It never worked.
But now I have the babies home. I am officially a Parent. I am officially in The Club. I was really looking forward to this bit - suddenly, I would start going to mother and baby groups, and make friends on the bus! And at the library! And we would all have fun with our babies together! This club was going to be so much fun! But I've got to say - I am beyond disappointed. After all the waiting, it turns out that this is the worst club I've ever been part of.
The first hint that this might be the case was after I met up with two other mothers for a cup of coffee. First official mum-date. I was psyched. They were talking about weaning (of course!!) and I listened eagerly, thinking 'I have babies now! I could actually join in!' And the smile slowly slid from my face as it went on and I realised that I had been waiting to have this conversation for most of my adult life, and now that it was here.... it was really just incredibly boring.
Actually, scratch that. I wasn't just boring - it was boring and judgemental. And it's that second one that takes this motherhood club from tedious to terrible. This is how the conversation went:
[Scene - mothers in a cafe. One mother puts bib on child and gets out food]
Mother A: oh, what are you feeding her?
Mother B: a broccoli and blueberry puree.
A: Oh, that sounds nice. (Pause). But isn't the fruit a bit acidic?
B: No, it's got butternut squash in it as well
A: Oh. Isn't she still a bit young for blueberries though?
B: She's seven months, a month younger than your little Daisy. Isn't little Daisy eating blueberries yet?
A: No, she's not.
B: Oh well. Don't worry, She'll be ready for them soon. I suppose my little Susie was just ready a bit earlier.
And I'm finding that all the conversations - whether they are about sleep, food, development or whatever, follow pretty much the same pattern. It seems like every conversation is just an alpha-dog type jockeying for position - who is the best, most right-on mother? And who has the smartest, most advanced child? Who can slap the other person down with the biggest smile on their face? Who knows the most about how to cram the maximum number of celery sticks down their child's gullet? And who can top that by casually saying that actually, if you feed your child celery, you are putting them at serious risk of ear infections. Or hair loss. Or spontaneous combustion.
I've only had children for two months, and I am sick of it. I always assumed that those conversations I was shut out of were people offering each other support, but it turns out that isn't the case. A few times, I have opened up to someone to discuss some issue I was having with the babies, but every time I end up wishing that I hadn't. I say something like 'The babies are still at the very bottom of the weight chart' and get an answer like 'well, what you need to do is start giving them some baby rice' or (back when the babies weren't sleeping) 'The babies are waking up a lot during the night' and the answer was 'well, what you need to do is not talk to them or turn the lights on when you feed them at night'. And what made me most annoyed, during those particular conversations, was that the person never asked me if I actually WAS talking to them or turning the light on in the middle of the night (NO!) or if the babies were drinking enough milk yet to indicate they might be ready for solids (again, NO!)
And in any case, I only mentioned it because I just wanted to talk about it. I wasn't asking for advice. I'm a smart enough girl - If I want advice, I can get advice from the places I need to, like books, or people who have actual qualifications. Or Google. Or, I will end my sentence with 'What do YOU think I should do?' which I rarely do, because, well, I really hate advice. I just wanted to see if anybody had experienced what I had. And you know, how did it make you feel? I'm guessing those other mothers walked away from those conversations feeling 'wow, I really helped her!' but I felt like they were saying: You must be really stupid. I don't even need to listen to what your problem is to solve your problem, that's how much of a better mother I am.
Also, your kids are ugly.
It was just horrible. I mean, it is just horrible because even when I'm trying not to say anything at all, these conversations still happen. People say things to me like 'oh, considering what a hard start your babies had, they are doing really well, and I'm sure they will be doing [insert developmental milestone here] very soon. And I think 'hey! I wasn't worried about that developemental milestone' and then ten seconds later I think 'wow, should I be worried about that developmental milestone?' and then I can't believe they think my children are anything other than terrific just as they are, and I get upset and offended. Which is obviously very productive.
And at first I thought it was just me - that maybe people were treating me stupid because I adopted, and they thought I needed remedial mothering school. But then I realised that they are all doing it to each other all the time as well. Backhanded compliments abound. And to be honest, I am sick of the way that despite my best intentions, I have found myself being sucked in by the desire to do the same thing. A few days ago, I had to bite my own tongue and swallow my words when I realised: hey, nobody wants breastfeeding advice from YOU, Claudia.
All I can think of is this: when a woman becomes a mother, she becomes the autocrat in a little tiny empire. Suddenly, small people are entirely dependent on her, and the day is filled with the need to make tiny decisions and judgements. Most of these are trivial in themselves, and involve sleep, food or bowel motions. But she has to make every one of them, usually with no other adults around, and the sum of these tiny decisions adds up to a whole life. And when each decision is made thoughtfully, the decision-maker gets attached to those decisions, and her decision making process. In her empire, she alone is possessed of the wisdom to decide when it is nap time, when it is bath time, and whether or not the baby will eat blueberries. I think it becomes easy to forget that this sole possession of wisdom ends at her front door, and other adults do not usually see her as having the sum of all knowledge in the same way that her children do.
Well, I don't, anyway. And a cacophony of voices all finding different ways to say 'hey, I know a lot more about this mothering stuff than you do' just makes me want to retreat into my own little kingdom and lock the door and never go to one of these United Nations motherhood conventions at the coffee shop ever again.
And now I kind of feel stupid for expecting anything different.