An edited version of this first appeared in Gulf News
Mother’s Day musings
Motherhood is a journey – one that is filled with laughter, tears, happiness, pain, and most importantly, love. The first time a woman begins to feel like a mother is when the ‘news’ is confirmed, and the realization that a little heart beats inside of her dawns upon her with a mighty thud. Those few precious moments spent inside the doctor’s office are staggering and from that moment, her life is divided into two parts, with the baby, without the baby.
She feels sick in the mornings, unbelievably exhausted at work, and she can’t figure out why she craves dark chocolate at 2:00 AM. As the baby bump becomes more pronounced, the mom-to-be can be seen frequenting the loo more than usual, and favourite jeans and sweaters are unceremoniously dumped to the back of the wardrobe, replaced by maternity clothing. Pre-natal vitamins are gulped down religiously and books and websites are searched hungrily for information, but nothing – really nothing, can prepare her for the baby.
Childbirth is miraculous, outrageous and wonderful – but you forget all about it when the helpless little infant cries out for you to hold her, caress her, and give her nourishment. As the tiny fingers touch your cheek and you catch her grinning at only God knows what in her sleep, you wonder if you really deserve her. Then she stuns you with her excellent vocals – sometimes well into the night, and you wonder if you should cry too.
Infancy goes by with spit-ups on your shoulders (always on new shirts), lots of bananas, mashed foods, icky diapers and inadequate sleep. The first smiles, first steps and first words pass you by almost stealthily, because before you know it, the schoolboy in his crisp new uniform is your little one. Soon homework, taekwondo and football practice become a part of the daily schedule and your baby is now a social animal with his own friends, acquaintances and heroes. You are requested to ‘please dress nicely and not wear that hideous orange thing’ when you make the school run and soppy hugs around friends are ill-advised.
Teenage is sometimes characterized with loud music, sometimes with rebellion and almost always with heightened interest in the opposite gender. Words such as ‘communication gap’ and ‘lack of understanding’ are heard in a previously harmonious household and the mother wonders where she went wrong. Crushes and heartbreaks are nursed as the mother observes her child develop into a capable young adult with every bittersweet experience.
All too soon, the nestlings mature into strong, independent birds and the mother will be there to watch over them as they take flight and discover life anew. Laugh lines now rim her mouth and grey locks adorn her head, rather like a proud testimony of her vast experience and indisputable judgement — both of which come into play, of course, when she becomes the chief event planner for a wedding. Enthusiasm flows through her veins as she offers everything from marital advice to her own solitaire ring and blesses the couple.
The grandchildren adore her stories and her cooking, and why not? She’s been spoiling them silly ever since they came into existence. This stage of her life is perhaps the most satisfying of all, as she looks back contentedly at the well-spent years behind her. But the days slip away like desert sand in a fist and life seamlessly delves into the last phase – and the most heartbreaking one of them all.
In a cruel twist of irony, the woman who held your hand when you took your first step is now unable to walk unless there is someone by her side. The very person who taught you your ABC’s needs thick glasses to peruse anything at all, and the one who kept reminding you about your language classes has trouble remembering the most basic things. The woman who put each morsel in your mouth can hardly eat with her own hand and rarely visits the washroom unaccompanied. Sometimes, elderly mothers are cherished, respected and loved inside the confines of their homes, at other times they find themselves inside homes for the aged, forgotten by their families and wonder why they can’t go back home.
Let’s take a moment to honour and appreciate these selfless individuals who gave up so much for our sake. Tell her how special she is, linger on just a little bit longer with that hug, and give her those roses you’ve been wanting to but couldn’t possibly find the time to. After all, you never know when it could be your last day with her.