel like I have private parts anymore. I do not feel like anything but a machine – an amalgam of parts – that has proven itself fit for purpose. One day, this too shall pass, I know – even as white clouds chase grey ones over the mountain into D Valley where I live and write. It will pass.
- Foisting photos on people
A long time ago, when I was childless and intending to remain so, I devised a foolproof evasion strategy for PWC. Oh, you thought I was talking about the accounting firm? No, sorry. I meant Persons With Children. It is impolite not to ask such a person about his/her kid. However, the key is to make that the last question you ask before leaving the room – preferably, as you’re backing out of the room. Or better yet, do a drive-by. Never linger or the PWC will misinterpret this delay as a request to see photos of the kid.
All of that went out the window the day I had Sarai. I became a PWC. I didn’t realise it, at first, until I returned to the gym. I was welcomed back with cheers and hurrahs but I could see each person – particularly the men – trying a PWC strategy as they asked about the baby. Some abandoned eye-contact, suddenly finding the buttons on the exercise equipment important and engrossing. Some pedaled faster and faster in an effort to become winded and curtail further conversation. But I didn’t care. In those interactions, I realised that PWCs are driven by a pathological need to show off their kids. It’s not about the audience, it’s about me. Me. I need the world to see how cute and amazing my daughter is. I need to convince myself that this miracle came out of my body and bears my genes. Did I (grossly imperfect Me) actually produce that nugget of perfection? So I stop people and show them pictures and, every time someone smiles, it’s a corroboration that this incredible incidence of parenthood is real.
Furthermore, let still-photos be damned! I have moved on to videos. My poor, poor extended family. Not one of them has had the guts to say what they’re all thinking: “Celeste, we have jobs, we have lives. Minute-long videos of Sarai cooing or chewing her Big Bird toy are not interesting to anyone but YOU.” My family copes by not responding to the videos. They think that by starving me of positive reinforcement I’ll stop filming and posting. Never! There’s always YouTube.
- Using the word “mastitis” in casual conversation
Geography was compulsory in my high-school for CXC exams. We spent quite a long time learning about cattle-rearing on Guyana’s Rupununi Savannah. That’s the context in which I first encountered the word “mastitis”, meaning inflammation of the cow’s udder. I went my whole life since then – from 15 to 38 – never, ever having to employ that knowledge (just like “square root”; when does life ever thrust you into a situation where you have to find the square root of anything?) But then I gave birth to Sarai, started breastfeeding and found myself having numerous conversations about my udders.
Yes, I know breast health is critical during the breastfeeding stage. We need to talk about it, yes, I know. But, Good Grief! Mastitis? Really? You scientists can clone sheep but you can’t come up with a new word to refer to the condition in HUMANS? Thankfully, I have never had mastitis. But it makes me cringe to even write that; to use the word in a sentence where a person (as opposed to an animal) is the subject. Wrong. So wrong. On so many levels.
- Putting more effort into someone else’s wardrobe than mine
Who’s the best-dressed girl in the room? For once, it’s not me. And it probably will never be again. I forfeit the title. Henceforth and hereafter in perpetuity, to infinity and beyond, that girl shall be Sarai Ayesha Montero.
Similar to North West, Sarai (I call her “South West”, an homage to her mother’s geographic background. By “her mother” I mean me, nah) has a team of stylists assembled around her with the sole purpose of making her look spectacular for every outing. Her Grandmother and Aunty Lee are professional hair-stylists – only problem is Sarai doesn’t have much hair yet. The Grandmother has a “page-boy” hairstyle planned for her; the Aunty says it not too early to turn her single curl into a “faux-hawk”.
Then there’s the wardrobe: her Godmother, Aunty Stacey, is an accomplished shopaholic with many credit cards to her name; and my other friends (like Aunty Rena) have done their fair share of shopping as well. Sarai has more clothes than I do. Onsies of every description and persuasion. I am so grateful to everyone who has come bearing gifts that I am determined she MUST wear everything at least once – and even if she has to wear it at home.