I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Harambe and, more acutely, the recent loss of my baby at 17 weeks gestation. In both of these circumstances, nearly every mother on the planet had the same outlook as I: Harambe’s death was a terrible tragedy, not the result of an unloving and grossly negligent mother, and the death of my beloved baby girl at 17 weeks was an unimaginably horrific nightmare, not simply the loss of an idea of something that could have been.
My baby girl wasn’t just a hope of what could be, she was my child. In the last two weeks, I could feel her little kicks as she struggled to stay with me. She wanted life as badly as I wanted it for her. And the helplessness I felt was any mother’s worst nightmare. Whether sick, healthy, young, or old, we all love our children just the same. And I have found comfort in the solidarity of mothers as I’ve suffered through this most cruel and unusual type of pain.
But I have to admit, I’m just as guilty as the next person of judging people’s parenting. Before I had my first child, I knew everything about raising children the right way. “Does that little asshole have a parent?” I’d ask as a toddler screamed on the plane in the row behind me. “Is that mother going to discipline her child?” I would question upon seeing the newly minted walker tearing down the cereal boxes as her mother desperately tried to buy food for her family and stay sane at the same time. I knew everything about breastfeeding (every mother who couldn’t hack it was unloving). And I was an expert in how to feed a toddler (starving them out would surely result in a diverse and complex palate).
I had all the answers.
But then something happened. I was slapped in the face with the most intense type of love known to humanity. I was tortured by the most grueling kind of sleep deprivation, a type that I am certain was reserved for only the most egregiously uncooperative inmates at Guantanamo. And I was humbled by the most inhumane working hours on the planet—yes, the 24/7 shift. But there was something that superseded all of these life lessons. It was this realization that every mother loves her child beyond what I ever knew one’s capacity to love could be, and that no pack of Gushers, no daily TV watching, no bottles of formula, and no nightly glasses of wine for mama could ever change any of that.
Now I am sure of so much less about parenting than I was in my pre-baby days. But there is one thing that I am now certain of: Until you bring that first child home, your expertise in motherhood is making every mother on the planet want to tape your mouth shut and break your keyboard—because you not only look like an asshole, you’re actually the definition of it.
For those of you out there who haven’t had the world’s most challenging, rewarding, and demanding job on the planet: If you decide to follow this path of endless worry, immeasurable pride, and unwavering insanity, I promise that you will understand why we mothers burst with fear right along with the mother who stared into a cage to find the fate of her heart lying in the arms of a 400-pound gorilla.
And I promise you that you will never again tell a mother feeling the dying kicks of her beloved baby that she was just saved from a lifetime of illness. You’ll be right there with her, your heart breaking in two, because you’ll know that there is nothing that mother is being saved from. And perhaps it will be for just a few moments, but the only things you will feel are your stomach smashing into the floor and your heart filling with more sadness than you ever thought possible because, in so many ways, her loss will live in your heart, too.
But, please, before that day comes, the day when you take your heart and place it in the precarious care of your child, do moms around the world an enormous favor: For the love of god, just shut the fuck up.