Some people take to motherhood like a fish to water. I, Savannah Rachel Plumb Cheesman, was not one of those people.
No one accused me of being a Susie Homemaker type. I was an adventurer, get up and go. I was constantly on the move, whether I was in Egypt, China, or France. I dug through tombs and fought ghosts. Being a mother? That was anathema to me.
And then I adopted Satis and Imsety.
Suddenly, I went from a free agent to a mother of two. That alone represented a huge change in my life. Instead of packing up and leaving whenever I wanted, my children had to tag along. And even though I didn't give birth to them, they were my children.
Starting out with six year olds wasn't exactly the most conventional start to motherhood. I didn't have diapers to change or bottles to feed. I didn't have to wake up in the middle of the night, at least, not every night. Beginning with six year olds gave me somewhat of a head start. I had to teach them both Simlish and life skills.
I got the real rude awakening, though, when I got married to my husband Andy, and immediately after that, got pregnant.
Three simdays later, I gave birth to my first biological child, a son I named Andrew after my husband, in the maternity ward at Sacred Spleen Hospital. Objectively, Andrew, or AJ as we called him, was an adorable baby. He had a tuft of dark copper hair and his father's hazel-brown eyes. We wrapped him in the blue blanket they gave us at the hospital.
It was after I took him home from the hospital, that the whole thing hit me like a ton of bricks. "I’m not sure if I could get used to being a parent," I wrote in my journal then. "I’m not even sure if I’m cut out for this. Whatever, it’s done, and I’m stuck with him, for life."
I know that those are not words a mother should be writing about her own flesh and blood. But they represented what I felt at the time. And I knew intellectually that something was wrong about feeling that way.
I did have someone to confide in about my jumble of emotions at the time. Her name was Halima, the Egyptian nanny we hired to help Satis and Imsety get adjusted to Simerican life. Halima was only with us a short time, but her wisdom has stuck with me. In fact, at at crucial time in my life, she was there when my own biological mother was not.
My journal entry from back then continued. "What’s wrong with me? I just had my first child, I should be over the moon. Instead I’m completely miserable. Being stuck behind these four walls, with a crying, shitty baby is NOT what I had in mind."
I recall one conversation I had with Halima shortly after AJ was born, over a cooking show, oddly enough. I had never really talked to her. She just did her job, and Andy and I just lived our lives. She broke the ice and asked me what she should call me. We ended up talking for three hours, about everything. Then, she startled me by saying the changes in my life had happened so fast, I didn't really have time to adjust.
Was that the problem? Had she really diagnosed my case that quickly?
Even though I'd had the conversation with Halima, a simweek on, nothing had really changed. "I still look down at AJ’s crib and see a creature, a stranger, not my own flesh and blood," I continued to write. "Sure, now I’m able to hold him and feed him… but as far as feeling any kind of connection to him, I just can’t. I want to…but I can’t."
It wasn't really until AJ became a toddler, when he became less dependent and more mobile, that I was able to form some semblance of a maternal attachment to him. Education was very important in the house where I grew up, and I took pleasure in developing an early-learning curriculum for him, beginning with “Being Smart for Fun and Profit” and moving to “Squares are Not Triangles” and “Bluish Eggs with a Side of Pastrami,” among others. He was a quick learner. As a result of his unusual upbringing, he's bilingual in both Simlish and Arabic.
Indeed, my journal entries improved along with my mood. "I think I enjoy the actual ‘education’ a lot more than the diaper changes and the feedings and the being awake at night," I wrote. "Andy, Halima, and I seem to have come to a sort of understanding regarding the nursing and the teaching."
As time went on, we settled into different roles as parents. Andy doled out the hugs and kisses, while I was the teacher and disciplinarian.
We eventually had four other children, but no experience was as harrowing as the first.