Friday, September 11, 2009

Mother, Introverted

In a book I read recently (The Other Hand, Chris Cleave), the fictional female narrator was said to have taken two years after the birth of her son to emerge from the introverted phase of motherhood. This got me thinking - am I still in the introverted phase? Am I just introverted anyway? Or am I outwardly "normal" and just inwardly preoccupied with my own thoughts?

When her baby was 12 weeks old (and mine a similar age), a friend of mine said that she felt she was just coming out of the fog that she had been in since giving birth. At the time I thought that I was already out of that new-mother bubble; the bubble that makes you feel like nothing exists in the world apart from your baby, your house and a gigantic pile of dirty nappies. But I wondered if I was kidding myself; if I was really still lost in the fog but didn't know it.

Months later, with hindsight, I think I was correct back then and I had already broken out of my bubble. And now, at a year postpartum, I think I am still suffering maternal tiredness from broken nights but I am basically back to my old self. I have weeks when I have no desire to associate with anyone except my family, and weeks when I want to go to tots' groups every day. And, symetrically, I have weeks when I have no desire to go anywhere near the internet (like this week) and weeks when I am obsessed with it. I don't think I am caught in a spiral of introversion - in fact I deliberately build bridges so that I do have reasons to get out of bed each morning (aside from the baby-crawling-all-over-me reason).

But am I mistaken? Is there really an introverted phase that lasts as long as two years? Am I still in a fog so enveloping that I can't tell whether it is there or not? In another year, will I emerge from the mist, look back and realise how wrapped up I was in my baby for all that time? And does it even matter? Maybe the fog has a purpose. Maybe that fog is what helps mothers to give so much to their children without worrying about what they themselves have given up.

Who knows. I'll just keep trudging on, doing my best and hoping that I'm doing something right at least some of the time.


Lyndsey said...

a 2 yr fog?! I hope not!

I definitely feel as though I must have been in a fog for the first few months because I have THE hardest time remembering anything about those months. New Moms ask me questions, and I honestly cannot answer because I absolutely can't recall. Lol, I think it's your body's way of tricking you into wanting another baby :-)

willow81 said...

I think there's a difference between a 'fog' of tiredness/ general coping-with-a-new-babe-overwhelmedness, and what Bowlby (I think) refers to as "Primary Maternal Preoccupation", which is more of a psychological state of being in tune with your baby. I don't think I ever felt like I was in a fog, there have been moments of stress, tension, too-much-ness, but I wouldn't say foggy except for perhaps a couple of occasions when I was sleep-deprived. Interesting thoughts, thanks!

Liz said...

Yes, I agree with Willow, there are 2 kinds of 'fog'. I think I was in a fog of tiredness for about 4 or 5 months with my DD but only a couple of weeks with DS, but the maternal preoccupation definitely lasted for at least 10-12 months with DD, and probably would ahve been even longer with DS except that DD was older and needed me to kick myself out of it to go out and about with her.
For me, home feels the natural place with small babies, and indeed until they're walking confidently. But then, I am introverted naturally and would be som with or without babies...

Kimberly said...

Interesting post. Some tribal societies consider the post partum adjustment period to last 3 years. I haven't had kids myself, but I'm pretty introverted anyway, maybe everyone is just different?

Lisa - edenwild said...

I've never felt like I was in a fog, though "maternal preoccupation" may have been a suitable term. The first four months I did not want to do anything that didn't involve my baby, and even then I did not want to be apart from him for more than a couple hours. Even though it is gradually lessening, I do feel very preoccupied with him and I expect it to last until he is less needy. Even though they don't depend on us for everything the way a newborn does, toddlers are still very high-needs.

But introverted? No, if anything motherhood has helped me feel more fulfilled as a person and I have more confidence around others. Just a few weeks after he was born I wanted to get out of the house and socialize on a regular basis.

But...I think I do understand what the author is talking about. Just doesn't feel very "foggy" for me. Maybe in a couple years I will see it differently?

Maternal Tales said...

I don't think you ever really come out of the fog or preoccupation that is motherhood. When a certain part of the fog has lifted then it's time to have another baby!!

carol b said...

Whatever we decide to call it (fog sounds too negative to me, maternal preoocupation so distant/formal) for me I'd say that 'state' came into being about half way through my pregnancy and is still with me two + years later. But it has been an empowering, enlightening, positive feeling that has probably helped me be far less introverted than ever before.
thought-provoking post...Thank You!

Jessica said...

I love this theory because it would certainly explain my recent malaise and restlessness. As my son has become more independent and yet more challenging to keep occupied I am finding myself at a loss because I have painted myself into a mothering cocoon for the past (almost) 2 years.

I was so blissfully happy (and really quite satisfied) with staying in with my son and only seeing family that I failed to nurture any other mothering relationships or to nurture the extrovert in me.

I'm working on it all now. Suffice it to say, I would definitely argue that there is an "introverted" period that mothers naturally go through. The length is dependent on each individual, but yeah, it's there. (And ditto what @willow81 said - it was Bowlby.)

willow81 said...

"When a certain part of the fog has lifted then it's time to have another baby" LOL Maternal Tales, that's hilarious! (but pretty much where my thoughts are at the moment).

(Oh, and I was wrong, it was Winnicott who wrote about Primary Maternal Preoccupation)

Amanda said...

Wow! That "internalized" feeling is actually something a lot of women feel? It's like you're there, but always somewhere else. Yes, I agree with Willw81...not so much tired fog, but something else. It lasted about 2 years for me. And I still find it sneaks up on me ever now and again and Rowan is going to be 3 next month.

I've so got to read more Winnicot!