She died when I was 11 – my Mama. I remember few things about her. The way she smiled, her big bambi eyes and her stunning red lipstick. She was a looker and used to wear this mink winter coat in the London of 80s which was too classy for its time. The coat still hangs in my closet – faintly smelling of her and her sandal talc powder.
As I grew up I learned how she was critical heart patient and advised not to have kids but so desperately wanted kids that she was willing to risk any and everything. My dad took her to the best doctors and fertility specialists to change her mind but she was a woman who didn’t like to be told no. After 5 years of struggle she had me, a long difficult delivery assisted by specialists to make sure her blood doesn’t clot throughout the process.
It just goes without saying how I was spoiled rotten. I was my parent only child and they made sure I had everything. I wore the fanciest of clothes, shiniest of shoes, had the best of toys and what not. Little did I know how short our time was. A month before I was turning 11, she left us – a malfunctioning of her heart valve, as the doctor said. I was a child who had never learnt to press her clothes, pack her bag or even get up to get a drink. Reality quickly changed but I adapted, grew up in a short span of time and luckily didn’t fall apart.
A few years later remarried a wonderful woman, my Mumma. I call her Mumma because calling a relationship ‘step’ is belittling. It fills you with Cinderella-esque feel of horrid step mothers and their torture. Yes its not all hunk dory and you have to give and take. Mumma is awesome, she is my friend and my gossip buddy. She didn’t have kids and treats me as her own. She taught me how manage a household, how to cook baigan allo, how to stitch, how to clean and how to take care of people around me.
Today I am a mother of a beautiful and spirited 19 month old girl. She reminds me daily how difficult and blessed motherhood is – all wrapped in one. It’s not all chirpy and happy as cereal ads make it out to be. It’s difficult and that’s the God honest truth. Motherhood is difficult because it’s about happy tears and sad tears, sweat, pain, stitches and screams. It’s about suffering painful bouts of nauseas nine month straight. It’s about being awake at 3am deciding which boob will get the best angle. It’s about changing explosive diapers and getting peed on. It’s about getting out of a cozy blanket on a chilly night to fix a bottle.
It’s about making different baby food from scratch only to get in spit up in your hair. It’s about putting someone else needs first no matter the time, place or space. You don’t sleep because you hang on the edge of the bed every night. Your tea goes cold because you have to make sure the ‘toast’ carrying aero plane land’s on your little person’s mouth. You have to give up parties, functions and sometimes even friends. You have to excuse yourself from lunches because it’s just one of ‘those days’.
Motherhood is difficult because only a mom can deal with a baby who is teething and get her head chewed off in reward. It’s only a mom who can multitask her office work while hearing nursery rhymes on the loop for 2 hours straight. It about finding a toddler hand deeps in your expensive makeup which you hardly now ever get to use because Mom hair (a bun) and Mom look (read: in a pajama) is a thing.
Motherhood is hard. It’s demanding, exhausting and taxing on your nerves. You have to be alert all the time, like a hawk. You become a brain that never sleeps. Are the sockets all capped? Is there any hot liquid in her reach? Did she just eat something of the floor? All your showers are timed and record breaking quick. It would be a miracle if you can just honestly use the loo in peace. Also your house looks like a bomb went off – toys and toddler stuff everywhere!
I didn’t get a chance to learn how to be a mother from my Mama or Mumma. The day I brought Abeer (my daughter) home from the hospital I was lost. I had no clue of how to take care of the little thing. She was underweight, an IUGR baby packed with a pair of powerful lungs – you could hear her crying all the way to the end of the street. I hadn’t taken care of anything before that time, no sibling not even a single pet – how could I be responsible for a child? I just didn’t know what to do or where to start. I went through baby literature, apps, books – googling anything and everything. I just wasn’t confident I could do it. The first time I gave her a bath – she was this tiny little thing. I told my husband that she will cry and I can’t do it. He asked me to just try maybe. So I did and surprisingly she didn’t make a single noise and just wrapped her hand around my fingers like she trusted me.
Just like that in an instant things changed.
Motherhood teaches you so many things – no baby comes with a manual. I wing it and do the best I can. It’s all one big experiment. I get how Mama spoiled me rotten because she knew her time was short and she loved me like there was no tomorrow. I get how Mumma never tried to be the ‘mother’ role model for me but more of a friend and confidante. I respect how both these ladies tried or try to be a mom in their own ways.
So as tough as Motherhood is it’s also a blessing to love someone so unconditionally. To have the honor of their first smile, their first walk, their first clap, their first giggle and their first word. Motherhood is difficult because it’s only a mom who gets it – the love and madness all wrapped in one amazing journey.