The first sentence of the first draft of this post read thusly: I’m a bit of a control freak. And then, for accuracy, I had to revise it, before my wife, my mother, my closest friends, or my doulas called me out.
I’m a control freak. No qualifier. No buying cuteness by quantifying my control freakishness – a bit, a smidge, a little. I like things to go a certain way. There it is.
And more than that – because I’m not a child, I can be flexible with a change in course – I like to believe I can control the outcome of situations. If I do my research, apply myself, and show up, I can make things happen the way I want them to.
But you know what has shown me that this isn’t the case? Motherhood. Holy crap.
When I was trying to get pregnant, I gave myself the requisite three cycles recommended by my doctor with minimal tinkering: no hormone therapy, no acupuncture, none of the extra measures. But when three cycles proved unsuccessful, I went into fix-it mode. Acupuncture, hormone therapy, herbal supplements. I cut as much stress as possible out of my life. I kept our attempts to conceive a secret from most people so that I wouldn’t have to process with too many people.
I read up on the reproductive cycle, on ovulation. I watched a long documentary about sperm. I peed on sticks – ovulation detectors, pregnancy tests.
I counted each cup of water I drank, ready to float my way to a baby.
When my period came, I stocked up on iron in my diet. When it was time to inseminate, I ate fresh fruits and veggies and got some rest. A week later, when I knew it should be time for any embryos to attach themselves to me, I ate soup and ginger and drank hot tea, making myself as warm and hospitable as possible.
I don’t have to tell you, with all that work, that each failed cycle devastated me. I took it as personal defeat. I wasn’t working hard enough, clearly. Maybe it was time for old wives’ tales? Maybe I needed more water? Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Maybe I needed to let go.
The thing I had to come to was that I had precious little control over the whole situation. And even though pregnancy was my goal, it wasn’t the final battle. Because then pregnancy presented things outside of my control (like when the baby decided to make his grand entrance). And then nursing presents things outside of my control: when you’re basically water-boarding your baby every time you feed him, and everyone smiles sympathetically and says, “ah, yes, a heavy letdown,” and you come to realize you cannot Google your way to a light, easy letdown. You have zero control. (Annoying.)
Motherhood has taught me many things – too many to articulate, things I’m sure I know in my bones but could never verbalize – but the extent to which I lack control is a recurring lesson. And now, every time I tumble down the Google rabbit hole, seeking answers about skin care or toys or art projects or recipes for purees, I recognize that I’m likely encountering one more situation with variables I can’t control.
I hate that.