Seemingly endless repetition with no apparent progress

What comes to your mind when you see this phrase which is the title of the post? Ponder it for a second before going on. What are you thinking of?


There’s a lot of situations in life that this could refer to.

I was made to see a parallel between motherhood and giving birth recently as I thought about my job as a stay-at-home mom. I’m sure many of my readers — even those who are not SAHMs — can identify with this, the never-ending tasks of keeping a home in running order (laundry, cleaning, cooking — and notice that I did not say “in perfect running order” — I make no claims of perfection!); and also the work of teaching children everything they need to know as 2- and 4-year-olds, from how to use the potty (we’re almost done!!) to what buttermilk is (that was this morning’s question… I turned on a YouTube video [please refer back to previous statement of no claims of perfection 🙂 ]).

When my son asks the same question over and over, I recognize on some levels that he is learning something each time I answer, but the process is agonizingly slow. When I played Candyland with my kids, there was many a time when I had to correctly identify each color, but now they know their colors with rarely a mix-up. Looking back, I can see it was worth it, but having to say three times a minute, “No, this is purple,” or “this isn’t orange, it’s red,” made the process seem slow and endless. Now I’m potty-training, and I’m still having to clean up the floor way too much (at least partly my fault for not taking my son to the potty often enough, and somehow expecting him to just “get it” — although he does frequently take himself), and it seems to be taking way too long. (I couldn’t wait, because he was pulling off his diapers and going in the floor anyway.) I’m already at least half-way to the point of not needing diapers any more, so looking at it that way makes it seem worth-while, and looking into the future of diaper-less reality definitely makes it worthwhile. But while I’m here, “in the trenches” as it were, it’s almost mind-numbling boring and even sometimes exhausting.

Oh, and how many times can a person read “The Cat in the Hat” in one day? I can’t even recall the number of books I’ve got memorized from reading them over and over and over and over and over….

Isn’t that somewhat like labor? Hours of contractions with no apparent progress (especially if you don’t have vaginal exams, then you don’t even have some number of dilation to attach to the contractions). In my first labor, I know I had an exam when the midwife first came to the house and again right before I started officially pushing (possibly once more in between); in my second labor, I didn’t call the midwife in time, so I didn’t have any exams at all. I remember thinking while in labor the second time (contractions ranging from 7-15 minutes for 24 hours), that I wasn’t “really” in labor until my contractions settled into a pattern, so since they weren’t regular, I wasn’t “really” in labor, therefore I was having all these contractions (without “really” being in labor), so since it wasn’t “really” labor, they were pointless although exceedingly painful (back labor). I was wrong, of course — that was the labor hormones talking, not really me — it was “real” labor after all, and the contractions were doing something, even if I didn’t have anything apparent to show for it.

And, just like so many other seemingly pointless and endless repetitions with no apparent progress, all of a sudden, I pushed my baby out in three or four contractions. Then it became apparent that all of the contractions had done something — my cervix had slowly but surely dilated while I kept waiting for “real labor” to begin. One day “all of a sudden” my children will begin to read — but their ability to read will be built on the countless number of times I read dozens or even hundreds of books to them, as well as the many times I recited the alphabet, etc.

This is one thing many people “don’t get” about labor. I’ve heard both men and women (more commonly men) say that there is no point to labor, or ask rhetorically, “Why not just get a C-section?” or wonder why some women choose natural childbirth or are hesitant to have interventions. I’ve heard new fathers whose babies arrived by C-section after labor make comments like, “We should have just had a C-section to start with — all that labor for nothing!” First, that assumes that there is no difference between vaginal birth and C-section. Secondly, it assumes that there is nothing to be gained by having a vaginal and/or natural birth. I’ve heard women who have had labor ending in a C-section say that if they had to do it all over again, they would choose to labor even knowing that they’d have a C-section at the end. To them, there were enough benefits in the labor that they would choose it again, even when they knew it would be “pointless” by so many people’s standards. Right now, many people think that my staying at home with my children is similarly “pointless” — after all, somebody else could watch my kids and make sure that they don’t get hurt; they could read them stories, change diapers, feed them, answer their endless questions, etc. While the process of being a mom and raising my children is usually not glorious, and is frequently difficult, tedious, and definitely time-consuming, I find enough benefits in it to make the trade-offs worth it.



One Response

  1. Yes, this describes motherhood pretty well. It is the most challenging thing I have ever done. Being a mother has also strengthened me more than anything else as well.

    But sometimes it is a bit mind-numbing. All the dishes and laundry and questions and peepee. But I know now that I have a 10 year old, at least some things change and time does pass SO quickly! But I remember when I had 2 little ones and thinking they would never grow.

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