Today I was reading in a magazine how two recent mothers have created a blog where they talk about the “realistic” side of motherhood, leaving behind the “romantic” descriptions that usually describe it as a “blissful state”. Nothing further from the truth, they say. And they go on to describe the horrible nausea they felt in the early stages of pregnancy and their vomiting everywhere and in the less convenient places; their feeling like a bloated whale in the last months; the excruciating pain of childbirth; learning how to cope with a demanding newborn baby that comes without “ instructions”; the appalling lack of sleep during the first month – if all goes well, because if not, sleep deprivation can prolong itself for months if not years; the incredible pressure to breastfeed, making any mother feel terrible if she cannot successfully breastfeed her baby, let alone even thinking of another possible option in case she does not feel comfortable with it; coping with dirty nappies, baby vomit, ceasing to be an individual with her own needs to simply exist as “the mother of”; the end of romance (at least for some time…); the extreme tiredness that – and they describe it with an incredible sense of humour – makes a few hours of sleep more alluring than any imagined trip to the Seychelles…and they go on and on, and all of us mothers know they are right, because we have been there. So, maybe it would be time to ask – why do most of us women still choose this path, even if we know it is not an easy one? Not to mention what comes after that first stage – tantrums, school, illnesses, and maybe the most dreaded stage – our children’s teens…why do we persist in choosing the motherhood path? Yes, because nowadays it is certainly a choice we women have, unlike our ancestors who had no option. Since the advent of the pill we can decide if we want to have children or not.
And we may think we don’t want to have children and then change our mind. As happened with me. Of course the other way round is not possible, since having children is the most final decision you can make in your life, as there is no turning back.
As a young girl, and even into my twenties, having children was definitely not on my plans. I thought pregnancy must be horrible and leave me deformed – not to mention getting a huge tummy during some months; childbirth a primitive experience – with all the progress medicine has experienced, how come they haven’t invented a painless way for women to have babies yet?, and then of course all the sacrifices parents have to make when the are riddled with children, from being stuck at home taking care of them to not being able to travel or freely pursue their careers…I did not feel a motherly instinct and didn’t have interest for babies at all. In fact I remember that even as a child, when all my girl friends played moms with their baby dolls, I didn’t really enjoy it, much preferring to dress up my Barbie dolls and enact their marriages to their boyfriend Ken…
Then time went by and maybe because all of a sudden I was surrounded by my friends’ babies and I was finding them cute and not as hateful as I had envisaged, slowly I began to change. Also, the fact that I was married to a man who very much wanted to be a father, certainly put some pressure on my marriage, and after a few years and some difficult arguments I found myself changing and accepting the fact that maybe I, too, wanted to become a mother.
And then life made it hard for me and I could not get pregnant, and for years I tried to discover what my problem was and when I finally did it was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I suppose it was on that moment that I discovered the answer to the question I asked above –why, even if we know it is so difficult, even if we are certain there is no turning back, even if we know we’ll be facing the biggest challenge of our lives, why do we still persist in becoming mothers? In my opinion, the answer lies with only one word: love. Yes, love. A love so overwhelming that completely changes the way you look at things.
From that first moment when I discovered I was to be a mother I loved that tiny person (in my case two, as I have two children) that was growing inside me. That love changed me: I faced whatever discomfort with a serene philosophy – I think the state of my hormones helped; I, who had rarely vomited in my life, now vomited everyday and sometimes several times a day. But I always faced it with a smile on my face and felt it as a mildly irritating sign of something bigger – that little life growing inside me; when I was in danger of miscarrying and had to stay in bed for some time, I spent my days reading and watching corny Venezuelan soaps on TV, and it all seemed worthwhile because I wanted my baby to be well and grow strong; when my tummy started growing I was thrilled because it also meant I could feel my baby moving more and more and never for one moment did I think it was deforming my figure. I did take care with my food and only put on a few extra kilos which was very good, and I remember rubbing my tummy with an anti stretch-marks cream that worked wonders, as I ended up with none; in the last months when I felt bigger I simply thought the day was approaching when I would have my baby in my arms; and when finally the day came when my waters broke I was not nervous as I went to the hospital, only curious to see my baby’s face for the first time!
The day we give birth is full of new experiences, some less pleasant than others. To start with, from time to time a midwife comes into the room and pushes her hand into our womb to check on the baby, and this they do countless times; still, I was quite indifferent as I saw all these as necessary procedures so that everything went well; when I began feeling contractions I realised what “childbirth pains” meant and I can only say they are violent. Twenty-two years ago epidural anaesthetic was not as usual as today and I very much feared it so I had decided to have a natural birth and that I had. As each pain began to rise I strongly grabbed my husband’s hand – I think I must have bruised him – and bore it, waiting for it to pass. But at times it was so unbearable that I vomited. At a point my doctor gave me some morphine derivative and I was very relieved, and after some time came the ultimate relief when I felt something slimy coming out of me – and then my baby was crying, and I was hearing the doctor say “Wow, we have a beautiful baby boy here” and by the tone of his voice I knew everything was well and then my baby was put on my chest and I was doing the unthinkable – kissing his dirty little head and crying of happiness, and this wave of unconditional love, that will be there forevermore, was invading me.
Amazing as it may seem, I remember the days I gave birth to my children among the happiest of my life, because any discomfort I may have had is small stuff compared with the intensity of the feelings that I experienced.
And I can say the same about all the rest: for me one of the toughest aspects of motherhood is the lack of sleep. The first month is a nightmare. There are also difficult moments when they are ill, such as when the fever is rising and we don’t know what to do. Then there are so many other moments when we worry about them, for countless reasons, but of course there are so many others when, just by looking at those small human beings so much our own, we feel totally complete and there’s nothing else we need but to hold them in our arms – and ask time to stop and let us be.
Love is the answer
But of course time does not stop and they grow up. They become teenagers and at times, albeit unwillingly, they hurt us so much. Sometimes it seems they don’t love us anymore – haven’t we all been teenagers and gone through a phase when we see our parents as a bore? And we go on, doing the best we can, through the good and hard moments, simply because we love them. We watch them grow and turn into men and we silently thank the stars that we have been able to be at their side in their journey into adulthood, and help them to spread their wings and fly…even if, again, we are so sad when they leave home. It seems life will never be the same.
In fact, life is never the same after the moment we know they exist. The moment we know they are growing inside us we love them already, and nothing will be the same again. And, even if they are noisy, dirty, worry us, won’t let us sleep, make us spend a lot of money and represent the end to our freedom of mind for all time, nothing of this matters, in fact, because they are also the greatest love of our lives, something unique and irreplaceable. So, to the two mothers who have created the blog to shake the “myth of perfect motherhood” I would say I certainly sympathise with them, as they are right in everything they say. Like all mothers I have been through the same; I can only tell them I have lived all those experiences through the eyes of the deep love I feel for my children, and that has made it all so much easier, turning what might have been bad memories into a collective memory of something unique I have in my life: the fact that I am the mother of those two beautiful human beings.
So, if anyone asks me why I have chosen to become a mother, and why I would still make that option another thousand times even after knowing what it entails I will reply: because of love. If I had not become a mother I would not know true, unconditional love, a love so strong that will last as long as I live. But this must be a choice, and I wholeheartedly believe women must decide what is best for them and how they want to live their lives. Because this is a choice for life. Beautiful as it may be, it’s not easy. However, if you want it, it’s worth every second, every hug, every kiss, even every tantrum or quarrel. And just hearing those beloved voices say “Mother!” makes it all worthwhile.