Mother Dance: How Children Change Your Lifeby Harriet Lerner
From the celebrated author of The Dance of Anger comes an extraordinary book about mothering and how it transforms us and all our relationships inside and out. Written from her dual perspective as a psychologist and a mother, Lerner brings us deeply personal tales that run the gamut from the hilarious to the heart-wrenching. From birth or/b>
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From the celebrated author of The Dance of Anger comes an extraordinary book about mothering and how it transforms us and all our relationships inside and out. Written from her dual perspective as a psychologist and a mother, Lerner brings us deeply personal tales that run the gamut from the hilarious to the heart-wrenching. From birth or adoption to the empty nest, The Mother Dance teaches the basic lessons of motherhood: that we are not in control of what happens to our children, that most of what we worry about doesn't happen, and that our children will love us with all our imperfections if we can do the same for them. Here is a gloriously witty and moving book about what it means to dance the mother dance.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt
Conception and Birth:A Crash Course in Vulnerability
I became pregnant in the old-fashioned way. I never believed that I would really become pregnant because the thought of having an entire person grow inside your body is such a bizarre idea that only lunatics or religious fanatics would take for granted the fact that it might actually happen. And then there is the matter of getting the baby out, which is something no normal person wants to think about.
I was thirty when I became pregnant for the first time. Beforethis pregnancy, I had not experienced one maternal twinge. Whenmy friends would bring their infants in little carrying baskets todinner parties, I felt sorry for them (the parents) because the wholething seemed like so much trouble. "Oh, yes' " I would chirp withfalse enthusiasm when asked if I would like to hold one of thesetiny babies. But I was just being polite or trying to do the normal-appearing thing. I always sat down before allowing anyone to handme a baby because I'm something of a klutz and I knew that ifanyone was going to drop a baby it would be me.
To say that I was not maternal is an understatement of vast proportion. I enjoyed adult company, and my idea of a good time did not include hanging out with babies who were unable to dress themselves, use the toilet, or make interesting conversation. By contrast, my husband, Steve, truly loved babies and never worried about dropping them. We always planned to have children, but not, on my part, out of any heartfelt desire. I just thought that having children was an important life experience I shouldn't miss out on, any more than I wanted tomiss out on live concerts or traveling through Europe. Although I thought having children seemed like the thing to do, I put it off as long as I reasonably could.
As soon as I got the news that I was pregnant, however, I was bursting with self-importance and pride. I wanted to grab strangers in the supermarket and say, "Hey, I may look like a regular person, but I'm pregnant, you know!" The fact that other women had done this before me didn't make it feel any less like a miraculous personal achievement.
My confidence inflated even more when I sailed through my first trimester without a flicker of nausea or discomfort. I took credit for the fact that things were moving along so swimmingly and I concluded that this was a "good sign," that maybe I was suited to motherhood after all.
But at the beginning of my second trimester I began spotting, then bleeding. My doctor asked if I wanted to consider having an abortion because the baby's risk of brain damage was significant. Sometimes I wouldn't bleed at all and Id be filled with hope, and sometimes I'd really bleed and think that I -- or the baby --was dying. I felt panic-stricken, filled with a mixture of terror for our dual survival and of utter humiliation at the prospect of ruining someone's expensive couch.
I consulted with an expert at the University of Kansas MedicalCenter, then transferred to the best obstetrician in Topeka, onewith outstanding diagnostic skills who did not think my baby would be brain damaged. Basically the whole thing was a gamble.We didn't know whether enough of the placenta would stayattached, because it had become implanted too low and was shearing off as the pregnancy progressed. There is probably a more medically accurate way to describe what was happening, but this is how I understood my situation at the time. I had a healthy fetus in utero, and I thought that the medical profession, as advanced as it was, should know how to make a placenta stay put. It seemed like a minor technicality that needn't have life-or-death consequences.
Containing my anxiety was not easy. When I was five months' pregnant, Steve and I were watching a late-night adventure story about a group of people trapped in the elevator of a high-rise building. The bad guy, lurking above them in the elevator shaft, was severing the steel cables that held the cabin. Panic spread among the occupants as they swung about, their lives now hanging by a thread. What a stupid, boring plot, I thought. Seconds later, I felt as if I couldn't breathe. I told Steve I was about to faint or I was having a heart attack or I was simply going to die. "Call the doctor at home!" I commanded my frightened husband. "Wake him up!"
"It sounds like you're hyperventilating, doesn't it?" the doctor said when I had composed myself enough to describe my symptoms. I should have put my head in a paper bag. Now that it was determined that I would live, I was embarrassed that we had awakened him at midnight -- two psychologists failing to recognize the ordinary symptoms of anxiety. The television show must have triggered my terror about what was happening within my own body. The image of people trapped in an elevator with the weakened cords threatening to plunge them to their death stayed with me for a long time.
Having a baby was now almost all I cared about. I wanted this baby with a fierceness I had not known was possible, and I would burst into tears if I found myself in line at the supermarket with a mother and her infant. I'm not sentimental about fetuses, so there was no way I could have anticipated the searing intensity of this bond and the devastation I felt at the prospect of my loss. I desperately, desperately, desperately wanted this baby, but what I got was a crash course in feeling totally vulnerable and helpless. Indeed, having children, even in so-called ordinary circumstances, is a lifelong lesson in feeling out of control. So if you're one of those total control freaks, I advise you at all costs to avoid making or adopting a baby.
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Author of Reviving Ophelia
Author of Care of the Soul and The Soul of Sex
Meet the Author
Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., is one of our nation’s most loved and respected relationship experts. Renowned for her work on the psychology of women and family relationships, she served as a staff psychologist at the Menninger Clinic for more than two decades. A distinguished lecturer, workshop leader, and psychotherapist, she is the author of The Dance of Anger and other bestselling books. She is also, with her sister, an award-winning children's book writer. She and her husband are therapists in Lawrence, Kansas, and have two sons.
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