Roots and Wings: Reconciling The Contradictions of Motherhood
Sharing the very first essay that I felt brave enough to send out for publication. It appeared in the San Jose Mercury News in California in September 2002.
It began in the delivery room after nineteen hours of labor, when my baby arrived safely into this world, and the umbilical cord connecting us was severed. As I felt the last of the contractions, I experienced the first of many contradictions of motherhood.
I felt humbled by the miracle of finally seeing this perfect miniature human being who had started out as a clump of cells. But I simultaneously experienced a minor twinge of regret for the end of my pregnancy. The special bond I had shared with my unborn child, one only I could selfishly enjoy, was now broken.
In the euphoric initial moments of motherhood, the regret seemed miniscule, compared to all the other changes I was experiencing physically and emotionally. It was only later that I realized that it was the first of many conflicting emotions that have swept through me since my daughter’s birth.
Becoming a mother opened a whole new window to the world
Motherhood also helped me train my inner eye to visualize my authentic self. As I cradled my tiny infant, I was suddenly aware of how vulnerable I was where she was concerned.
One did not need to be a genius to figure out where my weak spot was. But this revelation came with the twin realization that I suddenly had at my disposal, a reservoir of strength that I could summon at any time to nurture and protect my child.
A friend had a birthday two weeks after the birth of her firstborn. Suffering from postpartum stress compounded by sleep deprivation, her greatest wish for her birthday was “eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.” But I know that she would have used her precious time to stay up for hours admiring her sleeping newborn.
If you have ever watched a 6-month old baby engrossed by the magic of its own fingers, you know the single-minded focus children bring to things that fascinate them. Likewise, becoming a parent forces you to focus on your little bundle of endless joy and responsibility.
Previously self-absorbed individuals have shown astounding interest in the world around them once they become a mother or father. It amazes me to see friends and acquaintances who could barely write a comprehensive grocery list rush to financial planners and insurance agents after becoming parents.
The slow thoughtful way in which a 9-month old figures out how his wrists and knees must move in order to crawl to the colorful teething toy compels you to notice the unlimited time available to babies. That same baby though, takes up all your time. It is imperative that you become more efficient timewise if you desire to be a partially productive adult in addition to being a parent.
Motherhood equips us with a highly sensitive radar and ties us in knots over the simplest decisions
Should you let them eat candy? Should you start solid foods at four months? Should you travel cross-country with an infant? Should you help them tie their shoelaces or watch them struggle to do it themselves?
With every step my child takes, my pride in her ever improving skills is tinged with sadness at the accompanying loss of innocence. An old Chinese proverb says -
Parents can give their children only two things. The first is roots — a home that is safe and steady. The second is wings — for flying away and doing new things
Right now I am working towards giving my little girl a strong home base. I can only pray that when she grows up and flies away from me, I can make my empty nest a safe and comfortable one for when she finds a need to return to her roots.
Update: The baby referred to in this essay is now getting ready to fly the nest. What a long way we have travelled together!
Originally published at https://www.ranjanirao.com on May 9, 2020.