When I became a mother, I knew there were going to be a lot of things I would sacrifice. I knew I’d lose sleep, my pre-baby body, free time, any extra spending money… That’s what being a mother is, after all. You sacrifice things for yourself to give your children a better life. I knew all of these things going in and, with my best efforts, prepared as much as I could to give these things up.
However, nobody told me to prepare for my loss of dignity.
Dignity is something that I haven’t had in so long (5 years, actually—the age of my oldest child) that I am not even sure I understand what it means anymore. People always say you can’t understand somebody or something unless you’ve walked in their shoes or experienced the same things. I’ve gone so long without dignity that I can no longer relate to being dignified. Everything comes at a price, and I guess the price of bringing a child into this world cost any poise, respect, modesty, or decorum that I had beforehand. (Admittedly, it wasn’t much to start with. I wonder if that’s why my kids throw such a mean tantrum—it’s the universe’s way of making me still pay.)
Looking back, there are three clear stages where my dignity slowly dissipated, slipping away like smoke into the air. The three stages are:
This is where you slowly lose your self-respect and modesty. It happens slowly… so slowly that you might not even be aware that it’s happening. It starts with morning sickness. You find that you now spend most of your time in the company of a commode. At first it’s awful, but then you start finding peace in it. The floor is cool on your legs, counteracting your body’s newly found proclivity for sweating at an alarming rate. And the toilet doesn’t talk or annoy you like everybody else seems to be doing recently. Then the “undignification” progresses. Your clothes don’t fit, nor do your shoes. You pee more than you thought was possible but your bowels refuse to budge, almost as if they were nailed, glued, and cemented in your body. You also notice facial hair growing at the same speed as your leg hair, which you can no longer shave because, well, there is an actual person blocking you. This same person is also blocking you from cutting your toenails. In this first stage you essentially become a swamp monster—sweaty, hairy, and profoundly large and aggressive.
Labor and Delivery
This second stage is where you realize, like a slap in the face, that you have lost all but a modicum of dignity and decorum. Now, my water never broke on its own but, I would assume, depending on the location, time of day, and audience, that it could be a cause for one losing a little dignity. However, what makes this the most barbaric, undignified event is right before and during the pushing. As I mentioned before, I’ve never been the most well-behaved or decorous person. I’d be willing to bet, though, that even those of you that are let a few choice expletives escape your lips between trying to breathe. You may have even hit somebody. I, for one, yelled at the nurse because she was being “too damn chipper” while I was clearly dying. Seriously—I don’t need sunshine and lollipops… don’t try to entertain me or lift my spirits. Get this damn baby out of me. In hindsight, I owe that sweet nurse an apology. And thank you for actually getting that damn baby out of me. I digress… Anyway, to continue this progression of losing all dignity, your most private of areas, the ones that you’ve been taught your whole life are inappropriate to show off, are on display. It goes against every fiber in your being to willingly wrap your legs around your head so some stranger can go deep-sea diving with a head-flashlight in search of a baby head while no less than three other people watch. Then comes the grand finale. Your sweet, teeny infant emerges. Would you care to take a guess at what you also just delivered? Remember when I said you were constipated during pregnancy? Well, you’re not anymore. The doctors and nurses just got a two-for-one deal, all at the expense of your pride.
This is last stage, and it doesn’t really ever end. I have finally come around and accepted the fact that I will permanently be a hot mess—“That Mom.” The one whose hair is greasy, is late for almost every appointment, tows kids along on errands still in pajamas at 2:00 in the afternoon… I would like to think I fought a good battle over the possession of my dignity. My children won that battle, though. Just yesterday my own son locked me out of my house. If I had any dignity, I would have probably been embarrassed that, in front of the buses lined up waiting to pick up the school children (we live next to an elementary school), I had to climb up a ladder, cut the screen out of my kitchen window, and shove my five year old through it. I also know deep down that a part of me should be ashamed that I ate my children’s leftover breakfasts as my actual lunch today. Furthermore, just to make sure you get the idea, I recently got caught wearing a bathing suit top as a bra because I hadn’t done my own laundry because I had been washing pee-sheets. I was at a clothing store and the attendant saw me—bikini top, mom belly and stretch marks jiggling, the button on my shorts undone. You know what I did? I smiled and politely asked her for a larger size, with not even one single care to give.
To all the future mothers out here—hear this. Heed my warning: you can fight the good fight, but enjoy your dignity while it lasts. It won’t last for long. Any modesty, respect, or dignity that you have going into parenthood will quickly be destroyed. If you go looking for it, you can probably find it somewhere near the unicorn stables and fairy houses. Because it doesn’t exist. It will be just one more thing you sacrificed to experience the joy of motherhood.