To become a mum
When I was eighteen, I was sure that I know all about motherhood. After all, the much of my life included active help in the upbringing of two younger sisters. I fondly believed that the formula of a mum’s actions in this or that situation was extremely simple — if temperatures were raised, it was necessary to give febrifuge or to wipe the head with vinegar, if a baby cries and cannot fall asleep, then one must rock the baby and sing a lullaby.
My self-confidence in this question remained at the threshold of the maternity ward. I learnt by heart the technique of breathing during contractions, could not concentrate and ‘bear down into the belly, instead of into the eyes’. It seemed to me, that I did everything correctly, but for some reason the obstetrician grumbled at me. Yes, life is a school, only without a bell for a break. Therefore, when they brought me my baby-girl ‘sealed up’ in her sleeping bag, I felt no lesser shock than from the childbirth itself. My God, this small wrinkled miracle appeared much smaller, than I assumed. The girl slept, and I secretly prayed, that this silence lasted longer. After all, I not only wanted to examine in details her face and to be convinced of daddy’s eyebrows and mother’s lips, but also to gather my thoughts as a whole. After all, I had become a mum, and, as they say, there is no turning back.
I remember how the baby smiled at me for the first time with her wide toothless smile. And at that time, her eyes accurately focused on me, despite her just being three days old. This look ‘eye to eye’, I will carry in my heart for the whole of my life as the first silent dialogue of two related souls — of the mum, who is nervous and thinks she is doing everything wrong, and a child who loves her mum simply because she is a mother. During that moment I understood — everything is good and my baby is happy!
And two years later, to the day, I gave birth to a son. And again I worried, whether I should approach him from the right side, whether I wrapped him in the right way — my hands were shaking all over again.
Appearance of maternal instinct
It is said that maternal instinct is inherent in each woman and that it wakes up at the moment of birth of a child or even earlier. I will add something — not always!
At first, you look at your still slim reflexion in the mirror and understand why people joke about you being ‘a little bit pregnant’. And really, how is it possible to believe in this diagnosis made by the doctor, when you do not see any visible changes in your appearance and the sensation of life is the same. But suddenly, your favourite kebab ceases to smell tasty and in the morning, you wake up not because of the barking of a neighbours’ dog, but an unknown attack of rising nausea. Also time of expectation starts — when the sickness ends, when the sex of the child is defined on the ultrasound, when the belly starts growing, when the baby takes the correct position in the womb the when signs of childbirth start. Then you wait for the appearance of mother’s milk. You wait for the round of doctors. You wait for the reaction to vaccinations. You wait, when the navel heals, when the snivels at last cease to flow from the child’s small nose, when the child is old enough to wear clothes that someone has gifted. Do you not think that this sequence of everyday life reminds us of run of the squirrel in a wheel, who does it without understanding?
Awareness of what had happened in my life — that a great happiness occurred in my life, that of becoming a mother, came to me nearly three months after the birth of my first child. The postnatal depression had ended, but I did not pay attention to it because I had no time. The baby’s skin became smooth and her eyelashes appeared. The baby was already able to show pleasure from taking milk. The baby was chubby and so sweet, therefore you wanted to embrace, stroke, tickle, bite and kiss your child all the time.
Nuances of upbringing
Once, I was told a parable which modern psychologists have added to their arsenal — a young couple came with their new-born child to a wise man and asked a question. ‘When it is necessary to start the upbringing of a child?’ ‘You are nine months and ten days late’, the wise man answered. I suppose that the majority of us are late, and that we hasten to catch up, to correct all that we wasted and, when it is corrected, we think ‘if only we knew…’ But, as they say, history does not remember wishes.
How to bring up future geniuses? Each mum faces such question. After all, her child is the ‘very best’ and unique. We go deep into studying western and eastern methods and we rush for help to psychologists, forgetting the simple truth — that children are a reflexion of ourselves. I remember how, after the birth of our second child, for a long time, the older daughter simulated my behaviour in the first trimester of pregnancy. It was funny (and at the same time a little sad) to observe, how she opened the toilet seat lid, coughed, and then in a business-like manner, left the toilet in order after some time, to return again, as a mum.
Very often, trying to do ten things simultaneously, I do not always completely control my behaviour; but my daughter helps me to do this. Copying me, she in the same manner as I, takes a toy mobile phone in her hand and, walking up and down the room, says to an imaginary someone, ‘Well, gosh!, it is impossible!’ Here it is true — little pitchers have long ears — as the English (or possibly Japanese) proverb says. This picture certainly, distracts me from work about the house and forces me to reflect on what I am in dialogue with the world around me, whether I always speak beautifully and correctly and on many other things. And it becomes clear for me, why children are so different. Someone in the street sits with a computer tablet and plays first-person shooter games, while another searches for a lilac branch in order to bring it home and to watch it blossom.
Time of discoveries
All people are united by common businesses and have their own jokes. Programmers speak about ‘software’, doctors talk of patients, while mums discuss the paradoxical expression ‘to be on maternity leave’. Because at this time, away from the working environment, it is possible to do everything: to not get enough sleep, to not eat enough, to not have enough time, to be late for everything, and also to feed, clean, wash, clothe, walk and to do everything… except sit down. Paradox, is not it?
But maternity leave is also a time of discoveries. For example, I suddenly understood that in everyday life, we use not just a little of our brain, as the scientists say, but also our knees, heels, elbows, fingers and toes. For example, using one’s knees, it is possible to hold one child, while dressing another child. On ten fingers it is possible to simultaneously hang an umbrella, and a bag, a children’s shovel with a bucket and one’s keys. It is possible to feed a child with one hand, while using the other hand to feed yourself, and at the same time, use a foot to rock a pram containing a new-born.
And how magically the time frame enlarges during maternity leave! It turns out that fifteen minutes, while a child bathes in the bathroom, can be so long! During the two minutes that the wind-up mobile, suspended over a cot, lasts, it is possible to warm up a meal and even to do the dishes. In general, a pile of tableware is an indicator of busyness. If it is washed once a day, then it means that the children are small. But once, I noticed that I was approaching the kitchen sink three times a day. I looked at the children — yes, they had grown up noticeably.
I really like those several seconds which happen every day. It is that period of time between when I hear the loud bang of a bedroom door opening to the moment when a child appears at the kitchen threshold (where I am, sipping something hot and fragrant in pleasured silence). Probably, it is the daughter, but sometimes the son. Occasionally, it is both. While the little feet shuffle from bedroom to kitchen, I try to guess who is coming… Sometimes I am mistaken. And then I see the full picture, thanks to which I understand — here is the true meaning of life! Slightly reeling because of their recent awakening, the two tots look at me smiling happily. Both of them have protruding bellies and dishevelled hair. ‘Mum, I woke up!’ the daughter reports. ‘Muuum!’ the son echoes. And then both run up to me, knowing that each of my hands is intended directly for her and him, therefore we do not have quarrels on this theme.
Certainly, each mum has special memories on their first pregnancy and about the first child’s attempts to crawl, then to walk, about their first sounds and words. But all mothers are united by a boundless feeling of love, care and responsibility for our children. And this feeling is verbally inexpressible. It is similar to the flow of the wind: it cannot be touched or seen, only felt. Love for a child is as a pressing heartache, because of the strong desire to save them from all misfortunes, understanding at the same time that it is impossible, and even wrong. It is anxiety and constant self-control: whether I make everything well and whether it is possible to make it even better? The love for a child, while it is absolute and unconditional, pushes on feats and even self-sacrifices. History knows many examples of that. And from our children we sincerely wait for ‘thanks’, because to see happiness in our children’s eyes is the greatest gratitude and real happiness for each mum.
By Alisa Krasovska