Motherhood means many things to many people. From the ‘state of being a mother’ to ‘the worst job that we love dearly’, it is most often defined by our individual experiences and journeys into long beautiful roads of life along with our children.
The strings of motherhood
Motherhood is expected to bring elation, joy, pride and sheer happiness from its onset and is considered the most unconditional expression of love. But the truth is that it too is not free of delusions and conditions. It is tied with invisible strings from time immemorial; the Strings of expectations, social stigmas, approvals, peer pressures and many others. And these strings are powerful enough to replace the joys of motherhood with fear, doubts, and uncertainty.
The idea of motherhood that every girl is raised with doesn’t provide much flexibility. Everybody is being taught the same idea and expectations and even a slight deviation can bring havoc. It is more so if that deviation comes in the form of a special needs child! Because then, ‘the idea of motherhood’ that one has had all their life, has to change overnight and the strings of social expectations begin to edge out the real concept of motherhood.
Choosing the unexplored road
Long ago when I read a poem by Robert Frost’s ‘the road not taken’ I used to ponder if I would do the same? If I were to choose, would I take the road less travelled? I was quite sure that I would, but as they say, ‘saying it and doing it are two different things’ it turned out that Life soon was going to throw me on that road. As ‘Robert Frost’ writes
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
While I did not intentionally choose to go on the road less travelled, I was taken on the one without being asked and that too without a map!
I did have a lot of choices, I had the choice of being happy and accepting of the little precious girl I was sent. I had a choice, to bask in the glory of motherhood, to have somebody who was not ‘typical’ for the world but was ‘perfect’ for me. And I had a choice to not get into that vicious circle of complaining to God about why he did it to me and then crying endlessly into the nights waiting for the answers.
But I did not make that choice then. I complained, I cribbed, cried, howled through the night holding all the strings that I had tied around my beautiful pink packet of motherhood.
I knew, I would have to break free from those strings, change my dreams and fine tune my desires. And I am glad I did all that… and more. I am glad that I did get up and took charge, because that made all the difference.
Piecing together my shattered dreams
I had always wanted a baby girl, who would outwit me with humour and would be my companion in ‘shopping during sales’. She would help me choose dresses and nail paints and also would gossip with me about George Clooney and Shahrukh Khan. Someone who would go out on countless movies and lunches to celebrate all ‘mother’s and daughter’s days’, right from the day she was going to be born.
All these dreams came alive when I held her for the first time, but when I heard about her diagnosis of ‘Down syndrome’ – in doctor’s words ‘intellectually disabled’ -the world came crashing down on me. I thought I would never be able to do what I had always dreamt of doing. But once I realigned my pink motherhood a little above my unknown fears, everything fell back into place.
The realisation that she was going to do everything, but at her own pace, helped me change my ‘idea of a perfect life’ to make it a perfect life with all that I had. I realised that it was not she who was ‘imperfect’ but my idea of perfection!
Cutting the cords that bound me
The strings were not easy to break. They were everywhere: at playschools, parks, pools, friend’s places or in the minds of people around me. These strings were putting her in a compartment reserved for ‘less-abled’. The strings- sympathising with me, and pitying her, underestimating her worth to almost nothing and portraying ‘that I, the mother, was inevitably in pain’.
Everybody thinks that just because you don’t have a ‘typical’ child and ‘typical dreams or journey’ you are disillusioned in thinking that you love your child and you only do so because you don’t have a choice. I wanted to test this myth!
I did a small survey where I asked 20 mothers of special needs children to tell me honestly that if they could change or take away the event of ‘the birth of their special needs child’ from their life, would they do it? It wasn’t something that I was expecting but it made me pleasantly surprised when every single mother told me that they are happy with their lives and would not change a thing about it. All of them said that their special needs child has helped them learn the new ways of life and they are grateful to have such a child in their lives.
My unusual voyage
Motherhood is humbling and emotionally investing. It is about loving your child irrespective of any flaws that they might have. It is the magic of raising a little life with the best of your abilities. And if motherhood should at all be tied up, it should be tied up with the strings of love, compassion and non-judgement.
The packets of motherhood that a girl keeps with her while growing up should be tied up with the strings of faith in human abilities and also with the trust that every soul and every being is equal and that’ the motherhood’ doesn’t come in same packets for all. It is different for everybody. Every mother is different and so is motherhood… for some it is pink and for others it’s purple. All we need to do to help the future mothers experience their greatest motherhood is to wrap it in different colours but to make sure that there are no strings attached!
This article was published in the magazine ‘complete well being‘ in their August 2014 issue, under the title ‘ I am a special mom’.
you can view the pdf file here strings of motherhood for a special mother