Someone recently asked me, ‘how did you know you were ready to become a mother?’
I practically fell off the chair laughing! Did she really think I could answer that question? How would I know? I became a mother out of the blue – after 10 years of marriage – after having lived like DINKS, happy being a twosome – more importantly, after having accepted that motherhood just wasn’t meant for me!
Of course I didn’t know but when I saw the look on her face, I felt bad. She genuinely wanted to know. I could have said all the “right” things, glorifying motherhood as the ultimate power a woman has to bring someone into the world, create a life but I couldn’t get myself to do that. If I did, it would have been bull crap and I didn’t want to do that.
So I took a deep breath and told her, “you can never ever be ready enough for motherhood but when you do become a mother, you know you’re ready.”
Not sure if that made sense to her but it was a fact. Forget me and my history, how many women (even those who plan the process) are truly ready to be mothers till they actually become one? Motherhood is a process, an everyday experience that you live and share with your child. Even while in the womb you form a bond with your child but it is mostly one sided. You do become protective and emotional when you feel the baby move inside yet it differs from what you actually feel when you hold the child in your arms for the first time.
I feel the biggest goof up is that the world ‘expects’ you to know – as one most often hears, “a mother knows best”. Actually I think a mother knows nothing – she learns from experience, from conversations, from observing, from experimenting. That is why most mothers (including me) insist that what is happening to them is unique. Authors of What to expect when you’re expecting might differ considering they’ve written the motherhood bible but still we all feel we’re different.
Lying on the operating table I was still thinking about me, how I would react when the baby came, how our lives would change forever. Similarly the family waiting outside too was thinking the same. In some ways we believe that we were thinking about the child but actually in reality it is only possible for us to think about our reactions and expectations till there is a tangible someone to hold, feel and touch!
Although we both wanted a healthy child, my husband longed to have a daughter. At the delivery, I still remember the look of complete happiness on my husband’s face when the doctor said, ‘you have a baby…(pause)…girl!’ He stood beaming proudly watching the pediatrician checking her and cleaning her up. It’s a different story that he was simultaneously also ready to strangle the pediatrician for doing what he had to to check the different orifices and clearing any obstructions! In fact he almost walked out the door when he handed her over to him. I had to call him back – I wanted to see my child too! I kissed her forehead and he left the OT with her. I think it was at that moment he became a father. He definitely took good care of me and therefore his child during pregnancy but I don’t think it was the other way around. It was only when he held her in his arms that he felt the surge of protectiveness envelope him making him the father he was meant to be.
As for me, I can’t remember the exact moment when I truly felt I had become a mother. During pregnancy, all I could think of was doing the right things, following instructions and generally trying to grapple with the reality that I was pregnant!
After I was wheeled out of the OT and brought into the recovery room, the nurses brought my daughter to me and said, “nurse her!” Initially I was awestruck as I didn’t know how. Yes, I had read about it but experiencing it first hand is a whole different ball game. I needed the nurses help while my newborn was quite adept at suckling without any instruction or help!
Suddenly it dawned on me how totally and completely my child depended on me – she needed ‘me’ to survive. Suckling without a thought, accepting me for who I was (even while I lay struggling), her belief that depending on me was good for her – she made me her mother at that moment.
Guess that is when I knew that I could do this. I was now ready to become her mother!
(First published in Momspresso (formerly mycity4kids) on October 22, 2014 https://www.momspresso.com/parenting/muchkin-and-me/article/the-strength-within)