Masks by Andrea Dodd

As mama, I wear many masks. Before I was a mother, anticipating the birth of my first daughter, I wore the “everything’s going to be just fine mask”… despite my critical examination of new mothers intact bodies and their obvious survival of birth. I was not convinced I would survive. I was not even convinced everything was going to be ok. But I wore it. And it was and is–OK.

Corbin is almost ten, and Anna is seven. I gave birth TWO times. And I lived through it.

During their childhood, I, like every other mama, have worn the protective mask. The one that subdues the “YOU COULD HAVE KILLED YOURSELF!!” anger or the “don’t cry, everything is alright” mask that, like a levee, holds back your own storm of tears. I’ve worn the light mask of love and astonishment that smiles with ease at their growth and development. Their laugh, their grasp of life and concepts… their sweet inquisition, and peaceful understanding. I’ve worn the mask of panic–the one that, with large eyes and bated breath realizes they really are growing right before my eyes and I’ll never have this time with them, again. The mask of gratitude sits quietly and observes with grace the beauty of the blessings I have received in being a mother.

I’ve worn the death mask of paralyzation. The one that, with utmost opacity blocked any ability to breathe but hardly attempted to hide the confusion, devastation, and anger beyond belief, in the death of my father.

I’ve adorned the phantom mask; the one lined in soft relief below sharp shards of years of hope, devotion, memories, sadness, and abused emotions… as my soul began its mend during the process of my divorce.

It is with absolute humility, that I’ve obtained the mask of a soul mate. It’s completely invisible. It’s truth highlighted in the glow of unconditional love. It’s palpable, and sometimes contagious. It makes all other masks quieter and life easier, happiest. It’s with my loveliest lady souls, and my best man– that this light covers me. The mask of the soul mate offers peace, laughter, and completeness.

It’s amazing to consider all the ways in which a rich life can be worn, in all its intricate subtleties and immutable elation…upon your unique face.

*What masks do you wear? What were your anxieties in regards to giving birth?

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rachael Chowings
    Jan 18, 2011 @ 10:33:23

    Although i’m a new mother (my little boy is 8 months old ) I tend not to use masks anymore. The concept of childbirth did scare me. We’re sbjected to so many scare stories and everyone feels the need to strive for a natural labour. So we put on a brave face and pretend we are fine with the experience not knowing the exact way things will turn out, how you will feel. ( I still can’t really colate how giving birth made me feel, or how i felt about it, i found it both empowering and magical).

    I don’t think anything prepares you for the complete life overhaul a child can bring. I was stuck in a rut after birth, perhaps because the birth was so complicated and i felt that after everything i had strived for i was lucky to have my baby and that he was now going to be the sole priority of my life. I felt like my own world outside the baby was going to disappear. That my career aspirations and building were going to simply stop and fade away. I began with trying to be the all encompassing house wife, the stay at home mum . Who lived in her bubble and made out to her family and freinds this revolutionary change was for her.
    Total bedlam quickly ensued as that person was just not me. I stopped pretending and dropped the stereotypical stepford wife image. That’s just not me. As my baby has grown older i have realised i can still be a great mother without wearing a mask. I can still be an academic , who’s a great mum.
    I think i personaly felt alot of aprehension by wearing a mask. Being myself has made me happier, and undoubtedly this is shown in my little boy who is a happy loving baby, who has a successful mum who is sure of herself and who she is.

    Reply

  2. Kate
    Jan 18, 2011 @ 11:26:04

    Well, I’m definitely terrified of giving birth. It seems like a complete mystery, and I feel like I’m barely in touch with my body now, so how will I be able to go through all of that?

    I know, probably an incredibly unoriginal thought.

    Reply

  3. Liz
    Jan 18, 2011 @ 11:41:12

    @Rachael,
    I have felt the same feelings when you wrote, “I began with trying to be the all encompassing house wife, the stay at home mum. Who lived in her bubble and made out to her family and friends this revolutionary change was for her. Total bedlam quickly ensued as that person was just not me.” The big difference between you and I is that it took me years to figure out that I had lost myself. You’re lucky that you figured it out so soon. I love being a stay-at-home mom with my girls, but I was out of balance for too long. I was giving everything of myself to kids and family and in doing so; my authentic self was swallowed up whole. The good news is we can always get our groove back and be a great momma too!

    Reply

  4. Liz
    Jan 18, 2011 @ 18:48:36

    @Kate
    When you get pregnant, you’ll get in touch with your body in a hurry!

    Reply

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