Babies do not ask to be born, and yet…
Most women eventually wind up becoming mothers, whether by choice or circumstance, or some combination thereof. I am a new mom, and I’m trying hard to find meaning in the repeated rituals of domestic life, of motherhood. As much as I love my daughter, I also feel it is time to stop the ‘glorification’ of motherhood. A woman needs her own time to become a mother – it is unnerving, overwhelming and beautiful all at once. Life with a newborn can be magical and yet daunting and exhausting. I still remember the day we carried our baby home from the hospital and I thought, “how do I tend to this feeble little creature?” Where is her owner’s manual?”
As I transition into parenthood, I realise that the decision to have a child is momentous. How on earth did my grandmother deliver eight children at a time when midwives, hospitals and epidurals were unheard of. I have been feeling a rollercoaster of emotions for the past six months. I feel sucked into this vortex of constant care that is physically and mentally draining. Yes, there are those proverbial moments of joy, but most of the time motherhood is just a grind, with bouts of melancholy and anxiety of course. The joys of motherhood are accompanied by harrowing struggles, not to mention nagging self-image issues. I want to knock off those extra pounds, I want to dress well, and I want to spend time grooming myself.
I grow weary of the days. I feel like I’m living on autopilot. I want to sometimes read uninterrupted, at leisure, savouring every word, I want to write, no, like Hemingway, I want to bleed at the typewriter, I want to let my words flow like a river. How carefree my life had been! Really, I am filled with pangs of nostalgia as I try to settle into my new role. There was a time when I read and wrote rigorously, passionately. My absolute devotion to writing is now a thing of the past. I crave my former life from time to time.
Happy mothers raise happy children. Incidentally, postpartum depression is real, and a lot of women go through it unsupported. As a matter of fact, I have it easier than women without 24/7 help at their disposal, but does that mean I don’t get to feel exhausted, sleep-deprived, isolated and disoriented from time to time?
Life isn’t the same anymore. Motherhood seems to have taken precedence over everything in my life. I am not myself with her, I am not myself without her, either way life orbits around my daughter.
Of course I marvel at my maternal skills, my newfound strength and energy, and I cannot imagine life without my little princess. It is a moment of pure ecstasy to see a smile flicker on her lips, especially in the mornings when she wakes up fresh and cheery. Having her fall asleep in my arms is quite an antidote to melt the day’s stress away. By the way, everyone gushes about the birth of their baby and how awesome it felt holding their baby for the first time. I didn’t feel that all-encompassing love right away. Also, all that pain does not disappear into oblivion the moment your newborn is plopped on you. However, I do wish to see the world as my little one does – as though the present moment is beautiful and the only one that matters. How amazingly she harmonises with the moment unfolding before her. Her big gleaming eyes are forever brimming with curiosity and wonder. The ability to cherish little joys is something that comes naturally to babies.
I am not a superwoman, and I don’t even wish to be one. What works for others may not work for me. I am a great mama, nonetheless. And women who are disinclined towards motherhood or women who opt out of motherhood need not be judged either. The notion that a life unprocreated is a life wasted is quite ridiculous. You do you!
Giving birth is transformative – it changes you from a woman to a mother. It is both empowering and disempowering in a lot of ways. One moment you feel like you can conquer the world and the very next moment you feel horribly limited and you want to disappear into the night. I have to constantly remind myself that sleep is more important than reading, writing or a perfectly immaculate house. That I am human and I cannot look into everything as obsessively as I used to. Nine months of pregnancy followed by delivery and catering to the needs of a newborn baby demand Herculean efforts that women astonishingly accomplish with little to no sleep at all.
To my darling daughter:
You will be everything that I could not be. You will be the epilogue to my unfinished story.
PS: This piece was written in instalments, over a period of about three weeks, mostly when my daughter was sleeping.
About the Author
Before she was a fulltime mother, Colette RC spent time in her favourite coffee shop reading fiction. She read her first fiction novel in ninth grade and has been addicted ever since. She currently lives in Calcutta, India with her husband, daughter and a goldfish.