Two days before my son was born, I wrote him a letter in which I explained everything that troubled me: the pregnancy, the birth, the feminist woman I wanted to become... I had a conflicted relationship with my body. I was full of stretch marks and I was embarrassed to show it. At the same time, I was proud because it was about to give birth and I was excited to see what my son would look like. In this letter, I told him about my fears too. I was afraid to doubt myself too much, to not be confident enough or to always fear I’d be wrong in my decisions. It’s special because, when I reread this letter, I realize that what happened was the complete opposite. I'd never been more relaxed in my life than the day they put my son on me at the hospital. When he came out, the doctor held him and moved him towards me. I remember thinking "Oh my God! Oh my God! What should I do? How should I hold him?" But they put him on my chest and the room became really calm. He stopped crying right away. Even to this day, our life together is like that. Gentle and sweet. I base my decisions on my instincts. I mean, I do research and everything, but in the end, I’m much more confident than I thought I'd be.
My first year with him went well. Of course, there were some down times. The first month without any sleep is torture. There were nights when I sat on the floor of his bedroom in a fetal position and cried "Why did I do this? I’m exhausted! No more kids ever!" But after a while, it got better. In Quebec, dads are entitled to five weeks of paternity leave. I know in the US it’s non-existent – it’s appalling. My partner took two full weeks when our son was born, and three more a couple of months later. We used this time to travel to Spain as a family. This first trip with our son is one of the most beautiful moments of my life. He was perfect. When we came back, it was November and the cold was settling in. Loneliness too. My partner was no longer with me. It was difficult. I almost went back to work teaching French, because it felt like I was just a mother, a wife, and there was no social recognition for what I was doing. And let’s be honest, before five or six months, babies are quite boring. Finally, after the Holidays, things got better. He started to crawl and was interacting more. He was laughing a lot. I loved it so much that I decided to extend my maternity leave for six more months – from twelve to eighteen months. Financially it was hard, but I felt he was too little to be put in daycare. I did not feel ready. But I never regretted it.
Before giving birth, the roles in my relationship were 50/50. My partner was doing as much as I did, if not more while I was pregnant. But now, the division of labor in the house is what frustrates me the most. I’m upset I’m not the feminist woman I thought I was going to be. It may be my own fault though. I take some guilty pleasure in being so important to my son – there’s nowhere else in our lives we are as essential. I always go the extra mile for everything. At the same time, my partner never washed his clothes or folded them. I’ve always felt guilty doing chores or working while my son is awake, but it never seemed to bother my partner. I wish he were 100% present for the few hours a day we spend together with him. It’s something we have to work on. At the same time, I almost feel embarrassed to tell him he should spend more time with him because for me it goes without saying. Sometimes, I wonder how long I will be able to do all of it, to work and care and be in charge of everything. The feminist in me is disappointed by this situation. I’m sad we’ve not been able to put real changes in place. Your first year with your new baby you think "It’s normal to do all those things for him and the family." But it’s been two months since I returned back to work and it’s still happening… there is nothing that changed in the end.
To be pregnant for nine months and then to spend eighteen months with your kid 24/7 is pretty incredible. It’s almost like you’re mourning something when he comes out of your body. And then two years in you think, "I cared for him for so long and now I have to leave him in daycare?!" It’s really difficult. I think spending all this time with him made me dependent on him in some way. It’s hard to accept that someone else is caring for him instead of me, especially while I myself teach French to other people’s children. His babysitter’s three daughters will be coming to my high school next year and there’s a chance I’ll have them in my class. So when she takes care of my son, I’ll teach to them. There’s something strange about it. At the same time, it’s kind of beautiful. Our children don’t belong to us. They are the fruits of society and it’s important to show them that we can, and must, trust others. But as a mother… it feels like I’m not as important to him as I once was. It's hard. I'm still grieving this part of our lives together.