Center Stage

by Michele Sbrana

A friend of mine, seven months pregnant with her first, said to me recently, "It is so great being pregnant. Everyone asks how you are feeling and tells you how wonderful you look!" Of course, I said something to the effect of "I remember. It is so great and you do look so good, blah, blah, blah." But it was all I could do to NOT say, "Cherish it. Bottle it up. You lose center stage one millisecond after you push that child out."

Do you remember? When you walked down the street and whether you liked it or not (oh, come on, you liked it!) people noticed you. We felt special and important. We had that "glow!" People looked at us and smiled, others went out of their way for us. Good-looking men held doors open for us Friends called us just to see how we were doing and not even ask for anything! Ah, that glorious center stage!

Do you suppose that extra surges in hormones made me have all of these egocentric feelings? I hadn't ever really seen this side of myself. I thought I was a pretty selfless person. But now, when that old, disgusting Chevy Capri in front of me spewed toxic fumes in my direction, did I say to myself, "What a shame that person has to drive such a dilapidated car." No! I took down their license plate number just in case my child was born with some disease or disability relating to hydrocarbon poisoning!! I actually recall thinking I wanted to start an organization that took these cars off the road to protect pregnant women.

So for nine months I was the center of the universe. I was the first child in my family to be pregnant, so my parents, siblings, grandparents, even my mailman, Flip, all gave me the attention I so richly deserved. To say nothing of my sweet, adoring husband who fully enabled my "Michele is the Queen of the World" theory. He actually took me seriously when I was crying over losing a parking space to some thoughtless high-powered corporate executive who obviously had never been with child (so what if he couldn't tell from his car that I was pregnant--he should have been able to sense it!)

Anyway, the moment that beautiful banana-headed child arrived, everything changed. I was out and he was in…and has been in ever since. From September 20, 1991 until this very moment today, as he and his brother interrupt my writing for the four thousandth time to find the stick that goes with the xylophone that they have not played for two years but must have right now, I have learned the meaning of humility. I have relinquished the throne, I have moved to the back seat, I have taken my place standing in the proverbial wings.

I am convinced that it is God's mercy that allows us to experience enough pain and exhaustion that we don't give a flying frisbee when, even though you and your husband decided to not invite your parents into the room, your anesthesiologist (who has just become your best friend) spots your father in the doorway and asks him to "hold a leg." I mean, he only wanted to see what was taking me so long so he could get back to his golf game and well, if your father gets to hold a leg, then, it goes without saying that your mother gets to hold one too. And do you really think your brother and sister are just going to stand around and wait in the hallway when your parents, your doctors, the janitorial staff and probably a few innocent bystanders who were just looking for the bathroom are all inside with ringside seats!

Now technically, at that moment, you are still the center of the universe. But not for long. You are about to push out of your body the amazing little person destined to dethrone you. Do you do it with grace and joy? For the most part, yes. How can you not? It is all so overwhelming: the love, the relief, the morphine drip!

In time you really begin to grasp the true meaning of this new and humbling thing called motherhood. As you begin this journey of discovery, however, it is important, no, imperative, to surround yourself with other moms who understand you. A new mom can easily feel isolated, lonely, under-appreciated, and it goes without saying, exhausted. Spending time with other moms can become your lifeline. It was how I kept my head above water, especially when I found myself with two under two.

I remember when this became crystal clear to me. I was sharing a bottle of merlot with four other moms in a mountain chalet in Tahoe on a snowy February night while our children all seemed, miraculously, to be asleep. Our conversation was such a pivotal point in my understanding of what it means to be a mom. We shared our birthing experiences in as much detail as our heart's desired. Our husbands had long since fallen asleep--it was such rough day for them, all that skiing--and so there was no one to say, "Oh, please not again!" Or "Honey, don't you think you are being a bit too graphic?" We all realized how crucial it was for us to be able to talk about our story because our story was and is very important, and we are really very important. Giving birth to a child is a monumental accomplishment. Michelle Lane, a family and marriage therapist with Bay Area Psychotherapy Services in Berkeley, California says:
"When we experience a gain in our lives, like that of a new child, we need to realize that it is often accompanied by a sense of loss. With the birth of a child, it could mean the loss of freedom or control of your time; or it could be a sense of identity in a profession. We need to take the time to grieve that loss, whatever it may be. Grieving is so often viewed in our society as a negative experience. It is simply a process, and is very healthy."

Phew! What a relief to hear a professional say such a thing. You mean it is okay to wish that occasionally our lives were different, or like they were before or that we were still the center of attention? It is normal for me to fantasize about taking more than 45 seconds to pick out a birthday card for a friend, or want to shave my legs in the shower without stopping to referee a wrestling match over a CD ROM? I'm not really a bad person after all?

Becoming a mother is a life changing experience. We need to allow ourselves to feel the spectrum of emotions associated with those changes. Sometimes they will be emotions of joy and elation and other times it will be sadness, bitterness, or self-pity.

But never forget your story. Make sure to have at least one woman who knows it as well as you do. Never lose sight of what an important thing you did, and are still doing, and will do forever. Even though most days you feel like you have taken the back seat, remember what an extraordinary thing you did to get there.

Michele Sbrana ~ Mom of Riley and Casey ~ is a health consultant and freelance writer. She is passionate about supporting and encouraging Moms via