Saturday, July 23, 2016

I'm just...............my type of mother

I honestly don't know why I am writing this post.....maybe, because I know that there are some mothers who're our there, not being able to BE themselves..............maybe, because I am (finally!) comfortable with the 'type' of mother I am...........or maybe, because I want my son to know me for who I am, faults and all....... Mostly, it's the last. He will grow up, and some day, he will want to know what kind of mother I am/was. And I want him to get my version of the story - first hand.......

Now that I think back, my only reason for having a child was because I could. I don't remember having any deep introspective conversations about why I wanted a child (of my own), in the first place. It sounded like a good idea......maybe, I wanted someone to call my own blood, my genes........or maybe not. I don't truly know. So, my husband and I did. I was happy when I got to know I was expecting, but I didn't have a name for the happiness. Was I looking forward to being a mother? No idea! Did I know what it entailed? Nope! I'd never really "seen" an infant growing up (or maybe, the challenges associated with it). I guess, I was largely happy because my husband was happy. I know he LOVES children. I can say that about myself now (maybe, having my own has made my understand myself better!)...........but back then (7 years ago), I don't think I knew better..........

The first trimester was a nightmare! I can't deny that I wondered (many times) as to WHY I was going through the 5-times-a-day-throwing-up routine! It simply didn't make sense! I had a heightened sense of smell, hated the smells of tomatoes, coffee, cucumber, broccoli, wheat flour, cabbage.........it was pure torture! At the end of the first trimester, a switch flipped! My pregnancy was so trouble free second trimester onwards, that it was easy to forget I was pregnant at all! I followed the diet regime like my life depended on it. And at the end of 40 weeks (precisely), after a nearly 20 hours long labour, I finally gave birth (through C-section), to a 3.1 kg old, perfectly healthy baby boy!

I remember the ecstatic look on my husband's face as he exclaimed: It's a He! But me? I was exhausted. Exhausted to the point of not caring what gender the child was. All I could feel was a bit of relief and a LOT of hunger! The 'bump' was gone! And as I lay in the post-op recovery room (and shivered due to the infection I got due to C-Sec), I wondered. For the nth time........is it ALL RIGHT to not feel over the moon about becoming a mother? I had a raging headache and blazing fever.........I could barely open my eyes, or stay still, for that matter. As I drifted in and out of sleep, the thought, "Where is my baby and what must he be doing? was frequently giving way to, "When will I be able to eat?"

Puffy eyed and famished, I arrived in my hospital room (with a catheter attached to me, stomach taped together and a headache that refused to die away), to a screaming bundle that was going red in the face due to the strain of crying. Trying to feed him was yet another struggle, a struggle I didn't know will last a long time. He just won't 'latch' and there wasn't much milk coming anyway. His blood sugar was falling and the doctors had to feed him externally......but for the 2 days he didn't get fed properly, he screamed, screamed and screamed.........If I had any idea of why I had a child in the first place, it was rapidly vanishing. I wondered why I was here, in a hospital bed, walking with a great deal of pain around the operation area, trying to feed this screaming baby! Frustration built and ebbed over the coming few days. I tried telling myself, come on, it's YOUR child.......he came from YOU. I felt enormously guilty, for thinking such thoughts. Aren't mothers supposed to love unconditionally and forever? Every minute of the day? All the time? If giving birth made you a mother, I was one. And I was unable to love unconditionally! I was exhausted! Tired! In pain! In guilt...........it was so complex, that I wondered if I was a beast inside my outer shell..........

I'd heard about post-partum depression, but the 'holier-than-thou' mothers around me had convinced me that it's just a construct! They'd LOVED their babies right from the word go. Maybe, I was not human enough for loving another human being (even if that human was my own baby!)......maybe, I am a faulty mother..........it was so difficult to handle all these emotions (along with a newborn who wanted to constantly be held and cuddled and fed and burped), that I truly felt I was imploding.........

I was snappy, irritable, unfocussed.............for quite some time. Until, one fine day, I had NO help with my child. I was on parental leave and had no choice but to BE with my son. And I was! He slept a great deal...........around 4 hours a day. And I used those 4 hours for myself. For doing the house work, for reading, for quilling, for thinking..........the presence of sun in a Swedish summer helped me. But what helped me the most was: Lack of any other mother around me to tell me how to be a good mother. THAT did it for me. I realized that I had to STOP being a mother (I know, it sounds scandalous, but that worked for me). I had to start being a human, a sensitive one........a sensitive human who treated another human with respect and care. And suddenly, my son's face became my world........his laughter became my happiness............he became everything to me! Just like my husband was.........my everything..........

After I returned to India, there was another period when I had to live with (often unspoken) judgments of "She doesn't spend enough time with her child", "Her career is everything for her", "She's an insensitive mother"........I knew I was career oriented. And I've always wanted to work outside the house, or the realm of the house. The phase was back.......when I felt like a useless mother, the wrong person, the mean person, the selfish person......and all of that. Because every other mother was just so loving, caring.........

Moving to Bangalore was a blessing at so many levels that I don't even want to think about what would've happened if I didn't......suddenly, I "had to" devise mechanisms...........coping mechanisms. For coping with work, house, child-raising........it was a tussle beyond any I've ever known. I hated everything. Having to constantly juggle time, literally dragging my son to school (while he screamed the roof down), trying to squeeze in whatever work I could, managing some sleep in the middle of all of this..........I tried hiring a nanny and failed! I tried keeping him at home and that failed too! I was neither here, nor there..........I was always thinking of work while raising my child and thinking about raising my child while working. There was no income from work, I was a "burden"! On myself, on my husband and at one point, I felt, on the whole world..........questioning my existence, my sanity.....

They say, when things are the worst, they can only get better. February 2013 was one such month. And when I say, The best decision I ever made was to spend my life with Ananth, I wasn't exaggerating. Somewhere, sometime, he sensed what was going on in my head. Or rather, how MUCH was going on in my head! And he made the "dreaded" suggestion: Let's try Day Care.

And you know what? I resisted! Day Care is for mothers who refuse to take care of their kids. We can't afford it. What if my child isn't taken care of? And upon introspection, I found THE reason the very idea of Day Care bothered me so much! I worried about being labelled a "Bad Mother". Because good mothers stay at home, take care of their kids, don't go away from them at all, meet all their needs............and are NON-EXISTENT. In no small measure, it was my husband and my dearest friend Meghana, who helped me come out of this (nearly self-destructive) thought. My husband said the golden words: "You don't have to explain your mothering style to anyone". And Meghana said the other set: "Choose your battles".

These two pieces of advice turned me around! It took all my resolve to drop a screaming (and often kicking) Anvesh to School and not bring him right back with me. I sensed the undercurrents of "disapproval" in the family. But I persisted! Because in the bargain of being a good mother (read; approved by others as a good mother), I was becoming someone I was not. I was NOT their brand of mother..............I was NOT a usual type of mother (if there IS a type)........I was my type of mother. The kind who thinks her life doesn't begin and end at having a child. Who accepts that she has faults, just like the next person, the kind who doesn't believe that her child is always right, the kind who feels that she needs to give space to her child and not smother them with "love". Basically, the kind who empowers the child to think: "How can I solve this problem?" rather than: "I need to find someone who knows how to deal with this". The kind who is equipped to handle life, not feel burdened by it. The kind who will be independent, sensitive..........and confident. Pretty much everything I wish I was.

Once my son started Day Care, I had time! To do things I wanted to do. To work with focus. And guess what, I COULD afford it. Because I was WORKING. The sky didn't fall. He adjusted to the schedule...............and as for being a bad mother, I realized I was caring lesser and lesser about what others thought. It stung, of course, when veiled suggestions were made about my 'callous' attitude towards mothering. But when my son rushed to people's help, when he played with kids younger than him, when he smiled at strangers and was deemed "polite" repeatedly by his school, I knew I was doing something right. The kind of right I believed in.  And eventually, I was turning into MY type of of mother. Gradually, to free up more of my time, I hired more people. My venture flourished. Because it reflected what was happening inside my head - it was BLOOMING! I was becoming a happier person.........a person I originally was (with some age-induced changes, of course)......a person I was proud of being......

As my son grows, I am letting him imagine, letting him dream of the undreamt, thinking the unthought.........all the while taking care that he isn't hurting anyone. We have our bond, the bond of sharing our thoughts, our feelings..........he tells me what's going on in our head. My husband jokingly says: You can get him to do anything. I don't know about that one, but Anvesh and I once made a pact. If I ask him to do something, he can question me and I'll explain. If he isn't happy, he has to either suggest an alternative (open to further discussion) or else, do what I asked him to. I am trying to be particular only about certain necessary things and he's living up to his promise. His school tells me he's a bright boy, Everyone around me says he's a sweetie pie. And I? I think, he's a 5 year old with a 5 year old's thoughts. I don't expect great achievements from him. I just want him to be happy (not always!)...........and to be a good human being. In the mean time, I will just continue to be what I am - my type of mother..........


3 comments:

  1. Hey Pritz, u have penned this beautifully, sensitively and above all, truthfully. U have been bold enough to state this openly and also courageous enough to be "you". Aneesh is very lucky to have you as his mom and if all moms are like you, we have a hope for the future. Continue to write and i will be your ardent critic.

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  2. Hey Pritz, u have penned this beautifully, sensitively and above all, truthfully. U have been bold enough to state this openly and also courageous enough to be "you". Aneesh is very lucky to have you as his mom and if all moms are like you, we have a hope for the future. Continue to write and i will be your ardent critic.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well you must know how I learned about the piece you wrote... but I should tell you it is simply penned straight from the heart& mind simultaneously. I could actually sense what you had been going through for it is beautifully reflected through your words. High five to that bold approach in life. Feel blessed to have Ananth & Anvesh around you who makes you feel complete & happy. I appreciate you took a step to share it with like minded parents to make them feel lighter & stronger. Kudos.. keep writing!

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