9.18.2014

because any fool can post a facebook meme.

I'll spare you my conspiracy theories about the world trying to drive me completely insane, but, dude, there is this thing going around Facebook that makes me want to hurl myself out of a window. By thing, I mean this meme that is constantly being posted in one of it's evolutionary forms. It typically starts with "any fool can make a baby" and contains some variation of the lines "real moms are the ones who raise their kids," "real dads are the ones who raise their kids," "just having a baby doesn't make you a mom/dad, raising a child makes you a mom/dad," "you're only a mom/dad if you raise your children." There are seemingly infinite versions of this meme in all sorts of fonts and colors with different variations of the wording but the same message. And each poster is all "yes! This!" as they share. They're all "exactly! You're not a mom just because you gave birth! I raise my kids!" Each time I see it pop up I gulp a little harder and scroll through a little faster. After the seemingly 59th time said meme was shared in an eight hour span, I put my phone down and began this evening's bedtime routine. The teeth were brushed, the stories were read, the songs were sung and then I laid next to Ethan as he fell asleep for the night. And, after having read that meme for the seemingly 59th time in an eight hour span, I thought about it in the dark and felt the tears sting at my eyes.

So for every "yes, this!" I just want to shout "No! Not this!"

I am a mother to two children. I'm sorry that you, meme sharer, never got to see my second child. That probably makes it less real to you. I get it. I typically need to see things to believe them, too. But I saw my second child. In fact, I held her in my arms and breathed in that new baby smell and saw her darkened fingernails and kissed her little rosebud mouth that fell open just slightly. She looked like her daddy, nothing like her brother who looks just like me. Maybe when you think about my kids, you think about Ethan, who looks just like me. She didn't. She had her daddy's curly hair, the "Corey Matthews hair," as I always called it. She would have hated it when she was a teenager, I can promise you that. She would have cringed each time a stranger said, "oh, I wish I had your hair." Anyway, I held her in my arms and cherished every moment with that stiff body and ran my hands across her fingers that didn't close around mine. Like her brother, she was bigger than most babies her age and I was grateful for that because she looked perfect in the outfit her brother wore on his first night home from the hospital. You see, "ride to the funeral home" was my daughter's "first night home from the hospital." It doesn't really have the same ring to it. I'm sorry that you didn't get to see how beautiful she looked in it, though, because of the fact she never got to come home and thus be the subject of my 500 Instagram photo posts her day. "Have you started trying again?" My neighbor asked me this as I stood at the mailbox and felt like my knees would give out from under me if I even attempted to answer this. Try again? I shook my head and all but ran with my stack of mail into the house. Maybe that's what most people think, because they never saw her. They thought she was there on ultrasound and then she wasn't. That she disappeared into the universe. That I am mourning something that I wanted in my head but didn't physically have. Maybe that's normal human assumption but, I assure you, I had her. I had her in a drug-free, vaginal delivery -- this pro-c-sectioners worst nightmare to begin with -- and felt every inch of her leave my body. I held her like I did Ethan, but she didn't cry. She wasn't warm. But she was real and, I assure you, I am her mother.

I am her mother even though I don't get to raise her. Maybe all I did was give birth and push out a body that never got to take a breath, but you, meme-sharer, cannot trivialize that. My husband was the other "fool" that made her and he doesn't get to raise her, either. Neither of us do. But I promise you, we are her parents. We will always be her parents.

Maybe you, meme-sharer, know someone who had a baby and was an epic failure at parenting. Maybe they changed their minds and didn't want to be a mother or father anymore. Maybe they thought they had no choice but to be a mother but were too selfish, too addicted, too something to devote themselves to the role. Maybe they were a reluctant father who was too young, too broke, too selfish to be a father and so they just decided to pretend they weren't physically one. In that case, I'm sorry. I'm sorry you know someone who sucks so hard at being a parent that you had to share a meme about them because somehow the fact they aren't living up to your parenting standards is an insult to the Throne of Parenting Win that you sit yourself on top of. I'm sorry that pointing out that other people suck at being a parent somehow affects you so much that you feel the need to take to social media to point out how much better you are, because you raise your kids. But take a step back from all the applause you're giving yourself because, meme sharer, I think you don't think. I think you don't know the power of your words (or your JPEG). I think my own heart hurts a little for the man or woman reading your post who is struggling with infertility -- you know, since "any fool can make a baby." I think of that person sitting there feeling worse about themselves than they unfairly already do. Or the people who have lost their children (I'm raising my hand and giving you the side-eye, meme sharer) and don't get the chance to raise them. The people who have lost a child either during pregnancy, at birth or beyond; the people who are still parents even if the only claim to parenting they have is the birth that you claim doesn't count. It counts. Spare me your "that's not what I meant" because -- it counts.

So, enjoy your social media time. Goodness knows I do, more than I should. Share your parenting articles. Splatter your timeline with your opinions about breastfeeding and diapers and car seats and electronics. Have a go at it all. But, please, don't try to define what makes someone a parent. Don't pat yourself on the back for seeing your kids through from birth to their high school graduation because not every parent gets that chance and, I promise, it doesn't make you more of a parent. Not everyone can make a baby and not everyone can raise their kids. And maybe some people royally suck at parenting, fine, I get it -- but there's no reason to punish the people who wouldn't, if only they got the chance to prove it.

4 comments:

  1. This made me tear up. We definitely need people to be more sensitive about things like this. Memes and sayings like this are hurtful, even if it's just because people are being clueless about what it might mean to somebody else. And memes like this are annoyingly common. I often think things like you did: "No, not this!" but I'm not ever brave enough to say anything. I'm very sad about your daughter. My thoughts are with you.

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  2. I'm so sorry. I've seen that meme and totally agreed with it. I saw it as telling parents that neglected their children that they're just biological parents, not the kind that care and raise they're children with love. I didn't see it as taking anything away from parents that lost their children too soon, and who lost the opportunity to raise them. I'm sorry, I didn't see it Ike you explained and we should be more mindful of the words we use because choosing to neglect your children and not getting the opportunity to raise your children are two very different things and should never be bunched together. You are a mother, two kids.

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  3. I've totally seen these types of memes before. I usually shy away from any parenting memes in general because people are very sensitive about their kids and for good reason. As a single mom it's a cool sentiment that people are backing up my theory that if you've never met or raised your kid BY CHOICE (our situation) then you are not their parent. But that's the important part... it's if it's by choice. If you've lost a child and therefore were not blessed with the chance to raise them, then you don't fit into that category and I hope you can think of that when you see these things. This is exactly why parenting memes are a bad idea... everyone has been in a different situation and the world of children and parents is too complicated to make jokes or statements so casually and publicly.

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