Cheese and Other Sacrifices

May 9, 2017


No one ever told me I was going to have to give up cheese for this gig.


That both my babies would react dramatically and terrifyingly with exposure to cow’s milk protein through my breast milk.

And that I would spend the next five years of my life (with the exception of the almost a yeardidn’t nurse between the two kids) trying to make peace with the taste and mouthfeel of almond milk in my morning tea.

This is one of the many things I didn’t realize motherhood might entail.

I think it might be hard to even imagine the possible scope of one’s experience – sacrifice and joy, all – when one stares down the precipice of motherhood, heavy with pregnancy.

After nine years of working with women having babies, it’s the most common phrase I hear muttered – or screamed, wailed even – by women:


I didn’t know it was going to be like THIS!”

No one told me it was going to be like THIS!”


I was trying to tell you, lady, I really was.  But in prenatal class your jaw just dropped in terror at the idea (of functioning on less than 3 hours of sleep for multiple years of your life, of spending the actual majority of your time breastfeeding, of never quite feeling like yourself again, ever again).  You heard me, maybe, but my warnings passed in through one pregnant ear and out the other, your hands rubbing your belly fondly.  Maybe you thought, “not me.”


But this is the problem:  it’s true…


No one tells you it’s going to be like this.  We’ve lost the sense of community that allowed women to truly see the rawness of motherhood before they became mothers themselves, and that same sense of community that supports mothers with a knowing smile, some homemade soup and a little hard-won breastfeeding advice.

And so women fumble through the early days of motherhood, before they’ve found – if they ever find – their right community, imagining that they must be utterly alone in their complex feelings of elation and sadness, joy and pain, thrill and terror.  Imagining that they must be *doing it wrong.*

No one tells you it’s going to be like this.  We devalue mothers and we fear their wild, awesome power, whitewashing them with the brush of perfection, denying them the potential of the powerful transformation into motherhood by insisting that there is a normal life to even return to, and that that normal life involves your old jeans, your old sex life, and hot cups of coffee.

And so women feel like failures because those old jeans, that old sex life, and those hot cups of coffee are never coming back.

No one tells you:  they were never supposed to.

No one tells you it’s going to be like this.  We have normalized (normalized!!) interventive, medical birth practices like epidurals and the widespread administration of synthetic hormones in a systemic distrust and fear of women’s bodies, only to find that those very interventions interfere greatly with mothers’ and babies’ hormone balance, directly impacting their ability to bond and increasing her likelihood of developing postpartum depression and anxiety.

And then you, dear, sweet new mama, are sent out into the tender, vulnerable world of motherhood literally devoid of physiological ability to thrive in it.  Without community, without support, and with expectations about your old jeans, your sex life, and hot cups of coffee.

And in the midst of it all, it feels like this whole thing is never going to end.

Well-meaning women tell you “this too shall pass,” but you’d like to know when, exactly.  Because you feel like you’re in survival mode and you thought there would be more playdates.  More tummy time or napping, or something.  Not this, surely.

In the midst of it all, you’re not sure where YOU are.

And you think something must be wrong.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this.  It’s so….all-consuming.”

Please hear me now, mama.


This is all part of it.


You are transforming into motherhood and you cannot – you simply can. not. – take your old self with you.

It is the absolute-most wonderful and painful thing that will ever happen to you, simultaneously.  And you’ll wonder how you can feel such extremes of emotion all the time, every day.

But remember:  though our overculture may have stripped women of the social structure to support this Rite of Passage, it still is a Rite of Passage that you’re going through, and it wouldn’t be a Rite of Passage without the trials you’re experiencing.  And you wouldn’t survive it without the joys.


But one day mama,

I promise you


you’ll put a few drops of milk in your tea and savour it that way, the metallic taste of almond milk a distant memory.

you’ll wake feeling a bit more rested.

you’ll go to yoga class, or the art studio, or sit at the piano again, and it will feel all the more delicious for your absence


One day, mama,

you’ll eat a whole pile of cheese again (even if, you know, metaphorically).


Your babies will lose their knuckle-dimples and their bodies will become gangly and unwieldy in your lap, desperate as they still are for the comfort of being there.

This too shall pass.

No one told you it was going to be like this.

But it has always been like this, and you will look back on it

all newly-minted, Fully Mama, crystallized, resilient, multi-faceted

fucking incredible

like a diamond forged of the Passage you’ve just bravely navigated.

Please remember, mama

I am in awe of your strength.

You are strong.

You are Mother.