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Navigating The Dark Seas Of Maternity: Eight Wonders of a New Mother's Underworld

By Joan Bechtel

Mother Nature shanghais us into procreation with visions of swan-drawn gondolas skimming across a lotus-rimmed lake. Okay, we expect there'll be some rowing, seasickness and the occasional snapping turtle. But what happens when we find ourselves chained to the oars of a tempest-tossed, scurvy-ridden dinghy riding a fifty-foot swell straight into Monster Island?

That perilous voyage into motherhood makes The Odyssey look like a Carnival Cruise. Every sea-faring demigod wrestled demons, but not with a squalling babe in arms. Or a hormonal imbalance from toxic self-doubt. And Odysseus, Jason and Hercules stumbled blindly from one adventure to the next, unfettered by the curse of expectation.

The modern mother-to-be understands what she's getting into. Until she discovers her map was drawn by a 14th Century celibate monk.

When self-doubt clouds the soul, it's tempting to let dogma steer. But will we really fall off the edge of maternity if we don't surrender to parenting piracy?

The bewilderment of new motherhood can override years of accumulated wisdom and confidence. But like oranges to a sailor, self-acceptance is the mother's antidote for psychological scurvy. Stock up before you shove off.

On the open water of motherhood, sea monsters emerge--not from the Id--but from an over-active Superego. Your first challenge is THE SWIRLING VORTEX OF PERFECTIONISM where sirens beckon you to a Sisyphean doom of repeated failure. You'll have to row against the current to avoid being sucked in. The more you struggle to do what's expected, the faster you go down!

Land Ho! Up ahead is the ESTUARY OF EVISCERATING EXPERTS. But woe to those who run aground here! These sparkling shores are a minefield of candy-coated self-esteem bombs. Disguised as helpful do's and don'ts in baby books and advice columns, these hypnotic attractors seduce you with sure-fire child-rearing formulas that blow up in your face.

Ready torpedoes when you see the shimmering lights of the MALIBU MATERNITY MIRAGE: HOME OF THE EXPLODING BARBIE OF FALSE HOPES. Welcome to the Land of Burst Bubbles. Instead of growing angel wings, you've sprouted horns. Your husband's not turning into SuperDad. And baby! Baby is way off script! The Barbieazation of family turns us all to plastic. So let her rip: FIRE IN THE HOLE!

Just when you think you've got the hang of devoting yourself to the care of another human being, you drift off course into THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE OF LOST SELFHOOD. Here at the mouth of the River Stix, the Hellhound, Cerberus, buries your personal life in his own backyard. No longer encumbered by the petty demands of self, a mother can really focus on fitting in with the herd. But hang on tight to your inner turmoil and you won't be swept into oblivion.

>From the crow's nest, you spot the ISLE OF INFANTILIZATION where lumbering giants speak only their native condescensionese and trample your experience of motherhood as if it were a clump of seaweed. To a tribe that values only might and manipulation, your new receptivity looks wimpy! So do what Odysseus did, and give "em a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!

Dead ahead, it's the CRUSHING ICE FLOE OF ALIENATION. Suddenly you feel yourself unmoored from the world you once belonged to. Until your ice flow melts into the mainstream again, build a hobo fire. It will attract other Yetis.

Quick, jettison guilt or you'll wind up with a lifetime pass at THE THEME PARK OF JUDGMENTALISM. She bottle feeds, you breast feed. Her baby scorns pacifiers, yours has one permanently implanted. When Dualism rules, one of you has to be wrong. In fact, in this Disneyworld of the Damned nobody's correct! Ride the Clash of Subliminal Titans where taboos, dictates and double binds spin your conscience till it pukes. A fun place for a few thrills, but you wouldn't want to live there.

Plug your ears with beeswax! Bali Hai is calling! It may look like an Expedia Getaway, but nothing's worse than THE TROPICAL PARADISE ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM. The brochure calls it a "Land of Perfect Harmony, but in this Village of the Saved, the witch hunt is on the inside, rounding up every non-maternal feeling as a potential threat to the baby. The Mommy Police make McCarthyism look laissez-faire. So censor every thought or you'll wind up a permanent guest at the Deviant Emotions Internment Camp: Taboo feelings check in but they don't check out!

At last, there it is on the horizon'safe harbor! You can drop anchor, relax and enjoy a shame-free shore leave. Refugees come here from all over looking for the same thing--asylum for the parentally-incorrect. So scrape the dogma-doo off your hull, draw your own map and join the conspiracy of validation. Big Mother isn't watching.

==== Joan Bechtel @2005 All Rights Reserved

About The Author

Joan Bechtel, award-winning comedienne, early childhood educator and co-author of MOTHERHOOD CONFIDENTIAL, is also a Personalized Parenting speaker, helping women out of the dogma-doo to find their own personally-correct answers. To get the first half of her book free go to


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