I remember when I hadn’t got my child yet, and I would always listen to mothers talking about the things that their children did. Sometimes I would engage in the conversations, but always from a point of view of one whose experience was having taken care of a cousin or a friend’s child. Back then it was almost annoying to find one self in the company of a bunch of mothers, because all they ever did was talk about their children. The conversations would be about; what the child was doing at whatever age, the foods they liked or did not like, the sleepless nights the mothers went through when a child or children got sick and so on. So, many times the rest of us without children would be left out and would either start our own conversations, or walk away to find something better to get occupied with.
Later when I got a child, I realized that these mothers did not intend to leave us out of their conversations; it happened naturally and unconsciously. Without intending to, I found that I could not help but think about my child, whether she was fine, if she was well fed well and at the right time, or if her diaper had been changed and the like. When these are the dominant thoughts in one’s mind, the conversations that follow automatically center on that.
Motherhood does not stop at giving birth. From day one of the child’s life, a mother starts getting trained by some unseen power, to sense when a child needs to be fed or diaper needs to be changed. What amazes me to-date is how a mother will know the sound of her child’s voice from among many other voices. For example I would always get intrigued when in a sea of babies say on a day of immunization at a hospital, a mother has left her child to the caretaker and walked over to the counter for something. Then suddenly a number of babies begin crying and out of those, she singles out the cry of her own. Another example is when visitors would come by at home, there would be a lot of chatting and noise but through that, I could tell when the baby cried in the bedroom. On checking, she would have woken up.
Then come the days and nights of stress when a baby has a fever or an infection or has a blocked nose. Oh! Every mother goes through those times and it is intriguing to note that even without prior training, she will always be alert and on her feet to make sure the baby is as comfortable as possible. I remember one of those days when my child had a temperature above normal; 39°C (degrees centigrade). The normal temperature of a baby is 36.4°C/37°C, depending on whether the thermometer is placed in the ear, tongue or under the arm. On that day, like so many others that followed, I was always checking the baby’s temperature, placing a damp cloth on her forehead to lower the “burning”. Now, I learnt that even when the doctor assured me that all would be fine, that didn’t stop me from being anxious. Usually a baby will be fine during the day and then seems to get sicker in the night; thus the mother’s stress levels.
It is a mother’s duty to stay up almost all night long to keep checking on the baby. Any slight sound from her baby will wake her up even if the baby is just sighing. When one goes through so many sleepless nights because of a child’s wellbeing, this is true motherhood. It does not end here, as the baby develops through the different stages, there are other challenges along the way that a mother finds herself blending into. This is not to say that motherhood is all about the child crying and falling sick. There are lots of happy moments which are more than the trying times.
For instance, watching a baby smile for the very first time is such a joyous feeling for the mother. I don’t take that for granted because it gives one a warm, comforting moment that lasts forever. A child’s first teeth developing, first time to crawl, first time to stand un-supported, first footsteps, the list goes on. When one experiences all these things first hand, they stay with the person and cannot be traded for sure.
I have also learnt that as a child grows up, a mother will worry about whether he/she is getting a balanced diet. She will worry about her child having the best education, wearing the best clothes, interacting with the right people and learning good morals. Everything that the mother does tends to be for the child in that if one is not careful, she starts to neglect her own well-being. I have seen this happen many times when I will sacrifice buying a good perfume and choose to buy shoes for my child. Or not buying a type of food that my child does not eat, but rather get something that she will eat wholeheartedly.
It is true that experience is the best teacher, because even motherhood teaches skills and lessons that are not learnt in a classroom.