Facing the Strange

I have never been fond of change. And I don’t mean coins, I mean transitions. This is one of the many things I have in common with babies and toddlers, who often find transitions difficult too. I would love to say, for example, that I’m a world traveler, full of wanderlust to explore the earth. That sounds sexy, but it’s not me.

I am a homebody. I enjoy trips once I’m there, but the thought of getting on a plane with my belongings and dealing with all that newness always makes me quake in my boots.

Having a baby was probably the most enormous change in my life ever, and none of the warnings from friends or books gave me the ‘heads up’ I needed to realize how difficult it would really be. Or, maybe I just didn’t believe them.

After becoming a parent, even the most selfless men and women must gasp at how self-centered their previous lives were in comparison. I was far from selfless and, as detailed in other posts in “The Book Journey” section of my blog, I did not handle this transition gracefully.

I identify with the expression: “I never let go of anything without leaving claw marks.” And that is the way I felt about leaving my old life. I clung to the basic human right to have a scheduled coffee break and a few hours of sleep. When I didn’t get those needs met — or even a peaceful trip to the bathroom — I was overwhelmed with resentment and disappointment.

When my beautiful and wonderful (my drama wasn’t her fault) baby daughter was two months old I managed to go to an audition for, and then book a Lori Davis Hair Product commercial — one of the original infomercials — as the model with good hair. I hired a nice young woman to come with me to the set and take care of my baby. That day felt like a luxurious vacation. I was being coiffed and tended to. Nothing could sour my mood, not even the leaking breast milk that stained my silk shirt right before filming and forced the crew to scurry to replace it. This brief period of emotional separation from the needs of my baby — while professionals took care of mine — made me feel spoiled and pampered. And I was being paid for it.

I knew this was not a real job, at least not one I could have very often, but it was enough of a break to get me through another few weeks of feeling helpless and lost as a mom.

It was in those weeks that I stumbled across the quotation from Magda Gerber in LA Parent Magazine that led to another huge change in my life. This change was more gradual than my overnight transformation to the realities of motherhood, but it was ultimately just as profound. Magda’s radical-sounding directive for raising creative children, “Take the mobile off the bed, take care of their needs, and leave them alone,” stuck with me, and I put the article and phone number for Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) away for safe-keeping.

I found myself recalling Magda’s words at odd hours of the day and night, often while I nursed my baby. I didn’t understand what the words meant, but the person I imagined behind them was an island of wisdom and sanity for me, a safe caretaker for my mind.

Right around this time my husband and I found out that much of my craziness was due to a hormonal roller-coaster ride. I had been complaining to my team of inefficient male OB/GYNs that I was still hemorrhaging six, eight, and then ten weeks after giving birth. They continued to placate me, saying that the bleeding was normal, as was the depression I had also reported. I sensed in their patronizing tone that I was another hysterical woman, and they had dealt with this too many times before. Finally, one of the team did an ultrasound and saw a mass of retained placenta the size of a golf ball. The doctor who delivered my baby, in his haste, had left a little something behind. (Or was this more evidence of my resistance to letting go?) We scheduled an immediate D and C and I was apparently lucky to have remained fertile.

One day, soon after the procedure, I finally called RIE and was invited to visit a baby class in Santa Monica. This first visit and the subsequent one when I brought my baby with me were eye-opening, thought-provoking, and amazing experiences. I was finding the answers, the direction I longed for, and it all made perfect sense. But in my overly-sensitive state it was painful, too. The positive changes I was making in the way I interacted with my baby made me also dwell on the negative. I had been failing at the work I was giving my body and soul to. What I had feared since my baby’s birth was confirmed: I was a flawed and clueless mom.

Learning and change are not supposed to be comfortable. Infants know this. They are eager to jump into the frustration and confusion that goes hand in hand with growth. Some of us relearned this in aerobics class in the “No Pain, No Gain” 80’s. Others, like me, are still relearning…



Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Another insightful, honest and totally relevant article. I just adore reading your blogs. Everything is based in reality, never sound bites. I always come away with a boost of renewed confidence…a reminder that whatever I deem to be a foible, is always a means to a transition.
    Love the new snapshot. Beautiful picture of you.

  2. Janet, I REALLY love this post. I haven’t read any of your ‘earlier’ posts, so this was really special. In this one, you touch on so many aspects of becoming a new mother that I think many of have suffered through. Thank you for your honesty and the understated hope that shines through 🙂

    1. So kind of you to share this, Sylvia. Thank you!

  3. Janet, I think you learned that you were still learning a lot faster than I did! I’m still discovering things I messed up in my experience of parenthood, and my son’s 26 now…

    1. Dear Annie, the thing I’m finding…happily…is that parenting is a continuing process of discovery. There are a lot of mistakes along the way, and that’s fine as long as we learn from them. I happen to know that you have incredible instincts and intentions, and as far as I’m concerned, the details don’t matter very much…

  4. Janet,
    I am grateful knowing you. You add a high value to my personal and professional life, and do you knwo how and why you do that? Because you are a true person <3

    1. Angelique, you are lovely and I’m grateful knowing you, too. I so appreciate your passion for early childood education.

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