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  • Writer's pictureJen Curtis

Motherhood: The Good, The Bad and The Totally Unfungible.

A (not cheesy, I promise) letter to my pre-children, Maiden self for the "We Are Mothers" Podcast.

(I will share the recording once it's released)

If you want to be notified when the podcast is out, or if you want to read other essays about motherhood in the modern age, subscribe to my emails.


Dear Jen,

I know you're fucking terrified. That you're totally unprepared.

I wish I could tell you it's going to be easy, that it'll come naturally.

But you've literally got no idea what's about to hit you.

I know you're scared that you won't have what it takes. That you'll turn out like your, our, mother.

And you definitely have no idea how much Motherhood will demand of you.

Or how fundamentally it will change you...

Or just how strong and resourceful you’ll turn out to be.

I can't yet tell you if you'll break the chains of generational trauma that have shaped your life.

But you'll have a good crack at it.

There's so much about becoming a mother that you'll never be able to quantify or explain.

There's so much that's completely un-commodifiable.

And It's all so fucking inconvenient.

Everything from the exhaustion of pregnancy, rendering you utterly useless, hangry and grumpy for 9 long months.

The final trimester where you'll clench your hips on a 10 minute walk, certain they'll fall off if you don't.

To the whole messy business of birth.

Little do you know you'll strut into your first birth, a pre and postnatal exercise specialist, having read all the books and done all the workshops, donning a text-book bump-only pregnancy and everyone telling you how you'll have an “easy” birth.

And you'll crawl out of it shaking and broken and wondering what the fuck happened.

The utter landslide of postpartum, with the boobs that leak when you don't need them to and never produce enough milk when you do, to the adult nappies and blood, the realization that you don't know how any of your body parts actually work, even though you're told it should come instinctively.

They say that "there's no such thing as a baby, only a baby AND someone" because they can't survive on their own.

You'll learn this very soon. But you'll also learn that, by extension, there's no such thing as a mother, only a mother and someone.

And despite how intensely you pride your independence and “self-sufficiency” right now, you'll come to understand that you're nothing, that you simply cannot exist without not only your baby, but without your husband, your family and your wider community.

That despite everything you've been told, relying on and needing these people, and them needing you, is not at all bad, it's actually wonderful, the one thing that's always been missing. It will make you feel whole.

Even though it will, somewhat confusingly, also make you feel like you’re just a part of a much greater, and much more important whole.

I don't know if that makes any sense, it's hard to explain how your baby feels like an actual part of you, like seeing your liver or spleen outside your body, or in someone's arms.

But at the same time, that you're only one part of whatever it is that you and they are together.


Then there's the sheer terror of this new life you're responsible for.

This little human, so tiny, so useless, so terrifyingly dependent on you. The heaviness of not only the fact that their physical needs must be met entirely by you… but the knowledge that you chose to bring them into this world, with all the pain and hardship you know they will inevitably face, and the weight of that heavy burden that you will carry for the rest of your life.

That you can never really protect them, because even if you wrap them up in cotton wool, you will fail cataclismicly to prepare them for the harshness of life.

But that at the same time, you can’t imagine your life without them, or life without the meaning they bring you. It sometimes feels selfish, but it also feels right, that this is what it means to be human, and you’ll have this chilling feeling that a life lived without it wouldn’t really be much of a life at all.

It may not surprise you to know that it'll take you time to bond with him, and you'll be terrified you won't have what it takes.

But it may surprise you to know that what will sting even more is the guilt of not being able to birth, or breastfeed or instantly become a perfect mother.

And then there's the judgement and comments of those that make you feel like you could or should have done something different.

A different position, a little shake of the hips here, a little wiggle of the leg there, a different hypnobirthing track, a little more patience or faith or one of those nice fabric things from India or Mexico or wherever that some rando doula told you about...

Then your home birth wouldn't have ended in an emergency c-section.

But MOST of all I think you'll be surprised to know that despite the pain of the incision, the sore tailbone that makes every position excruciating, the mastitis and your bruised ego...

... you won't want to give up any of it.

You won't want to give up the hard bits.

It's hands down the most difficult , most frightening, most unpleasant and inconvenient thing that you'll ever do.

Yet you wouldn't have someone else carry and birth the baby for you, nor would you grow him in a vat, if you could.

Despite pregnancy giving you a personality transplant and shattering your sense of self.

Despite the haunting memory of a 35-hour labour that ended in being cut open and sewn back together.

You won't want to give up the stretch marks, or your scar, or your slightly worse-for-wear boobs.

Despite the hair-loss and regrowth 2 years later that makes you look like your dad trying to grow out a mullet from the 80s.

Because the hard bits are somehow just as sweet as the sweet bits.

They are the completeness of your experience.

You look at these bits now with fear and dread and you only see their cost. You think how great being a mother would be if you could only avoid them somehow.

But you'll soon cherish them.

You won't want to outsource the sleepless nights, the early mornings, the needy baby that wants you and only you, for hours, everyday, for almost 2 years.

In a world where there are millions of indistinguishable carbon copies of humans much more perfect and interesting and better than you.

You are irreplaceable.

In a world of plastic and perfection and hyper-connection and a digital house of mirrors and taking the easy way and chasing endless hedonism and eternal youth.

They make you human.

They make you alive.

They make you a severely dysfunctional cog in the Machine.

But they'll somehow make you better.

And more complete.

Less effective in every way.

Less focused. Less productive.

But more loving. More loved. More important.

In a time when we talk about a mother's "unpaid labour" and attempt to put a price tag on our time, love and affection. In a time where outsourcing gestation or selling fertility are beginning to be technological possibilities…

When you feel resentful that it takes up so much of your energy, bandwidth and mental health…

When you lament the fact that your energy and time is being taken away from your ability to make money or work for a boss, or participate in the workplace as though you have nothing better to do and there is no greater calling…

They'll remind you that there's something about being human that can't be replaced or bought or sold or provided for by markets.

Something that isn't fungible.

That you aren't fungible.

Something sacred that you only get to see when you've done the hard bits and made it through the other side alive, if not totally intact.


Jennifer (Curtis) Amsalem

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