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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

I’ve got a confession to make. When I first discovered that Miguel and I were pregnant, I was a tiny bit apprehensive. Okay, I was worried. It’s not that I didn’t want to have kids, I have always wanted a family. Both Miguel and I love being around children, and before Max was even a glimmer in our eyes, we spent way too much time wondering what parenthood and our kid(s) might look like.  But when the moment of truth came, and I saw that little positive sign on the fourth white test stick, I got scared. I felt this fear that I’d lose myself, that I’d never be able to attain my career goals, that my time for me and only me (the redheaded, only-child Leo) was over.
I had nightmares of myself as a future burnt-out mom: tired, with bags under my eyes, ragged hair and schlumpy sweatpants, screaming at my toddler(s) to pipe down because I couldn’t hear my telenovela. Voices of moms I knew echoed through my head, “My husband and I NEVER go out anymore…The movies? You mean, go see a film in the theater?! HA!” I had daydreams of myself mopping the floor in tears awaiting rescue from a Rosie the Riveter type – a superheroine who’d whisk me away to the wonderful world of the working woman.

I lost sleep, fretting, making lists in my mind of what I could do to avoid this awful fate. Then it dawned on me. I’ll just flee South, where family and string cheese and warm weather await. Where I’ll have help and love and unconditional support everyday. Where I’ll be able to avoid the question on the tip of every New Yorker’s tongue,  “So, what are you working on these days?”

And that’s exactly what I did.

I took one last freelance gig, made some money and took off indefinitely.  When I arrived in Oaxaca, I didn’t know what was ahead of me or when I would be working next. And it didn’t matter. It was all about family now. (I wonder if this is what First Lady Michelle Obama felt like when she left her law career behind and stepped ever-so-gracefully into the role of White HouseWife and Mother extraordinaire.)

And so, for the past four and a half months, I’ve been immersed in the work of being a mother. Multitasking, nurturing, feeding, teaching. I can’t begin to explain how fortunate I feel to have the chance to do this. My kid is laughing belly laughs, rolling over and sucking two thumbs at a time – and I’ve been lucky enough to witness and relish every minute of it.  Until now.

Last week marked my first official week back to work. I’m teaching two media production courses (in Spanish!) at La Universidad Mesoamericana. I’ve also recently started shooting a few social interest documentary projects that just might end up developing into something bigger. It feels good to be working again. And each time I kiss my son goodbye and head out to class or a shoot, I realize how silly I was to have thought that having a baby would have meant the end of me.

I never lost myself.  My son is an addition to my life – a wonderful one.  I do spend tons of time taking care of him, but I’m still able to blow dry my hair, go out on mini-dates with my husband and find time for me and my career. If anything, I’ve found that the little guy has been a real inspiration for me to keep pushing forward. Now it’s not only about me and my ego – following my dreams is modeling good behavior.

Slumdog MillionaireLooking back on those first days of my pregnancy, I remember the moment when worry started to wane in favor of joy. I was (where else?) at the movies, watching Slumdog Millionaire by myself – well, with baby actually. During the previews, I sent Miguel a text message, the first one from the both of us. I also promised my son that this was the first of many movies, not excluding my own, that I would be happy to take him to see on the big screen.

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Okay so, this being a mom thing – I really love it. I mean, I love my kid more than life itself – he’s amazing. No, really, he’s AMAZING.  He comes to parties, art-openings, out to swank restaurants and just chills. I simply throw him in the sling and we’re off. I’ve chatted with numerous Mamas and have been told that this is not the norm for many two month olds, so I feel really lucky. Some people think I’m crazy to take him out with me wherever, whenever, passing him around like a hot potato – but he doesn’t make a fuss and it works for us.  As long as Maxwell is fed, changed and not in the same place or position for too long, he’s super tranquilo. I appreciate that he’s down to come out. And I know it won’t last forever, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

I know that in a few months, he’ll hit that super-Neanderthal baby stage, when he starts crawling and teething and putting everything on Earth in his mouth, and we may end up a bit more homebound, just because it’ll be easier.  And as much as I love going about my life and taking my kid along, I’m surprised at the ease with which I’ve come to appreciate the “stay at home mom” thing.  I can’t believe it, but I don’t mind being home as much as I thought I would.

Sometimes I’m the quintessential Mexican Mama. I spend entire days cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and listening to talk radio. I’ve officially come in contact with my inner Donna Reed. And it’s easy to do that here – in a place where being a mother is looked at as a given, a good thing, a priority.

Also, the fact that I’m a mom makes me feel more integrated, more part of the community here. Before, I was just a Gringa, an outsider, a tourist. Then when I was pregnant with a half-Mexican kid, I gained some more clout. Now, with a babe in a rebozo, strolling through the market, I realize that I’m part of a club, the not-so-secret society of Mexican Mothers.  I was thrilled to discover I was automatically a member of this club, but it turns out there’s some hazing involved. There are some very specific rules that MUST be followed, and unfortunately, I never got the handbook, so I get reminders, suggestions and advice in all forms at least once a day…

For instance, just in case I don’t know, or I might have forgotten, Oaxacan friends, family members and perfect strangers consistently remind me of the most basic thing: CUIDARLO! Take CARE of your baby!  How old is he? Wow! So little! Be careful with him on the street!  Then rules get more specific (sometimes insistent) often having to do with climate concerns. Cover him up! Put a hat on him. A winter hat! And don’t forget the socks! Isn’t he cold? (It’s 77 degrees.) Isn’t it a little late for him to be out? (It’s 7:45pm) Isn’t he a bit squished in that sling you have him in? (Noooo.) You’re not going to bring him into the KITCHEN, are you? (Huh?) If he’s exposed to the smell of food, he’ll get swollen glands! (Hmmm. I’ll take it into consideration.)  Where’s his red string? (Red string?) He needs a piece of red string on him to ward off the evil eye. (Oh, right! I’m on it.)  And are you drinking your Atole?

Let me pause here on the Atole bit. Rewind to when I was 8 months pregnant. Everyone and their mother told me that in order for my milk to come in, I should drink Atole. Atole is kind of like a cream corn soupy porridge, but without that perfect sweet-salt-cream combination. It’s this THICK, hot, grainy, maiz based beverage which I liken to the gruel that made Oliver Twist get out of his chair and demand “Food glorious Food.”   Sorry, ladies who love it. I know it’s supposed to increase your milk supply immensely, and I do feel bad about offending the Mexican corn goddess, but YUCK! And if I had a dime for how many women have told me that I need to drink Atole, I’d be living on a beachfront property in Puerto Escondido right about now. (By the way – my milk supply – out of control. I’m a fountain over here, no Atole necessary.)

Okay, glad I got all that out. Enough kvetching. I’ve known for a long time that Mexico, like everywhere, has its own idiosyncracies. Yes, it is sometimes challenging to be discovering motherhood a world away from my darling NYC, (where it really is freezing but nobody would dare tell me to cover up my kid). But it’s actually comforting to know that so many people are genuinely concerned for the well-being of my son. In the end, being in Oaxaca reminds me that the old adage – it takes a village to raise a child – is still in effect… I’m glad I’m here to witness and be a part of it.

Now, I know I’ve got some red string around here somewhere…

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