My bond with Srishti predates the womb. She had been a spectral presence in my life long before she was born – through all my years of waiting to be a mother. I’d always wanted a daughter and that’s how she came to me, in myriad visions: at nights, I would mostly imagine a baby, snuggling against me; but during the day, I would see a small girl – playing, singing, swinging, reading…. [I took mental snapshots of her --- she hovered, just beyond the pale of touch.]
When Srishti actually happened, it took me a while to believe it: that I was finally, incredibly, impossibly, a mother. But then it seemed a simple transition from the surreal to the real! Only, it was a different kind of reality - she had filled a whole in my heart and suffused my life with a joy I had never known before.
All my life, I’ve heard about the joys and challenges of motherhood, and seen women around me experiencing it. There’s nothing new about it, of course; and yet, like all mothers, I’ve learnt my own lessons. The very first was a pleasant surprize – the utter sensuousness of the experience! So much of a mother’s love in the first few years is tactile… isn’t it? Loving a baby is principally about loving the baby’s body, nourishing it, caring for it with cream & powder & soap, seeing it grow from horizontal to vertical. Caring for Srishti’s little brown body (not little any more), I rediscovered touch - and possessiveness - in a whole new way.
I’ve also learnt a new definition of love. I’d always thought that the love of a mother is a given: you loved the foetus growing inside you, or the baby you had adopted and accepted in your life, and that love permeated all the things you did as a mother. But I’ve now realized that love is not a pre-existent and endlessly renewable resource that you draw upon; rather, it is something that you CREATE every day. With all the things that you do.
All the mundane jobs that make up a mother’s day – the nappies, the feeds, the frequent sleepless nights tending to infections and fevers, the nameless anxieties and fears that often accompany every significant point of your child’s growth curve, (which the world dismisses as “Oh, it happens” - true - but which doesn’t always help as it is so real and so new for you); and equally, all the fun things you enjoy together… reading books, singing songs, walking/riding to school and back, going for holidays, celebrating festivals – all these actions are not the result of love, they are the reason for it. Love is not a passive emotion, but an active engagement.
In that active engagement, there are clear favourites. The best part of my day is coming home to her – to her warm cheeks, her outstretched arms, calling me: “Mama, ik heb ye zo gemist” as she comes running to me & feet hanging in the air, tells me in one breath all that she has done in school.
There’s another favourite, and this has been there for all the 4 years of Srishti’s life: to see her sleep. Nothing in the world gives me more peace than when I see her sleep – all tucked up in bed, blinds drawn.
It’s a frightfully unequal, unjust and violent world out there…. but there is beauty, kindness, love and friendship in it, too. I just hope that the precariousness of life, as it has now become globally, is balanced out, in her case, with all the good and positive things that this world has to offer.
I hope to be her friend. And I really hope (given my age) that I can be around for her for as long as she needs me. I am, and would like to remain, the anchor in her life; and continue giving her a loving home that - when the time comes - she can leave without guilt, but also return to without hesitation. Whenever she wants. The place she can sleep well, all tucked up, blinds drawn.