As yet another Mothers’ Day comes along, messages, reminders, stories, interviews with new moms and old, and the inevitable advertisements ( you are precious to her, now give her something else that is precious….fade out to a stunning diamond set, or a luxury holiday etc.) All of which will be welcome of course but so will a set of thoughtfully chosen books and pyjamas as this lovely blog asks for ! https://riedstrap.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/all-your-mother-wants-is-books-and-pyjamas/
There are those who will say the glass is half empty and ask why this tokenistic remembrance of mothers only on one day of the year when they are giving up their bodies and minds and emotions and ambitions and often entire lives to take on this role.
There are those who will say the glass is half full and say, well, at least on this one day the kids and society will wake up from their stupor and be conscious of the role you play in their life and acknowledge and appreciate it.
Someone like me will say, that’s all well and good, but step back and see that the glass is an illusion and find out who is holding it !!
Motherhood comes in so many shades–biological, adoptive, foster ( huge applause for Siobhan from Orphan Black, the most fierce badass foster mum ever !) surrogate, planned, unplanned, unwanted, step mother, sometimes ex –mother. Sometimes ‘mother’ is a large pod in a battery farm like the Matrix !!
As we were watching random TV yesterday, my daughter pointed out how every Indian/ desi character , whether in an American TV series like the Designated Survivor, or a contemporary Hindi film like Dear Zindagi, had to have a mother in the background, usually on the phone, giving instructions, asking about food, love, sleep J Well that is the reality isn’t it ?! My mom has just recently, finally, stopped reminding me to cross the road carefully. And I think that’s only because I mostly take the car everywhere now, not because she worries less about what a ‘dangerous’ life I lead when I am out of her sight haha !
Our films and books are full of strong mothers, ranging from evil ones like Lalita Pawar to martyred idealized ones like Nirupa Roy and now ‘modern’ mothers like Reema Lagoo, Ratna Pathak Shah who treat their kids more like friends and not too much ‘doodh ka karz’ type rona- dhona.
Being a mother is so glorified in our cultures that anyone who cannot be one due to infertility is subjected to awful treatment. In the villages a childless woman will not be invited to any functions in case her shadow falls on someone’s child and it takes ill. Infertility is not voluntary and still receives such a bad treatment, so imagine how society treats those who want to actually choose to be childfree (I came across this way of wording it rather than childless and thought it so much ore empowering!).
Someone who does not want to get pregnant or someone who has an abortion are seen as an insult to the motherhood concept and become the outliers. But the reality is that not every woman is cut out to be a mother, and the vast majority of abortions everywhere are carried out for women who are already mothers and recognize the price to be paid for bringing another child into this world, who they have to give themselves up to raise.
We should also recognize that while motherhood is glorified it is done so only if it is within the confines of a heterosexual marriage. Anything before, after or beyond, is again looked upon askance ! As though the same rules of biology, physical and emotional issues don’t apply any more.
The famous song “ Didi tera devar deewana’ was around a baby shower. Imagine if Renuka’s character in that movie was unmarried. Or a widow. Or a lesbian. Not quite the same level of celebration you think ?!
The KEM antenatal wards had a separate section for unmarried girls who were pregnant and had gone beyond the 20 week legal abortion limit. They would sit there doing basket weaving and something else, waiting for the time they would deliver and be freed of this burden. It was accepted that all those babies would be given up for adoption.
Contrary to this intense hospital care they received, mainly as a ‘social hospitalization’ pregnant women in India are still dying in large numbers. This map shows countries drawn in proportion to the maternal deaths their women suffer. This will make it starkly obvious that India’s contribution to global maternal deaths is ridiculously and tragically large given that we have ambitions to be among the next superpowers.
As a gynaeocologist I always wondered how come all other mammals seem to do fine in labour and we humans have so much trouble. One lecture I attended on evolutionary biology while working in London was an real eye opener ! Basically what the theory says is that the various changes in the pelvis that took place as a result of becoming an animal that walked on two feet and then more or less upright, combined with a growing larger brain in the neonate, led to a greater potential for cephalo-pelvic disproportion (CPD) than in any other mammals ( with the exception of some higher order monkeys and apes). This illustration makes it totally clear.
Read this brilliant article in full if you are interested in knowing the details:
Since CPD and obstructed labour continues to be among the biggest killers of women in labour in our part of the world, I guess women are continuing to pay the price for the evolution of humankind ! (Maybe the ‘original sin’ was not eating the apple or having sex, but standing upright ….)
Class intersections also come into play of course, and Aishwarya Rai gets to book an entire floor of a hospital for her precious delivery ” Sources say that the entire fifth floor of the hospital has been booked for Aishwarya which also includes rooms, where her immediate family members can stay. The floors will have tight security where she will be admitted.” http://daily.bhaskar.com/news/MAH-MUM-aishwarya-in-hospital-for-delivery-baby-bachchan-may-be-born-today-2568329.html
While women in rural India are still having babies like this:
The government scheme of Janani Suraksha Yojana was an interesting idea of cash incentives to encourage women to choose institutional deliveries over home deliveries. Like most such schemes it looked great on paper and no one had looked at the system readiness. Women turned up for their ‘institutional’ deliveries to be confronted with understaffed, overworked healthcare centres, with beds and facilities dirtier than if they had delivered in their own cow shed. The ‘institutions’ often had no running water, filthy toilets, shortage of medicines.
There were the usual stories of corruption, with the ASHA worker expecting a ‘cut’ of the incentive money, men taking the money meant for the womens nutritional supplements, women being brought racing down muddy roads on bullock carts, with the placenta still inside, so they could claim the money for an institutional delivery. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/bEs8foPrbcEh1J49yTUGZI/Maternal-deaths-show-bribes-buy-India-worst-G20-maternal-ca.html
You probably remember your mother’s maiden name really well now cos it’s usually a bank password question! But do you know your mother’s mother’s maiden name ? And her mother’s maiden name ? So while your Mitochondrial DNA has kept the genetic memory very much alive, those names are lost in the mists of the patriarchy.
As much as 50% of your personal family history is missing vital information! Maybe this mother’s day you should write up a family tree and find out those names and make your children learn them too.
As far as 35 generations ago, apparently we all had the same ancestor at that point ! http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19331938
If some day in the future everyone received contraception at puberty, all pregnancies were controlled and created in vitro, ( I can hear some of my fellow gynaecologists drooling at the idea), and all parenting was equal as well as supported by social systems, perhaps motherhood would still be a deeper attachment than fatherhood, who knows ? I am just pointing out how deeply the perspective is skewed at present.
My friend Aruna’s FB post was spot on when she said this: “Every year my children asks me the same question. After thinking about it, I decided I’d give them real answer: What do I want for Mother’s Day? I want you. I want you to keep coming around, I want you to bring your kids around, I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help………I want you to continue sharing your life with me. Hearing your laugh is music to me. I spent the better part of my life raising you the best way I knew how. Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work.”
That is truly what I want everyday, any day ! But with socialization and a good upbringing, with the hunter-gatherer days way behind us, hopefully future fathers would want the same too !