I’ve been contemplating the best way to begin this post for a couple of days now. You’d think I was performing a first-time tracheotomy for all the second-guessing I’ve done. Do I simply introduce myself as the newest blogger for Mothering? List my finest maternal credentials? Bust out my bragging rights for the number of years I’ve worn babies or cool places I’ve given birth?
The thing is, every time I’d start to describe the details of my mothering experience, I’d run into some tiny triviality that – if exposed – would immediately shed light on my slightly-less-than-perfect parenting.
For example, while I can say with all honesty that my first two babies wore nary a disposable – that I line-dried those nappies like weather-whitened, sun-sanctified prayer flags – my memories of baby number three are slightly more … colorful. There was the commute from hell, the side-of-the-road diaper emergencies, the desperate shoving of soiled pre-folds into whatever plastic bag could be salvaged among the floorboard trash (lest I be offed by oncoming traffic) and the eventual discovery of said pre-folds by the family member with the keenest sense of olfaction (that would also be me).
Then there was that one desperate morning that I vaguely remember hiding a disposable diaper beneath my baby girl’s woolies before a La Leche League meeting. But then, I was the leader and I did have a precedent to set and, uhhhh, well, you can see my dilemma (and I haven’t even mentioned baby number four).
So, I’ll skip the bragging rights and cut straight to the chase. My name is Beth Berry, I’m 34 years old and I am a B-average mother. My daughters – now 5, 7, 11 and 17 (go ahead, do the math) are my greatest source of pride, my most relentless teachers and the root of a growing and soul-felt certainty: our collective cultural quest for feminine flawlessness is among the worst things to have happened to the mainstay of motherhood. Add to this the devaluation of local community, a societal obsession with consumption and an ever-increasing pace of daily life and, well … someone really ought to be blogging about this stuff.
I was seventeen when my first daughter was born. Eager and anxious as any other new mom, I prepared a corner of my bedroom with all the assumed necessities and usual plushy trinkets of affection. That first night – she fast asleep in her cradle and I wide awake in my bed – all I remember thinking was that I couldn’t hear her breathing, that I wanted to smell her tiny little head,that she might be cold or hungry or scared, that she was too far away. Tentatively, yet assured by something deep and certain and calming, I crossed the room, scooped up my girl and tucked her in beside me.
I had never heard of co-sleeping, I just did it because it felt right. In much the same way, I didn’t know a single person who’d nursed a toddler, but something told me the doctor’s recommendation of six months wasn’t long enough.
I still remember the giddy feeling I had when I ran across my first copy of Mothering magazine a few years later. Apparently, lots of other people followed their babies’ cues and and I wasn’t crazy for questioning vaccinations and there were options beyond those plastic/elastic Gerber diaper covers! (I know, most 21-year-olds aren’t quite so enthused by subjects such as these, but then I’ve never been much for fashion.)
Twelve years, three more babies and a few (hundred) lessons later, we’ve relocated to southern Mexico, the kids are all (finally) in school and I’m working as a freelance writer. When the opportunity arose to write for Mothering, I was on it like a tike on a trike. Not because I’ve finally reached some critical mass of maternal wisdom or parental perfection (on the contrary, you know what they say about the more you know), but because the longer I live and more of the world I experience the more certain I am of one thing…
There are a million aspects of modern culture that could be eliminated or replaced with little consequence to humanity and motherhood is not one of them.
About Beth Berry
Beth Berry is a writer, mother of four daughters and born idealist living the real life. When she’s not orchestrating the household, she can be found in one of several precarious yoga poses, wandering indigenous Mayan food markets, or holed up in a sunny southern Mexican cafe with her laptop, a shade grown dark roast and a contemplative look on her face. Having lived against the grain as a baby-slinging, toddler-nursing, secondhand-shopping, wanna-be farmer for 17 years, she and her family decided to ditch the rat race for a taste of life abroad. Now, in addition to challenging conventional wisdom, she writes about her life-changing experiences working among women in extreme poverty and oppression. Keep up with her musings and adventures in imperfection at www.revolutionfromhome.com.