“Why the cover?” a.k.a. “The Birth of This Book, Part 4”
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
So why is my face covered?
- I want the reader to be able to see herself in that situation.
But perhaps more important…
- This picture represents that loss of identity that new mothers experience.
When you are hanging in that transitional space between who you once were and who you are not quite yet, you experience a profound loss of self. All of the tasks of caring for a newborn remind you hourly of your shifting priorities—baby first, then tend to your aching body, then feed your hungry stomach, and if you have time, allow your tired self to sleep.
I am faceless because this is no longer about me. It is the final humbling that new motherhood imposes on a woman. After the birth, attention suddenly shifts away from you and to the baby.
Certainly, part of you is happy to see so many people coo over this tiny new life that came from you. This is the sacrificial part of motherhood that everyone reveres and respects. It says, “Don’t worry about me… I just care that my baby is okay.”
But what about that other voice?
The voice of the tired woman in you whose body was just ravaged by a baby being pushed out or pulled from you. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that suddenly screams out, “Hey! HEY! I’ve just been put through the wringer here! How about a hug or some kind words? No? Then, get the hell out of my house so I can get some decent sleep! I’m exhausted! Do you know that I haven’t slept in 48 hours?”
That is the voice we don’t want to acknowledge. It exists, but we don’t like it to speak because it challenges that notion of what it means to be a good mother. We think it makes us bad mothers. So we shut it up. We tell it to be quiet. We tell it that it is not allowed to exist.
Or worse, we deny that it’s there.
Through this shift in attention and society’s expectations of new mothers, we are humbled.
This humbling serves a purpose. It crushes and grinds the borders of your identity into fertile soil so that a new identity can take root and grow. Pieces of you may remain the same, but they are now rearranged and reordered according to your new roles and responsibilities.
And why the title? Why “Becoming Mother?”
It’s a reference to the common experience that all new mothers go through. “Becoming a Mother” doesn’t connect with the reader and tell them that there is any reason to care about this book. If I were that reader, I would immediately think, “Who cares about you becoming a mother? Good for you. I’ve got my own story, thank you very much.”
But the title “Becoming Mother” refers to the common experience of identity shift that all mothers go through. The identity of mother transcends cultures, countries, and time itself. It is why I was able to so easily chat with a Qatari mother at a conference this past May. It is why I have something to say to the mother in the chairs across from me in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. It is why I now have different reasons for crying about anytime I yelled at my mother when I was a teenager—I can now empathize with how much those words probably hurt her.
Continue reading My Gift to You, First-Time Mothers