Monday, 5 May 2014

What is motherhood?

Uma Thurman's character in "Motherhood" is trying to answer this question for a writing contest.

Friends also ask me what it is like to have a child. 

I'm going to take a stab at it. But before I do, I have realised that there is nothing one can compare having a child to. I can't even come up with a metaphor. It is simply a joyous feeling. 

My pregnancy was a very smooth one and, I hardly had any discomfort or nausea. In fact, I really enjoyed my pregnancy as I took time off from work and, explored a new city. As I got bigger and bigger, I was more aware of my body and, the baby. People would ask me, "how's the baby? And, I would confusedly assure them that she was doing well. She would kick now and then and, it was indescribable.  I would read books on pregnancy, read guides on how to prepare for the birth and, attend pre-natal yoga classes. In this day and age of information, the Internet and, science, one is completely aware of how one's body is making a baby and, what all the stages of development are. And, in this day of commercialisation, there is so much you can already to do to prepare for the baby. 

The birth itself was a little stressful but once the baby arrived, it really was a defining, most glorious and, stupendous moment. That little face, those little fingers and toes, those little eyes looking at me. There's nothing you can compare that sense of wonderment  with. That little baby, that little thing that popped out of you, is yours! That sense of possessiveness, tenderness and, contentment overwhelms you. You do not want to leave that baby for a minute, even. You can't even handle someone else holding that baby for too long. 

The baby brings you very close to your partner and, you both feel so proud of having created a child together. But your partner also sort of fades into the distance as you bond with your baby even more. All you want your husband for now is to help you change the diaper, clean up the mess, pamper you, and, take care of everything. You start to physically bond with your baby even as time passes and, you only want to cuddle her and not your partner at night. You sort of feel guilty for not wanting to cuddle your partner any more. You start to understand why they say that you should let your baby sleep in their cot so that you don't give all your time to your the baby. You apparently need to attend to your partner's emotional and physical needs too but honestly, you couldn't care less! All you want to do is cuddle your baby, recover from your delivery, especially if you had a C-section, come back to most of your old life and, eat Nutella at night! 

My baby is almost a year and a half old now and, all I want is her to cuddle with at night. I want to hold her in my arms as I fall asleep. I can't stop kissing her, all over. She is my beautiful, sweet, and unique child. And, I feel I am beautiful too because she is beautiful. She is completely a part of me.

What does having a child make you realise? It helps you to understand the circle of life. We all were babies once. Once upon a time, our parents were young, newly married and, then went and made us. We were their babies. They brought us up. And, now I am going around having babies of my own. And, I can't wait to have another one! 

And, while having a child emphasises our mortality, it also gave me this immense sense of power as a woman. By God, women give life! We literally are built to create life. Kavita grew from a couple of cells, fully formed inside me until I gave birth to her. Men have no biological role to play. Well yes, they provide the sperm but it represents less than a fraction of a percentage of the total contribution to the production of life! And, even after birth, women nurture their babies with their milk. Sure, in my case, I was not able to breast feed Kavita but hey! My body created her! And, to think that still, women have been repressed and control for thousands of years and, been deemed the weaker sex when it is they who create and give life. 

This sense of power as a woman, of being a creator and giver of life,  was a huge part of becoming a mother for me. No, I'm not going to lord it over all the men around me, especially my husband, but it is a nice piece of realisation for me. It convinces me even more of my disdain for formal religions and the patriarchal structures that stem from them.

But while I am extremely giddy over my sense of power, most of the time, I am thinking about being the perfect mother, the perfect parent. And, it seems everyone around me is doing the same. That same information age is full of parenting books. There are so many competing ideologies about how parents should bring up their children. The day I actually went to the hospital to get induced as instructed by my OB-GYN, Haresh and I went to see "Parental Guidance." It is a great example of how modern day parents almost over do parenting since they are so freaking scared that they will ruin their children's childhoods or they are not setting up their kids for their potential futures. 

How does one want to define one's motherhood? I guess most mothers take a queue from their own mothers. Do they want to be like their own mothers or do everything opposite to their own mothers depending on how their experiences were? It is such a primordial, soul-searching quest to figure out what kind of a mother you want to be or rather how you feel about your relationship with your own mother. Figuring this out is extremely crucial. 

I know I want my daughter to see me as a nurturing, tender and non-judgemental source of love and comfort. And, I want her to see me as a strong, secure and balanced person. I want her to see me as a woman of my own and, from that, to build positive relationships with other women. I want her to develop a positive and healthy attitude towards life. And, hopefully, by being a happy person, she will learn that happiness and joy is up to us. 

In this respect, I feel that the modern approach to parenting is wonderful. We all want to be in loving, supportive and joyful relationships. We want to find our true potential in life and, seek a healthy balance between materialism and spirituality. We want to have children for the pure joy of having children. Not because we have to. We do not own our children. They are not our property. They are not ours to brainwash or control. They do not have to inherit any unnecessary baggage but only the best of our identities, pasts and cultures. Children are truly a gift, ours to nurture and love. 

I am immensely lucky and privileged to have become a mother at 33, a time in my life when I feel I know myself well and, am on my way to emotional maturity so I can be a reasonably stable parent, of mostly sound mind. First of all, I never could even guess I would start a new life after the tragic end of my late boyfriend and, lo and behold have a baby less than five years after this death. Also, it is much harder for independent women to find partners. I still have many amazing single women friends who simply cannot seem to find life partners with and start families. And, not everyone is fertile or has a fertile partner. heck, not everyone even gets to pick the partners they want to have children with. So many women have their partners picked out for them according to religion, social status, ethnicity, race and nationality. I am fortunate enough to have made a baby with someone I love. We had a child for the pure pleasure of it. For all these reasons, I feel privileged to have had a baby. 

Another thing I observe and notice in Kavita is her curiosity, desire to play, smile all the time, and absolute innocence. She also has a sense of humour already! This must be our natural untainted state before we learn all the negative habits, mannerisms and attitudes. It is completely up to us as parents to create positive, happy and content people through our own actions and behaviour. 

I love this new phase of life and, look forward to creating a happy, adventurous and magical childhood for Kavita. 

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