Vicarious Motherhood

It was the summer of 2009 I had just arrived home to Melbourne after five months of pursuing a dream to make a documentary in New York. I was 30. Surprisingly, Melbourne had changed. There was a wave of pregnant bellies amongst my group of friends. Some who sighed with relief at knowing fertility was on their side, others who had oops-ed it, and the remaining who had somehow defied nature and gotten pregnant despite it seeming physically impossible. Regardless, there was a different language in the air. From the language of documentary with its 'D.O.P's 'and 'white balancing' to the language of motherhood with its 'bugaboos', 'birth plans' and 'doulas'. I was not in Kansas anymore. Part of me wanted to click my heels together and be back in the fast pace, churningly creative bustle of New York. Watching my friends' belly's grow, somehow became a confronting trigger to thinking about my own position on motherhood.

This was a time of significant fragmentation of my intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological being. All parts of me pulled in different directions. The intellectual voice austerely reminding me that fertility was not something to be taken for granted, the emotional voice clearly indicating I was not interested in things baby and mother-like, the psychological voice manifesting in my subconscious in the form of recurrent dreams of giving birth and forgetting to feed the baby. I clearly wasn't ready for this major life event.

The babies were born in real time and I watched in fascination as my friends became mothers. Although there was a universality to the whole experience, I was struck by the unique path that each friend carved for themselves. I witnessed the seeming injustice of some who had babies that would sleep through the night and others whose babies just wouldn't. I felt touched by the honesty of hearing a woman talk about the acute fear of losing her husband amidst the vulnerability of being pregnant. I laughed with a friend who secretly admitted that although she would never say it in public she really, truely believed that her baby was the cutest of all.

As I embarked on a relatively new love relationship, free of baby demands and responsibilities, I listened as my friends ashamedly shared the truths about how a babies arrival had brought with it unexpected tension and conflict to their marriages.
A friend's husband quietly shared a lesson on parenting with me whilst his wife was in the babies bedroom trying everything she could to settle her baby. He confessed:"When you don't have kids, you look at all your friends struggling and you think- I'll be right. It won't be that hard for me - I secretly thought that too, but I was so wrong. It's humbling being a parent."

Watching my friends evolve into parents has been both inspiring and overwhelming. I no longer dream of neglected new born babies and have finally found more peace within the conflict of my desires. Whilst my baby free days continue I am clicking my heels and taking myself to what I would imagine is the most baby unfriendly place in the world- Burning Man. A thirty year old hippy arts festival of epic proportion located on the flat, hot, dusty plains of the Nevada desert. I'll be keeping my eyes out for Burning Man Bugaboos.

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