Everybody knows the birth of a child is a messy affair. The birth of a mother can be messy too, and it can take way longer than 10 months.
The rude shock.
After a twenty hours labour, I gave a final push. All that work, for this life changing moment.
‘Looks like daddy,’ the gynaecologist commented as she pulled this 3kg pile of flesh and blood out of my extremely worn out vagina.
She landed on my chest with a plop.
I needed to stifle a yawn to make my eyes look teary.
‘I am sure I love you baby.’
‘I just can’t feel it yet.’
By the time I became a mum, I had read numerous parenting magazines, the entire encyclopaedia of being a parent. Nothing prepares me for the fact that I would resent being a mother.
As I nurse 12 times a day for the next 10 days, all I can feel was the blistering pain in my nipples.
I would bet that every mum at some point in their motherhood would rather Not be in that position.
I went back to work, it made me felt sane again.
Whatever sanity feels like, I didn’t like it either.
My baby was beckoning, my insanity was beckoning.
Mothers are working against at least 2000 years of stereotype of how a mother is loving and compassionate, that they serve an intimate role in the raising of their children. From ancient Chinese poems to Confucius teachings to bible stories to fairytales to drama series to movies to our own mothers’ words, an impenetrable programming.
When I left work to stay home, she was 18 months young. She hardly said a word yet.
After one week at home with her, she spoke in full sentences, with perfect enunciation.
Oh wow, the difference I made by being there for her.
I felt trapped.
It can be confusing to be a parent. You crave the connection as much as you crave for the freedom sometimes. Unconsciously bearing the perceived need to sacrifice because it is the right thing to do, which then gives rise to perceived expectations about yourself.
Unconditional love – A myth?
I will love you if you could just finish your meal in 15 minutes and not 3 hours.
I will love you if you could sleep at 8pm.
I will love you if you could sleep on your own.
I will love you if…
It was the perfect excuse to leave work.
For a noble cause.
A noble cause in disguise.
I just hated going to work.
Life seems like a breeze when you hide from the storms but life seen from a window is a life unlived. It is more common than we know, where people hide behind the responsibilities of parenthood to hide the pain of an unfulfilled life, and with no doubt the pain will lash out.
And we wonder why childhood traumas are so common.
Barely 2, I tried in vain to get her to sleep in my arms.
I longed desperately to get this checked daily so that I can return to the mindless surfing of Facebook.
To my exasperation, she lifted her head from my shoulders.
She cupped my face with her tiny hands and whispered,
‘Are you happy, mama?’
The words pierced like a long sword through my heart, and set the ground for mother’s guilt forevermore.
You see through me. I am not happy at all.
‘Yes. I am happy.’ I said.
I am not sure if it is the Asian culture or not, somewhere along the way, we learn that we should protect our kids from our pain. From our real feelings. What we don’t realise is that they are feeling it anyway.
I long for my 50kg body.
I long to travel without any burden.
I long for a worry-free date night.
I long for a sleep free of cries.
I long to be free.
They say the pain lies in the wanting.
No. The pain also lies in the losing.
I am not ready to say ‘Goodbye’ to the old life, to the old me. And it did not seem like it will let me say ‘Goodbye’ without a fight.
To hell with everything and well, everything goes to hell.
When I stopped working, I became sick.
No courses of antibiotics worked.
‘I am weak.’
To hell with this body.
I hate it.
I like my food immensely.
I just don’t understand why my child don’t.
It is extremely, murderously, infuriating.
‘I am useless.’
Still won’t eat.
To hell with this job.
The one job that I cannot tender my resignation.
I hate Mother’s Day.
I hate the word mother.
It sounds old.
It sounds weak.
It sounds obligatory.
It sounds burdened.
It sounds manipulative.
The restaurants are over-crowded and over-priced.
To hell with Mother’s Day.
Maybe posting a photo of my baby giving me a bright cheery sunflower on Facebook will help.
I married young.
It felt special, like I was the only one.
I married my first love from school.
It felt special, like we survived the odds.
Among my friends, I was the first mum.
Hmm.. the loneliness and darkness of being the only one.
I have never been diagnosed. But if I look back, I was possibly depressed. At that same time, I had the absolute belief that I must solve my own problems. It was the toughest thing because the inner conflict between my despair and my egoistic arrogance was tearing me apart. How can you win and lose to yourself at the same time?
Beginning to turn inwards
I would describe my baby as calm, quiet and attentive.
As a baby, she listens and watches with such intensity and curiosity.
She slept through the night at 2 months old and in her own room.
And she hardly ever cried.
She did not reach out to grab things on the table because she observed that is not approved.
She did not fuss if we say no.
She never threw things on the floor or made a mess.
She did not even drool when she was teething.
Oh, and no terrible two.
Prim, proper, clean and fuss free baby and toddler.
With nothing to blame, self-loathing consumed me.
Why can’t I love being a parent???
At some point in parenthood, it is likely you have to experience what is it like to surrender. Something is not working. What I am doing is not working. The hope doesn’t lie in persisting. The hope lies in surrendering to the moment and saying ‘You can take me now’. The hope lies in looking up to the sky saying, ‘Guide me’.
A child gives birth to a mother.
The small little being turned 3.
I was bottled up like a can of coke that has been shaking for 3 years.
Triggered easily and at my wit’s end because she did not eat or drink much.
I threw a water bottle and it barely missed her
And caned her on the palm.
Consumed by my own pain and shame, I threw down the cane and hid in my room, sobbing.
Leaving her to cry on her own in the living room.
When I came out, she was still wailing.
I was stoic, ‘I am going to cook.’
As I grabbed the pot, I felt so tired.
And I did the only other thing possible,
the very thing I have been holding back.
To fall apart.
Burst into tears and curled up on the floor.
Like a little miracle, my girl wiped her eyes and stopped crying immediately.
Came to me, put her tiny arms around my shoulders and whispered,
‘It’s ok, mama. It’s ok. I don’t mind.’
And I bury my head into her shoulders sobbing harder than ever,
She said nothing, holding as still as she can.
Three years earlier, the child was birthed.
And on this day, the mother was birthed.
I resisted motherhood for the longest time. I know I didn’t like responsibilities, I am youngest in my family after all. My child’s generosity and wisdom in offering me forgiveness, unconditional love and acceptance woke me up. I, myself, have forgotten how to offer these. I have forgotten how to offer them to myself.
And I want to learn.
I am so glad the teacher is right in front of me right here.
So, time to remember what was forgotten.
I pick up my first self-help book at age 29 and have never stopped self-helping ever since. Every single learning and experiences you see on my About page is the result of this single event. And every so often, my girl continues to be my teacher in the most unexpected moments. I want to learn so that I may also take that role whenever she needs me. I want to learn so that I can be the love, forgiveness and acceptance that she was to me.
Everything will be ok.
She is now 10.
I picked her up at school
Very much in a grouchy mood
She felt defeated
Appointed as a student leader, she was not able to influence others with her words.
‘I will never make any difference to anything or anybody, why bother?’ She said.
Oh baby, I desperately want to tell you that is not true.
She had forgotten most parts of what happened.
She remembers being caned.
For that, the guilt pangs still hit.
I had to tell her my side of the story.
The only reason that I know how to love, that I begin to teach others how to love themselves, was because in that moment you trusted me, love me and with that few words of yours.
My life is set on a different course and every single person that I was able to care for and help afterwards, including myself, is because of you.
You are powerful.
You have forgotten. The world can do that to us sometimes. We can do that to us sometimes.
But I will keep reminding you.
She listened, and afterwards we walked silently for a while.
She hugged me.
This time I patted her back, whispering, ‘It’s ok, everything will be ok.’
What Change do you Want?.
Any change is guided by a value, a reason that is important to you. It could be family, work, a belief, fear, climate change or world peace. At the same time, sad to say, most changes are triggered by emotional pain. Things that are important to us can create pain, it’s almost inevitable. Our being can only begin to create space for change after we allow ourselves to see, sense and acknowledge the pain itself; only then can we see clearly what is important to us. The clearer the intention in our mind, the easier we can persist on with the usually difficult but courageous path of change.
Better still, it is possible to train ourselves to be better in this process. The more you intentionally practice it, the easier it gets to navigate these ups and downs of life, and the easier it is to have meaningful change.
Reflect and Comment below:
What is the change that you crave for in life?
Why kind of emotional pain, if any, does it create for you?
What is this pain telling you about what is important to you?