As I look down at my baby feeding hungrily, pain jolting through my entire body, tears cloud my eyes and stream down my cheeks. Amma is stroking my hand reassuringly. I look up and she dries my cheeks. “It is going to get better. You will learn to love him!” I close my eyes, draw a deep breath and lean back. Will I?
The day we found out we were expecting will be etched in my memory forever. We hugged each other with tears of joy and called parents and siblings to share the “good news”. Everybody was ecstatic. The fact we refused to find out the gender and wanted to be surprised added to the anticipation. We cruised through pregnancy and they were the most cherished days of my life. My parents guarded me with fierce love and watched every step I took with eagle eyes. My husband was my rock. He did not miss a single appointment, always carried chocolate bars for instant energy, took me on long leisurely strolls and kept me sane. He weathered my hormones and cooked my favorites. In many ways he had already began his journey of becoming a great father.
As the due date came closer, we realized that we had one stubborn child. He was so happily cocooned inside my belly, he refused to show up. Finally after a week the doctor decided to induce me. I was nervous since I wanted a normal delivery and this was slowly beginning to look different. Then my child read my mind and calmed my nerves. I had my first contraction. We drove to the hospital frantically, exactly the way I had dreamed it would be for nine months. After 23 hours of labor with the magic of epidural and countless popsicles, he made his appearance. I was nervous, were we ok with a boy? They placed him on my chest and he peeped at me with his barely open eyes. With my eyes filled with tears and his mop of hair, I could hardly see him. And I was wailing more than him glad that this was over. But little did I realize that the journey had just begun.
For the days we were in the hospital, I remember being a basket case. I moaned in pain, I cried because it was not hot or cold enough. At one point, my husband stood in front of the thermostat waiting for divine intervention. Should I turn it higher or lower? Even after we came home, I was completely consumed by the demands that motherhood had physically that I had failed to acknowledge the miracle of this tiny person in my arms.
Breastfeeding was painful and demanding and I did not feel the overflow of motherly love. In fact I cried a lot. I cried because I couldn’t sleep for more than 2 hours. I cried because I couldn’t walk more than a few steps. I cried because I couldn’t do anything without worrying about the baby. Was he hungry? Should I change his diaper? Is he getting a rash? When will his cord fall off? Amidst all this there were no moments where I proclaimed that I was his mother and I shall protect him from the evils of this world. After a couple of months I began to worry that something was wrong with me. Why did I not feel those emotions? Why did I not love him with my entire being? In Tamil cinema, there are several rolls of film dedicated to these emotions, several songs in glory of the relationship. Yet, yet, here I felt zilch. I had waited anxiously for months to become a mother. But now that I was one, I did not feel it. Surely, I’m a bad mother.
But as my wounds healed and my baby started cooing and gurgling, things changed. There is not going to be one aha moment. But as stranger anxiety fills him and he finds me amongst the pool of people and whimpers, I begin to love him a little more. When suddenly he open his mouth wide and grabs my entire cheek and wets it, I know he is telling me something. When I try to burp him, his hands encircle my neck and tighten, his face nestles on my bony shoulder and I smell his hair. The soft baby scent intoxicates me and as I rub my cheek against him, I begin to love him a little more. As I feed him with a spoon and he is blowing bubbles covering both our faces with cereal and chuckles effortlessly. We both grin like fools and I begin to love him a little more. Through these little moments I’m learning to love him. Love him unconditionally.
Cuddling him through sleepless nights, cajoling him through endless feeding sessions, cheering him even he trails the races, feeling pride even when he doesn’t ace his milestones, soothing him through sick days and struggling to put his needs above my wants, always. It was not meant be a platonic love at first sight relationship. This is heartbreaking and traumatic yet exciting and heartwarming. This will always be a work in progress because this is hard and life consuming.
Loving him comes naturally to me now but the time it took prepared me for being a parent. You have to choose what kind of mother you want to be. This journey is going to have dead ends, sudden turns, heart-on-your-mouth bumps and screaming highs. It is going to require epic amounts of endurance, patience and love. Do I scream at him or walk away calmly? There is no such thing as a good mother. But being a mother is a commitment. A promise filled with toothless grins, stubby fingers, smothering kisses, breathless hugs, unscented aromas and heartwarming surprises. As he wraps his fingers around mine and tightens his grip, I know that am hopelessly in love and I’m ready for the ride.
Women’s web has a contest based on the journey of motherhood. Since I wanted to chronicle it myself, this works great. They have a wonderful video illustrating the anxiousness, insecurities and challenges of motherhood.