When I was pregnant with Bigs, all of my sister-in-laws were pregnant too (my husband’s two sisters and my brother’s wife.) With my in-laws Bigs is part of the “triplets.” He is the youngest of the three but only by 3 months and 3 weeks, respectively.
At the very end of my pregnancy, my father-in-law asked the three of us mothers, “How much weight did each of you gain in your pregnancy?” First, nobody should ever ask a pregnant woman how much weight she gained? Second, nobody should ever ask anybody how much weight he or she has gained? Third, asking three pregnant/new moms how much weight they have gained to see who gained the most or least is pretty much begging for the apocalypse.
I love my father-in-law with a fierce loyalty. Yes, the same man who asked me the absurd. Just as I see my husband in Bigs in almost every way possible, I see my father-in-law in my husband. They are cut from the same cloth and share the name of our family’s patriarch. They are men of integrity, loyalty, honesty, and little filter.
Alarms were sounding in my head and the sinking feeling of nothing-good-will-come-from-this washed over me. Because of my unconditional love for the man who shared his DNA with my husband and the fact that I had waited 31 years to become a mother, I quietly redirected the conversation to something less world ending and divisive. Nobody wants to know how they stack up in pregnancy weight gain unless they are relatively certain that they are the winner and can feel especially virtuous in every food and exercise choice they have made over the past nine months when they compare to moms around them. This was my first foray into the comparisons of motherhood.
In the five years that have passed since the initial comparison: I’ve judged myself, I’ve judged others, I was a clear loser in the motherhood competition, and I’ve had a few quiet victories. I’ve been singed by words that were meant to make me feel like less than enough, so someone else could feel good about themselves. I have worked very hard to choose my words carefully, but have said things that as they escaped my mouth I wished I could recant. I have recognized that I’m in no position to judge anybody else.
The triplets are turning five, well, the oldest has already and the next two are close behind. Five years of comparing who is doing what first, who is developing what skill more quickly than the others, who is the best at what. It is easy for me to step back and recognize that mine likely won’t be the biggest or most coordinated and recognize that he is making strides in other areas developmentally. Really what matters when I look at the three of them is that they are all happy, healthy kids… flourishing in a family filled with love.
It makes me wonder why it is so hard as moms to step back and celebrate our accomplishments that are individual to each of us. Why we are often times walking around faking perfection when we really just need a hug and encouragement? What is it that makes us think if she can do it, I should be able to also? Is it possible to praise someone else for a choice that just wasn’t right for me?
Growing up my mom taught me that you don’t have to blow out another’s candle to make your own shine brighter. It’s not a comparison! In the darkness that is often motherhood, we need as much light as we can muster.