“I’ve discovered a new perfume, the smell of baby spit-up.” the lady across me at the paediatrician’s office informs me as she burps the babe she has just breastfed in public, albeit discreetly under one of these many new breastfeeding aprons or what-have-yous. I smile and nod because I can relate…This is what happens once you join the “mommy club”. You can have discussions with perfect strangers because there are so many of these experiences that you can relate to.
Once you join this club of being a mother, your life inevitably and irrevocably changes. “Being mother” and “mother-being” however, are two terms that look deceptively alike, but to my mind, they are not. “Being Mother” is the stuff that once you join the mommy club, everyone shares with you gleefully. It’s the things like how you’ll never sleep again for at least the next six years, or gruesome stories about night-time nappy changes, or how your clothes will smell of sour milk for the next year, how to feed, how to burp, which remedies to try when the crying just will not stop. It’s all the many different things you will need to do and change once the life you have only just got used to living is slammed out of orbit by one tiny human.
Some of this is hormonal, some is instinctual but rather a lot of being a mother is in actual fact learnt…You imagine that you will know how to hold your baby, feed your baby or why she is crying. You expect more things to come naturally than what really does. Luckily, there are many other members of the club who are more than happy to teach and give advice (wanted and unwanted) on how to be a mother.
But “Mother-being” on the other hand, this cannot be taught and it can’t be given or received. It is what you become. It is this new phoenix-like being that you become once you’ve risen out of the ashes of pregnancy and childbirth. It’s a part of your inner-being that is awakened once realisation kicks in that another being is so totally, utterly dependent on you. It’s that being inside you that jerks upright in the middle of the night, despite being heavily sleep-deprived, to find out why your child is crying, coughing, groaning, moving, or yes, being too quiet! It’s the strength inside you that you never knew you possessed until you became a mother…