My Superhero Power

Superman's got nothin' on Super Mom

For every woman who's ever felt completely and utterly defeated by trying to be the perfect mother--the so-called "Supermom Syndrome"--I've got news for you: You already are a Supermom. It probably just hasn't hit you yet.

Let me explain. I've never put much stock in superheroes myself, but I've lived my life around men who do. I grew up watching my brother pin a towel around his neck and run around the house with his arms flailing in front of him, leaping tall building blocks in a single bound. (We won't go into the X-ray vision he suddenly acquired when my developing junior high school friends came to visit.) Years later, I married a man who came complete not only with the power to make me weak in the knees but also with a truckload of cardboard boxes filled with his childhood comic books. When we bought our first house, I unwittingly stashed the boxes in the "yard sale" pile before realizing that doing so was grounds for divorce. I simply had no idea of the power my husband's beloved superheroes had over him.

I decided it was time for me to find out. I thumbed through a few of the yellowing, nearly mildewed pages, scanning frame after frame of hulking guys throwing lightning bolts at each other or men morphing into large green monsters with bulging biceps and calves (now that, I could get into). But I still wasn't getting it.

"What's so special about these?" I asked my husband.

"Are you kidding me?" Will responded, incredulous that he could have married a woman so ignorant of the wonders of Wonder Woman and the colossal indomitability of Colossus, the X-Man who could turn his body into a protective metal shield. He went on to enlighten me:

"Well ... there's Superman, of course. He's got X-ray vision and can fly.

"Spider Man--you know him, he shoots webs out of his hands and feet.

"Mr. Fantastic--he's rubber and he stretches.

"There's Ice Man --he can turn things into ice.

"Storm--she can make lightning come from out of the sky.

"Cyclops--he can shoot rays out of his eyes.

"Then there's the Human Torch--he turns into flames and flies.

"Oh yeah, the Invisible Woman. She's boring--she turns invisible. "The Flash--he's really fast.

"Wolverine ..."

"I get it, I get it," I interrupted. "He turns into a wolf, blah, blah, blah."

"Umm, no," Will sighed, rolling his eyes. "He has claws that come out of his hands, and he has superfast healing powers and unbreakable bones. Duh."

I let my newfound superhero knowledge simmer for a while. Maybe there was something really cool about being able to shoot rays of light out of your eyes. Could be a useful skill in a pinch.

It was months later when it dawned on me: I, too, had superhuman powers! I was sitting in the rocking chair, nursing my daughter, Julia, when it hit me like a lightning bolt: "I can make milk! Milk shoots out of my breasts!"

I ran downstairs to tell Will. "Guess what?" I announced breathlessly, "Your wife has superpowers!"

"Oh yeah?" he asked, cocking an eyebrow over his newspaper at me.

"I can make milk!" I beamed, proudly.

He looked at me for a long minute, clearly baffled. "Okaaaaay," he responded, confused, but returning to his newspaper nonetheless, seemingly unimpressed by my announcement. (I had, after all, been nursing our daughter almost a year at this point, so it was hardly a news flash.)

Still, I reveled in my new Supermom status. I could make milk! How many other human beings on the planet could substantiate that claim? (OK, about 4.2 million women at any given time in the United States alone, but who's counting?)

After 16 months of nursing, the time had come to wean my daughter. As much as I was ready to wean her, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was giving up some sort of superhuman power. For a brief time in my life, I could make milk. And, I was consciously letting that ability slip away. Sure, maybe I wasn't faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive? Not so much. But, I could make milk. And that's pretty super.