Recently a friend of mine sent me a message saying that the pictures of my toddler that I post on Facebook really make her want to have a baby. So I went back to my folder to see what it was that was igniting such maternal emotions in her and there they were – cute, cuddly, pictures of my son, eating his ice-cream, playing in the park, snuggled warmly between his parents, soaking in the sun, bumming around on the beach, perched on a cycle, sitting between crayons, all while earnestly looking up at the camera and grinning like an angel.
Of course she wants to have a baby! Had I seen such pictures of mush and joy and childhood exploits, even I would be filled with fuzzy feelings and would quickly want to become a mum – because it is like revisiting your own childhood – except quite not.
That’s the thing about social media – it is a deceptive little convenient liar, designed to make perfection stare us in the face, built so that you can click pictures of happy moments, apply even happier filters and post it with cute little captions like ‘Sunny day with my sonny boy’, ‘Girls are such precious gifts’, ‘My little angel’. Of course you idiots – that’s what we all do. No one is going to post pictures of crying babies or videos of their tantrums or lovely little Instagrammed shots of their puke or mention baby constipation in their status message that says ‘Baby didn’t poop in 3 days. My life is shit.’ No, none of that comes to fore. No sir. I have got news for you. We only post shiny, happy pictures. And that is because motherhood is an over glorified socially constructed notion built to trick women into having babies without knowing some key facts.
Facts that don’t make one a bad mother, but facts that women should talk about more often instead of just expressing the happiness associated with motherhood. Of course, I am not discounting the fact that motherhood is an amazing experience – I must have never been as selfless or unconditional about any other human being as I am for my child. But there is a journey one takes between becoming a mother and being a mother – this journey that a lot of women don’t talk about because of course society frowns upon mothers who complain, mothers who don’t just fall naturally in the role, mothers who don’t cry for joy even at seeing the baby poop, mothers who are somehow so ecstatic at not getting sleep at night that they wear their dark circles as a medal on their shoulder without a groan or a grouse. Yes there are these mothers but there are plenty mothers who are overwhelmed not only at becoming a mother but also at the constant challenge of being a mother.
Becoming a mother isn’t so tough. You get pregnant, you spend a baffling nine months coming to terms with an unfamiliar body that inexplicably craves for specific things, feet that swell, a belly that becomes a teapot, strange medical conditions that suddenly crop up, morning sickness that lasts till the night and suddenly you feel a person fluttering inside of you like a little butterfly. That’s the easy part, the fun part, the part where you can sleep as much as you like, where you are the center of attention, where everyone is making place for you to sit, people willingly let you cut toilet queues and for a moment there; you are so special. If you ask me frankly, even the labour is okay – exhausting, yes, excruciatingly painful, yes but it is some hours of physical torture and then it’s over. Voila! You have become a mother. But it isn’t the becoming as much as being one that can really take over your life.
Being a mother is tough. I am a mother, I have many friends who are mothers and most of us acknowledge the sheer struggle one has to go through on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to raise a child. We all love our little monsters, we do. We love the gurgles and the innocence, the way they grab your finger in their sleep, the way their skin smells, how soft their cheeks get just after they wake up, how their hugs make you melt and the hilarious things they say, but we also hate the struggle of breast feeding, the lack of sleep, the smelly poop, the messy house, the tantrums at meal times, the illogical howling, the teething troubles and the unfathomable kind of energy they sap out of you. But somehow not many talk about it, or post it on social media, or vent openly without the fear of being judged.
I gave up the fear of being judged on day one when my baby was born after almost twenty hours of labour and all I wanted was to eat a pizza and go to sleep. I was hungry, exhausted, drained out and in a bloody lot of pain – in the middle of this if someone asks me if my first instinct was my maternal love for the baby, I honestly say no and tell them the idea of loving your child the moment he or she is born is a little bit of a myth. Most mothers talk about the pain or the sheer relief of having the baby out, the feeling of lightness after months of dragging one’s body around – no, the first instinct isn’t overwhelming love. The love happens, it starts there, it builds slowly – it grows when the little creature opens his tiny little shiny eyes, when she grabs your finger instinctively, when she first lets out a really nondescript burp or when he smiles in his sleep. That’s when the love slowly starts and builds. Are we all universally wired to be instant mothers? I don’t think so. It is a role one slowly grows into, each in her own unique way, all unlike each other, and all equally brave.