I remember getting a welcome letter from one of the major formula companies. Something about joining the ‘sisterhood of motherhood’. I pitched the welcome letter in the trash, but somehow that phrase has stuck in my head, as they no doubt intended it to do. The joke is on you, though, I can’t remember which of the two big formula companies it was!
During my first pregnancy, I was appalled at the pregnancy forums. Those women spent an absurd amount of time ripping each other apart for claiming to have a bump at five weeks or claiming to feel movement at 12 weeks. This time around, I stayed on the forum and just clicked past the haters. I found that alongside that nastiness, there was true and genuine support. A woman suffering through a miscarriage or scare could depend on these same random strangers for encouragement, prayers, and advice. It reminded me of the way my sister and I fought each other, but how we always defended each other.
I was letting my toddler play in the toy aisle at Target last week. In the next aisle, I could hear another mom’s blood start to boil. Her three kids were clearly grating on her nerves. They wanted toys she couldn’t afford, wanted to go somewhere else, do something else. ‘Everything is always about y’all’,she said, bitterness in her voice. I herded my kid into her aisle and started up a conversation. It was her birthday and they had all been driving through town to Dallas to celebrate when their car broke down. They spent the birthday money on a hotel and fixing the car. She and the kids had walked to the store to get a few cheap pool toys so her kids could play in the pool. She was spending what little money she had on toys for her kids, despite it being ‘her day’. I hugged her and told her what a great mom she was and wished her a happy birthday. I treated her like my sister because I knew how she felt to be Mama Bear, whose porridge is always cold.
Another day, I was in Wal-Mart doing some grocery shopping. My toddler wanted out of the cart, so I let him help push the cart. I head down the wine aisle to grab the cheapest bottle of dry red wine they have for a drunken chicken recipe. He makes a beeline for the bottom shelf bottles. When I restrain him from the extremely breakable cheap wine, he throws a full blown tantrum. So there I am in the liquor aisle with a screaming toddler, pregnant and holding a bottle of wine. The picture of motherhood, right? I decide to sit next to my son and ensure his flailing arms and legs don’t catch any stray bottles and make this mortifying experience any worse. I keep my head down. If I see even one disapproving look, I am going to lose the fragile hold I have on my pregnancy tears. Another woman, presumably a seasoned mom, comes up behind me. ‘Ah, yes, that’s a fun age,’ she says. Then, she starts singing and dancing. Hands clapping, arms waving, shaking her butt, she sings the Mail song from “Blue’s Clues”. My toddler boggles at her. He laughs. He wants up. She smiles and waves and she is gone. I stare after her. ‘Thanks’, I call out belatedly, but gratefully. She had been there before and she knew just what to do.
I always loved Harry Potter. There’s that line where Mrs. Wesley says ‘Stay away from my daughter, you bitch!” I always laughed gleefully, because it’s such a woman power moment. The untold hero stepping up to her nemesis and kicking some ass. The first time I read it as a mom, I sobbed. Now, I really knew. It wasn’t the untold hero at all. She wasn’t just stepping up to her nemesis, it was all that and none of it. It could have been anyone, it could been all of them at once. Molly would still have put herself in front of Ginny. Without even considering another option. I understood that instinct. It’s a mom thing. And until that moment, that’s all Molly was. She was the mom. Cooking and cleaning. Nagging and worrying. Mending and budgeting. She was a part of the Order, but in the background. In this moment of battle, she takes center stage. She is fierce and brutally effective.
Motherhood is a sisterhood. Fighting over whose parenting idea is better, breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, vax or no vax. Banding together over spilled milk and dirty diapers. I didn’t expect that.