Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Impostor-Mom

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I wonder if I am the only mom who gets this feeling. I suspect not. It was during the early discussions of impostor syndrome in academia that I realized I have an impostor-mom syndrome much worse than my academic one (or maybe i am growing slowly out of my academic one, i don’t know).

I keep thinking it must be that it took me so long and so much effort to conceive, that I feel like I somehow don’t deserve the gift that is my child. That maybe it was never meant to be and I pushed it by doing IVF. But the faithful, the believer in me knows this: being childless or having a child was never in my hands or control. I believe in God and I know He gives and He takes away and He chooses when and where and how. I imagine a teenage girl not intending to get pregnant would feel like an impostor-mom sometimes, like she was never ready for the responsibility. I imagine a woman who gets pregnant thru rape and not love would feel like an impostor mom. But why would I, someone who has wanted to be a mom for so long (since i first saw an image of a mom breastfeeding a child when i was 16) feel this way?

Sure, for years i talked myself out of it. I knew i might never be a mom and reconciled myself with it. Loved my cousin’s kids. Considered adoption (not socially easy here in Egypt for many reasons; not something my husband or his family would have accepted).

And I think my compulsion to breastfeed came as a rebellious reaction to all the artificialness of IVF (and all the pain and suffering that came with it; wish i had been blogging back then), followed by C-section (i insisted i be kept awake thru it so i would see my child immediately and breastfeed her as soon as possible. It was also the only thing i would not have been able to do if i had adopted.

People tell me I need to let go of my mom guilt and not let people influence how i see myself as a mom. Today, after discussion w my mom and husband (both doctors) and a colleague at work (also doctor) we realized my girl’s growth issues might be tied to another issue we know about in one eye (optic nerve and pituitary gland apparently anatomically close; will spare you the details). And then someone mentioned something about the “quality” of the egg/embryo and it hurt. Oh God it hurt. As if choosing to do IVF (which, arguably, means the strongest embryo gets implanted) might have resulted in a child that would have some developmental anomalies. To my knowledge, there are no stats to support this, that IVF kids have more abnormalities than normally-conceived kids.

I’m not dramatizing this. All my kid’s health issues are inshallah treatable and minor compared to the vast pool of difficult health problems amy child could have or develop. I am just commenting on the cruelty of being made to consider the possibility that my choice to push luck with IVF would result in pain of any kind for my child.

For the first 6 months of my daughter’s life, she slept on my chest. Otherwise she’d wake up in minutes. As she grew older we co-slept coz it made night nursing simpler; and still do after weaning (tho i don’t sleep much so am only beside her 5 hours or so)

And yet…motherhood is not what i expected. They use the word love to express how a parent feels towards a child but it is such a mild word, a bland one. We love chocolate or we love the color blue or we love country music. We don,t love our kids. Its so much more complex than that. Its a love full of pain. And sweetness. And terror. And anxiety. And elation.

And yet I am incapable of feeling satiated by this. I cant (yet) spend a full day with no one but my child and feel satisfied and happy. Intellectual stimulation is like food for me, or maybe even more important than food and sleep. Almost as much as I need my daughter’s hugs. Almost. Do other moms not feel guilty for this? Or do they not need this? I don’t know

Does parenting affect men’s identity the same way it affects women’s? I see men transformed by fatherhood all the time, but wonder if for them it is an augmentation when for women it is a struggle (or is it just me?)

I gotta go

3 Comments

  1. Oh sweetheart! It’s terrible that anyone could make you think your daughters problems might be a result of the IVF. But as parents we are always vulnerable to guilt trips just because of that mix of love, terror, sweetness etc you describe so well. No advice but just wanted to snd u quick hug tonight when I read this x

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