A friend asked me on Facebook, “How is the motherhood experience, Priya?” The picture under which she posted this question shows Bela sleeping in my arms. My eyes are closed and I sport what I think is the most unadulterated smile of happiness there could be. It is so, I suppose, because being a mother has quickly become the most wondrous experience I have ever had.
We began on a slightly rocky ground, Bela and I. To begin with, she knew me more than I knew her, I think. She’d been studying me, my movements and vibes and thoughts for a good stock of nine months. When I fumbled, she waited patiently for me to get it. When I fumbled again, she wailed. When she wailed, I waited impatiently for her to relax. When she wailed more, I impatiently chided her. And then she wailed more. Somewhere in this strained love-dance, I forgot I was supposed to know her, too. Understand her needs and requirements intuitively. Was I paying attention? Was I fit to be a mother? Where was I going wrong? I was terrified, for one.
And then she smiled.
She smiled when she saw me. Held my hand when I guided her lips to my bosom. Before we knew, the love-dance had become the best there could be. What changed, I wonder. More sunrises got added to our efforts? More experience? Or did I find intuition hidden somewhere in the recesses of my very erring mind? We’ll never know, I fear. But I am confident that she and I won’t really care for the answer, for we have found each other again. Even though we won’t automatically know each other’s mind, we’ll know just how to understand. That comes intuitively, I realise.
All this drama may not be unique to just us. Perhaps many have experienced it, and overcome it. What joy! To hold your babe in your arms and know that she is safe there, for you know just how to keep her. And you pass on that emotion to her so that she knows you’re right there for her — capable and eager. Such satisfaction.
Motherhood is like an evergreen branch that keeps offering food, and fruit, to the tree. That keeps swaying with the wind, never to snap with dessicated innards. Motherhood is something that keeps you fresh, and surprisingly untiring in spite of wearing out. Motherhood is miraculous, for it makes you work little miracles every minute of the day.
And yet, motherhood is overrated.
There, I said it. Quite a number of months ago, this idea germinated in my mind and refused to leave. It took hold much before we decided to bring a baby to this world. I tried to shoo the thought away, believing people would finally be able to prove I was crazy. Heartless and shallow, even. Well, they would use unimaginable adjectives to label me. But the thought stayed right there. So I decided to explore it.
P: Is motherhood overrated?
B: Like how?
P: Like mothers are super-beings, they accomplish the unimaginable, so they must be, well, superior. Their accomplishment is superior to others.
B: I feel it’s a social thing. It is indeed a herculean task to first carry the baby in your belly for nine months, suffer the changes in your body (you alone are doing it, no one else) and then bring out the child with such pain only to yourself, and then stay up nights for months to feed the child from your breast and then bring up the child, suffer all the complications that come with it — all by yourself, mostly. Who’d have volunteered? So, society makes you believe you’re doing something ‘divine’, whereas all you are doing is procreating. Increasing the human race.
P: What about mamta*, though?
*mamta is Hindi for the maternal instinct, love, dedication.
B: That could be nature’s contribution. The hormones make sure you feel desirous of carrying and then nurturing the seed. Why do you think a pregnant mother’s immunity goes down? It must be so that the body doesn’t reject a ‘foreign object’.
P: So, all that mothers are doing is making sure there is safe procreation and expansion of the species?
B: No, that’s not all. They are making sure that the progeny is capable of carrying on the species. Making sure the babies are as best as they could be.
That’s a superior job, if there is any.
And yet, to claim or grant reverence to any task, especially if it is a natural one, is to demean it, somehow. If nature has created a system through which I am going to put my child before anything else, it will be so. Just like the sun rises, just as the rain falls. My intuition, my instinct, my overcoming of all little foibles to make myself a super-woman just so that my child can grow up to be a strong, independent example of the human race is all something that comes to me naturally. Just like the sun rises, just as the rain falls. Nothing, simply nothing, is superior about it.