Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central
Before becoming a mom, comedian, writer and actress, Jessi Klein remembers hearing people say how completely motherhood would change her life. She listened, but she didn’t quite understand what they meant until her son was born.
“There’s just no way to understand how completely your old identity is disappearing,” Klein says. “All the things you do daily or minute by minute – the clothes you wear, the way you think about yourself – everything has to explode, because the baby/child [is] therefore all-encompassing.”
Klein served as head writer for the Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumerand is now the showrunner of the Showtimes series I like it for you. In his new collection of personal essays, I will show myselfshe writes about the joys and struggles of motherhood.
Klein says she loves her son, now 6, more than anyone – and yet she also recognizes how difficult it is to be a mother.
“It feels like one of the biggest cultural taboos is to say you’ve reconsidered being a mother, or honestly even talking about the hard stuff,” she says. “But yeah, sure, there are those times when you’re like, ‘I can’t believe I got myself into this.'”
Having a child at 39
After I got married, I ended up doing some tests to check my fertility status because I had a career moment, and I was like, if I become a mom, I’m going to leave it until the last possible moment, like , maybe when I’m 50 or something. And then the tests revealed that I actually had, like, half an egg left, and it wasn’t going to be easy and I needed to go through all this fertility stuff. As soon as I found out that I might not be able to have a child, I really went into a spiral about it and just wanted to have one.
On the physical discomfort and disorientation of birth
I’ve been lucky on many fronts, you know, the privilege of good health care and all that. I didn’t have a particularly difficult job, relatively speaking. It was uneventful, which is the best thing you can say about a delivery. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t pushing a human out of my vagina anymore.
It’s a very intense recovery even in fairly decent circumstances. Some people come out of this really badly hurt in terms of tears and other types of complications that can go wrong. But the minimum is that your body panics, because your hormones turn over overnight. You no longer have anyone in your body; they are now outside. Your breasts are incredibly swollen. You are trying to figure out how to breastfeed.
I remember a time when I looked at my belly right after, like an hour after giving birth. And I just remember I was like, what is this? I looked at my skin; it was this crazy texture. It looked like basketball skin, kind of wrinkled. And then you’ve been bleeding for so long. You can’t go to the bathroom, you’re in pain and you’re bleeding. And that for several weeks. And again, it wasn’t a particularly difficult birth.
Struggling to accept how her body has changed
On the one hand, you kind of want to be in body position and accept it, and [be] like, “It’s beautiful, the amazing thing my body has done.” But I was almost 40 when I gave birth. So I lived 39 years in America knowing what I was supposed to look like to be acceptable and my postpartum body was not. But I’ve never been the same. I am very lucky to be in good health and I exercise. But a person has grown in me, and I no longer have the same body. It’s a real change that I think about every day.
By caring and apologizing less
One of the things I really cherish about becoming a mother is that you’re so busy that you’re keeping someone alive. And it gives you that kind of “no F to give” vibe about your life. And a lot of that conceit — trying to be nice to other people in some way, like having to apologize for things — you kind of stop doing that. And it looks, in some ways, like a superpower.
On the tensions in a marriage that a new baby can create
There’s an old saying that when a new baby is born, it’s like a bomb going off in your home and in your marriage. The basic thing that happens is that nobody sleeps and it’s like one of the main forms of military torture that exists, sleep deprivation. Nobody’s at their best just because you’re so tired. And then there’s also the stress of having to learn all the time. Everyone is out of their element of what they do. I think for us, too, the number of things that exist from one minute to the next to fight for multiplies exponentially.
On what she loves about motherhood
My son is such a funny, sweet, just infinitely surprising and intelligent boy. I feel so lucky to be his mother. One of the things I really love is the things he does that make me laugh. Especially now at age 6, you’re really getting into “Kids Say the Darndest Things” territory.
Sam Briger and Thea Chaloner produced and edited the audio for this interview. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Laurel Dalrymple adapted it for the web.