By Eve Bernfeld
About five months ago my friend Lisa* became a superhero. She had her first baby. We have a word for that: “Mom.” A super palindrome that, as many have pointed out, spells Wow upside down.
I met Lisa a couple years back when she came to me as a student of the Alexander Technique. Through the course of her time taking Alexander lessons, she got married, bought a house, embarked on a career change, got pregnant and, most recently, became a mother. And somewhere along the way we became friends.
Throughout her pregnancy she (and sometimes her husband) continued to come for lessons on how to use her body efficiently though pregnancy, labor and parenting. I tried to hide it, but I was giddy with expectation of her getting to become a mom. Because she was about to become a SUPERHERO. And as eager as I was to meet her baby, I was even more eager to meet her.
In my experience, whatever life has thrown at you so far and all the strength and grit you have developed over your life, pales in comparison to what you find yourself capable of when you have a child.
The trouble is, when you become a superhero, you don’t know you’re a superhero, because chances are, you feel like shit.
But heroic you are. To use Lisa and her husband (yes, dads are superheroes too) Peter as examples… They have had it harder than some parents and easier than others, having dealt with unexpected cesarean birth, sleep deprivation, tongue-tie, anxiety, insomnia, eczema, flaring up of a repetitive stress injury, and grandparents who want to be helpful, but think vegetables grow in a can.
I don’t think they feel heroic (in response to reading a draft of this blog, Lisa responded: “I feel like my super power is not showering”). But they are all still here and their adorable daughter is thriving.
The other day I was enjoying a cup of tea with another superhero (i.e. mom) friend, Mari. I had the honor of being present at Mari’s birth and wow, was she super. After laboring for 37 hours, she pushed her baby out in one push. I kid you not. (I also would not recommend it.) Her daughter just turned six and Mari has always been sort of a mom-mentor to me, as my kids are two years younger. We were discussing some other friends of hers who are about to become parents and we were giggling—not unkindly, I hope—at the ride they are in for.
Because it’s pretty hard to know what it is like to be called upon to be a superhero if you haven’t lived it yourself. Parenting is common and as a culture we are so accustomed to judging how people are doing it, (Hint: nobody gets a perfect 10) even, or especially, if we haven’t done it ourselves. Being a parent is so commonplace that we tend to miss the enormity of it. After I had kids I looked back in awe at everyone I had ever worked with who was a parent. Whoa—how the hell did they ever get anything done?
My guess, parents, is that life feels out of control much of the time (I was going to say “new parents,” but I am currently trying to increase the length of time that it’s acceptable for a mom to show up at work to find random kid schmutz on her shirt—is four years too many? Can I hear 14?). You don’t feel like the glamorous, muscular superheroes that fill our movie theatres on a monthly basis. But being super isn’t about fancy costumes or one-liners, but instead about dealing with the deluge of chaos that gets thrown at you every single day. (One last case in point: The other day I was in my neighbor Julia’s kitchen, chatting and drinking a Memorial Day margarita. With her super mom-bat-hearing she heard a little voice from another room say, “I have to go pee pee!” She yelled to her husband, who was closer. He scooped the little guy up and leapt over toys and furniture and other kids to get him to the bathroom in time.) This blog is a love letter to parents, but I feel like I need to offer more than cheerleading. So here are a few pieces of unsolicited mom-mentor advice:
- Always take an opportunity to pee. Who knows when you’ll get another one?
- Same goes for sleep.
- Same goes for eating.
- Let your house be a wreck for a few years.
- Find or cultivate a community. I have wonderful friends all over the city and all over the world. But the people I lean on every day are the parent friends I met at the playground and bonded with when I took the plunge and invited them over for a summer potluck two years ago.
Carry on! I see you, and you are SUPER.
*Names have been changed, because every superhero needs a secret identity.
Eve Bernfeld, MA, M.AmSAT, is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique and the owner of In Balance Alexander Technique. She also teaches at Lewis & Clark College. The rest of the time she tests her superpowers by running after her four-year-old triplets. Learn more about her here.