From the celebrated author of The Dance of Anger comes an extraordinary book about mothering and how it transforms us -- and all our relationships -- inside and out. Written from her dual perspective as a psychologist and a mother, Lerner brings us deeply personal tales that run the gamut from the hilarious to the heart -- wrenching. From birth or adoption to the empty nest, The Mother Dance teaches the basic lessons of motherhood: that we are not in control of what happens to our children, that most of what we worry about doesn't happen, and that our children will love us with all our imperfections if we can do the same for them. Here is a gloriously witty and moving book about what it means to dance the mother dance.
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May 01, 1999
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Excerpt from The Mother Dance by Harriet Lerner
Conception and Birth: A Crash
Course in Vulnerability
I became pregnant in the old-fashioned way. I never believed that I would really become pregnant because the thought of having an entire person grow inside your body is such a bizarre idea that only lunatics or religious fanatics would take for granted the fact that it might actually happen. And then there is the matter of getting the baby out, which is something no normal person wants to think about.
I was thirty when I became pregnant for the first time. Before this pregnancy, I had not experienced one maternal twinge. When my friends would bring their infants in little carrying baskets to dinner parties, I felt sorry for them (the parents) because the whole thing seemed like so much trouble. "Oh, yes," I would chirp with false enthusiasm when asked if I would like to hold one of these tiny babies. But I was just being polite or trying to do the normal-appearing thing. I always sat down before allowing anyone to hand me a baby because I'm something of a klutz and I knew that if anyone was going to drop a baby it would be me.
To say that I was not maternal is an understatement of vast proportion. I enjoyed adult company, and my idea of a good time did not include hanging out with babies who were unable to dress themselves, use the toilet, or make interesting conversation. By contrast, my husband, Steve, truly loved babies and never worried about dropping them. We always planned to have children, but not, on my part, out of any heartfelt desire. I just thought that having children was an important life experience I shouldn't miss out on, any more than I wanted to miss out on live concerts or traveling through Europe. Although I thought having children seemed like the thing to do, I put it off as long as I reasonably could.
As soon as I got the news that I was pregnant, however, I was bursting with self-importance and pride. I wanted to grab strangers in the supermarket and say, "Hey, I may look like a regular person, but I'm pregnant, you know!" The fact that other women had done this before me didn't make it feel any less like a miraculous personal achievement.
My confidence inflated even more when I sailed through my first trimester without a flicker of nausea or discomfort. I took credit for the fact that things were moving along so swimmingly, and I concluded that this was a "good sign," that maybe I was suited to motherhood after all.
But at the beginning of my second trimester I began spotting, then bleeding. My doctor asked if I wanted to consider having an abortion because the baby's risk of brain damage was significant. Sometimes I wouldn't bleed at all and I'd be filled with hope, and sometimes I'd really bleed and think that Iýor the babyýwas dying. I felt panic-stricken, filled with a mixture of terror for our dual survival and of utter humiliation at the prospect of ruining someone's expensive couch.