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Just Don’t Call Me Mama.

“Don’t call me Mama.”

I smiled when I said it, but I looked him directly in the eye so he would know I was serious.

Justin, seated next to me, shifted uncomfortably in his chair. I knew I’d done the exact thing he’d been hoping I wouldn’t do. In retrospect the faux pas was inevitable, given my outspoken personality, and it was only a matter of time until I exposed my general lack of regurgitative compliance with how a military spouse was expected to behave. Justin and I had only been married for a few months, but there was no point in dipping my demeanor in a vat of candied sprinkles — not even for the man who would potentially become Justin’s new Commander.

We were having breakfast, and Colonel Cox* (*name changed) seemed friendly enough. I sat there while he peppered Justin with questions and tidbits of information about the elective position he’d be filling. This was unusual for the military. It was an optional position — one for which Justin had to pass a series of interviews and psychological testing to even qualify, and meeting the new boss was the final step in what had been a tumultuous decision-making process for both parties. I’d been surprised I was invited to the out-of-state meeting, but this was a “family decision,” the Colonel insisted, and one we had to make together while knowing relatively little information about the job or its ramifications.

To say I was edgy would be an understatement.

So while Justin and the Colonel spent breakfast talking in acronyms and code, I sat quietly, practically demure, and worried about stepping out of line. Until Cox addressed me directly.

“So what does Little Mama think about all this?” He smiled, and the crows feet around his eyes creased deeply when he did it. He appeared to be genuine, trying to be friendly, and his question warranted a genuine response.

“Don’t call me Mama.” I laughed and took a sip of my O.J.

It was out before I could think about it. I would have told this man not to call me “Mama” in the years before I’d been a military spouse, and there was no reason that had to change after. My words were not a sign of disrespect, as some might jump to conclude, but rather a request for it. The challenge dripped between us like a thick coat of latex paint. No one wanted to touch it. I could sense Justin’s urge to wipe it smooth, but he wasn’t sure what to say. So Cox silently assessed me. It only took a moment, but I’m sure to Justin it felt much longer.

The Colonel smiled, and then laughed. There wasn’t a single hint of hidden condescension in his response. “What does Katie think about all of this?” he corrected.

So I smiled back, and I told him.

It had only taken a few direct words, a few strenuous seconds, but I’d unwittingly set a precedent for my role throughout the remainder of Justin’s career. And it wasn’t one of a stay-at-home Air Force mom.

It turns out we’d all be waiting another 11 years for that hilarious twist.

That’s right, kids. Justin and I finally decided to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid back in October, and we are now the soon-to-be proud, exhausted, sour-milk smelling parents of a bouncing baby girl. (Suffice to say, I’ve changed a bit since this post.)

We’re fairly certain she has 2 X chromosomes because even I could identify the tiny labia in the ultrasound. I know she’ll be bouncing because it often feels as though she’s doing calisthenics in my uterus. But that, really, is about all I know. I’m quickly finding out that the rest of this pregnancy business is a slowly-evolving crapshoot. And sometimes I even mean that in the literal sense.

Now that I’m 24 weeks pregnant (I swear that’s not pretention — they train you to count everything in weeks), I’ve been struggling with something I imagine many moms-to-be struggle with — especially those of us who had been fairly ambivalent about having children:

How do I keep this new thing about myself from becoming the only thing people see?

bump-sidebyside-2017-04-04

No, really. How?

I’ve been inundated with “bump” photo requests ever since we quietly began to make it known I was “with child,” hence the awkward selfies above. This is how we made the announcement social media official a couple of days ago. Basically I told people I’d eaten too much brie over the winter, and this is why taking a photo from the proper angle is so important.

As well-meaning as all of the bump requests are, I don’t think it will ever stop feeling weird to me when anyone other than a pre-deployment Justin asks for photos of my body. Curiosity is natural, and I’m honestly flattered when friends and family ask how I’m feeling or want to see how my body is changing. I’m just not used to people wanting me to stand in front of the lens. And I wasn’t eager to put it out there for various reasons — the biggest (and most selfish, perhaps) is that I don’t quite feel ready to be only a mom in the eyes of the world.

Or maybe, if I’m being honest, I don’t want to be only a mom in the eyes of myself.

In my own eyes?

In the mental image of my inner eyeballs?

You know what I mean.

I’ve also built quite the network of fun and interesting child-free friends over the years, and a part of me is afraid I’ll lose them beneath a pile of baby-related concerns or that they’ll feel like I’m abandoning them for the realm of super-absorbed parenthood. And it would be naive to think I’m not going to change a little, that foremost in my mind won’t be the survival of this dependent little creature, but also I’m still going to be me, guys. Just with, you know, a baby. And bigger breasts. And possibly a smashing new wide-set vagina.

So trying to wrap my head around all of that while absorbing as much as I can about how to be a good parent and figuring out how this whole birthing thing works and sorting through the mountain of baby and maternity hand-me-downs we’ve been gifted from friends and family (seriously — if there’s one advantage to waiting until your mid-thirties to have a kid, aside from your prenatal caregivers consistently referring to you as “geriatric,” it’s all of the free stuff parents of older children want to unload on you!) has occupied much of my mental space as of late. That, and questions like:

How much is my life about to change?

Will we still be able to afford to travel?

Will we WANT to travel?

Will I still have time to work and write when there’s a baby in the house?

Will I still have time to work and write when there’s a TODDLER in the house?

How do I keep my kid from becoming a picky eater?

How will I deal when she tells me she hates me?

Why am I getting this intense pain in the upper right side of my back?

What the hell is that in my underwear?

Do I really need a Mamaroo/Babocush/PackNPlay/BabyGym, or can I just dangle a cat toy over the kid and call it a day?

And that’s not even the half of it.

But all of these things are things we’ll figure out as we go. And in the meantime I can continue to strive to still be me. If the Colonel could accept that fact, then so can everyone else. In the years that followed that initial conversation, I’d hear some of the wives complaining about Cox’s condescending remarks, and I’d tell them — while it’s not okay for someone to assert the identity he’s assumed for you, it’s certainly okay for you to correct him when he does. I’d never had a problem with him after that first conversation because he couldn’t claim ignorance about how I felt.

So.

I’m going to be a mom, and hopefully a decent one. But I’m still going to ask that you don’t call me Mama. It’s a head thing.

Katie

Thank you for reading Domestiphobia! Knowing you stopped by totally validates the time I spend here, so leave a comment! I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and if you want to connect!

Comments

Sue
Reply

Congratulations, Katie and Justin!! What a great article and announcement!! Happy for the entire family!! 🎉❤

Katie
Reply

Thanks, Sue! I bet you could give some excellent advice on how to get my kid to love travel. ;)

Dalene
Reply

You are going to be an AMAZING mom! I’m totally sending you some cat toys. And a snuggly once I figure out what that is.

Katie
Reply

Ha, thank you!! I seriously think I might be on to something with this cat toy idea — maybe I should design a “baby toy” based on one.

Colleen Brynn
Reply

LOVE this! I appreciate that you wrote about your vagina, uterus and breasts in one post. Well done, ha!

Katie
Reply

I also alluded to bowel movements with the “crapshoot” bit. Had to squeeze ’em all in. #lifegoals

We3Travel
Reply

Congratulations Katie!! The nice thing about having a kid as a geriatric mom is that you know who you are. That definition is going to change and evolve but you have had time to figure it out in the first place. That girl is going to have a good time with you and I can just imagine the strong, funny, spitfire she will become. (and yes, you will still want to travel!)

Katie
Reply

If my kid turns out HALF as amazing as yours, I’ll consider it a job well done! And I like your take on the geriatric mom thing — I think you’re mostly right. I don’t know *exactly* who I am, but I certainly have a better idea than I did when I was in my 20’s.

Anthony
Reply

Congratulations to you both!

Katie
Reply

Thanks, Anthony!

Adventurous Kate
Reply

What a lovely surprise and wonderful news! Honestly, you’re my second friend who I assumed chose to be child-free, then surprised with a pregnancy announcement after 10+ years with her husband. I’m so happy for you both!

And yes — YOU GET TO DO YOU. That means not posting photos if you don’t want to, and telling strangers you don’t want to be touched. This is your life! You get to do it your way! And I think after having been together for so long, you both have a better idea of who you are as a family and what kind of parents you want to be. (But seriously, it would be great if we got rid of the term “geriatric pregnancy.”)

Katie
Reply

When I told my brother he asked, “Does this mean you’re going to post one of those photos with the 3 pairs of shoes to announce?” And I said, “I think I’m just going to wait and post a picture of the baby crowning.” He said, “At least that would be different!”

Thanks, Kate! And you’re right — we’ve thought and talked much more about how we want to parent than we would have 10 years ago. I’m not saying it’s better, but it’s definitely better for us. And your assumption was actually a fairly safe bet — I had a plan for a longer-term birth control option fully in place (appointment made and everything), and we suddenly went, wait. Maybe we should give this kid thing a try? (Okay, maybe we’re *not* more mature than we were in our 20’s.)

Kori
Reply

Sorry I called you sexy mama 😳

Katie
Reply

I should’ve added the disclaimer that it’s *totally* okay if you throw a “sexy” in front of it. 😂

Kalani Patterson
Reply

Well said. :) And best wishes to you both! Hope we can all travel together someday, and disprove some myths together. ;)

Katie
Reply

YES! I’m pretty sure we would have a blast. I usually don’t like to return to places I’ve already been, but I’ve been dying to get Justin to Italy, and especially the Amalfi Coast. Ooh ooh! And I’d like to go back to Ibiza. Oooh! And there’s this really spectacular home I stayed at in Sweden on this wonderful family’s gorgeous property. I always thought that would be an amazing place to return to with couples and kids. Anyway we’ll talk. ;)

Caressa
Reply

You’ll still want to travel, but it will be difficult for a while. Sometimes you’ll want to travel more than you’ve ever wanted to travel in your life.

Continue to resist the sometime inevitable decline into “ONLY A MOM.” It is consuming and overwhelming and wonderful and stressful and terrible and lovely and it is so much, so quickly that sometimes, oftentimes, really … that’s who you become. Just a mom. Rage against the dying of your light.

It lets up eventually. This, too, shall pass, etc. But it is … a force. Motherhood.

And by the time she tells you she hates you, you’ll probably hate her a little, too. But in the, “I couldn’t ever really hate you ever, ever, not ever” kind of way. I hear that, too, shall pass.

Katie
Reply

This whole comment cracked me up. I will totally rage against the dying of my light! And I’ll also try to nurture hers. Damn, this parenting thing is going to be even harder than I thought…

Julia
Reply

Congratulations! And as a “geriatric” mom myself, I can say, you will have a whole different perspective on parenthood than those who had them younger. I really feel I appreciated the magic of the baby and toddler years a lot more than my friends who had their kids in their 20’s.

You will be able to do what you decide you need to do. Just remind yourself regularly that kids with unhappy mothers are not happy kids, and make sure you have the time you need for yourself. There are “mothers day out” programs, etc. to help out with that. Nap time is also awesome! My child took naps until he was in school. No way I was going to let him stop.

As far as the identity thing . . ummm, yeah. Good luck with that! I will never forget when my son was about 3 and at the Mama, Mama, Mama stage, I turned around and told him I was changing my name. Total meltdown, and I felt horrible. He’s 13 and I am finally regaining my identity, but it is as “Mrs.” now. Grrrrrr

Katie
Reply

I hadn’t thought about that angle of “geriatric” parenting! I bet you’re completely right.

I also appreciate your advice on taking time for myself. That’s (obviously) something I’m big on now, and I’ve often worried that people would find it selfish if I occasionally needed my own time, or sent Justin on a walk with the baby so I could do yoga… that sort of thing. But you know what? Another great thing about being in my 30’s is that I care a LOT less about what other people think.

Ha! Telling your son you’re changing your name? Priceless. We all have our moments. :)

Stephanie Yoder
Reply

Katie, I’m so excited for you and I 100% understand so much of what you wrote in this post. Having given birth to my own bouncing baby girl last year (seriously she bounces all the time- what is that?), I can tell you it’s a mindfuck, and a rollercoaster and terrible and wonderful all at the same time. I never really wanted a baby all that much before I had one, and yet I love her more than I thought possible. It’s weird and also cool.
Anyways, happy to chat anytime about those questions you posted- I’m still figuring most of them out too!

Katie
Reply

Absolutely! I know my situation’s a little unusual in that I’ll be working from home. My job isn’t really one that will make up for the cost of child care, so I’m going to have to figure out how to balance both. Thank you for the encouragement — expect to hear from me in the near future.

addie north
Reply

Congratulations!!! I have no doubt that you’ll stay the same witty, brilliant writer in spite of becoming a mother!

Katie
Reply

Aw, thanks Addie! I really appreciate that.

Christina Conte
Reply

I am absolutely elated for you, Katie! I know your questions are rhetorical, but I’m going to answer them anyway, from my point of view (a 50 year old with my kids now being 19 and 22). Because heaven knows, everyone and their mother want to advise you when you’re pregnant, right?! ;)

How much is my life about to change? Infinitesimally, but all POSITIVE. It is an incredulous experience.

Will we still be able to afford to travel? Yes (I have inside info that I’m willing to share. I just booked a RT nonstop ticket to Barcelona from LA in JUNE for $299. Other dates were $249.)

Will we WANT to travel? HELL, YEAH. Start them young and you will reap the rewards as they will be excellent travelers as toddlers and beyond. My 19 year old just traveled all over Europe for 2 weeks, planned and paid for it all herself. My 22 year old son met her and her friends in Barcelona and then flew on to Paris when they went on to Milan.

Will I still have time to work and write when there’s a baby in the house? Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m amazed when I look back at some of the things I accomplished when my kids were tiny.

Will I still have time to work and write when there’s a TODDLER in the house? See above.

How do I keep my kid from becoming a picky eater? Apparently, there’s a “thing” that you do, and it works. It takes the power struggle out of the equation and it makes total sense to me. French children and kids from other countries are NOT picky eaters. It’s a cultural thing.

How will I deal when she tells me she hates me? She won’t mean it and you’ll deal.

Why am I getting this intense pain in the upper right side of my back? I didn’t have that, but trust me, when I was as pregnant as you, I looked like the Michelin man ((literally).

What the hell is that in my underwear? Did anyone tell you you won’t get monthly cramps after having a baby? I had no clue, but it was true!!!

Do I really need a Mamaroo/Babocush/PackNPlay/BabyGym, or can I just dangle a cat toy over the kid and call it a day? I leaned towards the latter, simply because we couldn’t afford to buy things that are useful for 3 months at a time.

My advice to you: when strangers will see your baby and say, “Enjoy them now because you’ll blink and they’re grown.”, believe them.

Congratulations, Katie!

Katie
Reply

Haha! I appreciate ALL of your answers. And I’m not one to shy away from advice. Another advantage of being in my 30’s is that I’m much more capable of picking and choosing the advice I want to follow, but I’m VERY open to learning from the experiences of others.

Now. All of this is excellent. But the thing I have to know right now? HOW DID YOU SCORE THOSE BARCELONA TICKETS??!

Andi
Reply

I seriously had to read your Facebook post three times before I realized what was happening and then I was just in shock – you know, because it is all about me! Then I went away for a week to visit my parents and this post came out. I literally check over here every couple of days in case I missed a post and you snuck one in. I feel like they have peeled one off from the group, like the zombies grabbed hold of your leg and now you are one of theirs. Of course, I am totally kidding and am happy that you a good head on your shoulders pre-baby so post-baby should be the same! Congratulations to you and Justin, I hope that it is everything that you want it to be and that you get to still be you. I would have all the same questions as you, so I will be keenly observing. In all seriousness, I am worried that this might be the nail the permanently closes the coffin on your blog, you aren’t writing much now, when the little girl comes along you will have less time and energy, however, selfishly, I hope you power through but I love your blog and I love your style! The Katie way of doing things – including motherhood is awesome!

Katie
Reply

Ha! The zombie analogy is perfect — I’ll admit I feel that way a bit too. ;) I know I haven’t been blogging as much lately, but that’s more because I’m trying to dedicate my time to other writing endeavors. I’m not sure I see it closing “permanently” since it’s hosted by a good friend, and a big part of me thinks the increased limitations on my time are going to actually be *more* motivating when it comes to prioritizing how I use it. Maybe I’ll stop wasting so much time in front of the dang television and actually write more! That is, once I train the kid to sleep through the night like a good little human. Ha. One can dream!

diana
Reply

Hi Katie!!! Just saw your post and am so excited for you….you look beautiful!!! But when you come back to Italy with your bambino….everyone will call you “mammmmma”….che bella mamma for sure!

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