I had always wondered why it is a ritual in our society that a woman goes to her mother’s home to deliver her child. When I was pregnant with my daughter last year and once she was born in the first month of this year, I got my answers. The reason is the mother of the new mother, the new grandmother. And the truth that nobody can take care of you better than your own mother, especially when you are with child and after childbirth.
My mother stayed with me for a couple of months during my second trimester. She had brought all the ingredients of Assamese delicacies that I love, koldil (banana flower), kosu paat (colocassia leaves), kol posola (banana stem), dhekia (fiddle head ferns) and ofcourse, Assam lemons. She cooked nutritional dishes for me every day and also guided the maid to cook the basic dishes in the way she does. She also made sure that I have nutritional food to take to office everyday. She accompanied us on doctor’s and ultrasound appointments. Ma and I would usually called each other every alternate day. But during my pregnancy, she called me every day to ask how I was doing. My baby was due in the last week of January. But Ma was feeling uneasy at the thought of coming to be with me just a week before the due date. She got intuitive and flew down in the first week of January itself. And in exactly one week, I went into labour. Mother’s instinct, you see!
Ma had broken her left elbow badly two years back and had to be fixed using metal plates, rods and screws. The metal parts needed to be taken out but she was not feeling brave enough. But with the baby coming, she was motivated and got operated on in November, two and a half months before the baby arrived. My sister flew home to be with her. Once she was back home, she got busy with the knitting and making cloth mats for her grandchild. She was indifferent to her just operated elbow and when we asked her to rest it, she would say that she had so much to do in so little time! Such is the love of a grandmother.
When my daughter, MJ arrived, Ma become my ninja. She slept with her and me at nights, or should I say she didn’t sleep through the night alongwith us. She would keep rocking the baby so that I could sleep even if that meant she had sleepless nights herself. During the day, she massaged MJ, sponged her, changed her and held her. At the same time, she made sure that I ate and drank right, preparing special meals for me. She even fed me while I nursed MJ. She cooked lunch and special dishes for us all, even when other relatives arrived few days later after MJ and attended guests. Amidst all of it, she still took out time to knit!
Relatives streamed in and out. Some stayed on. But they were all to see the baby and jostled to hold her, to coo to her. Only a couple of them were actually concerned about my health and prepared strengthening foods for me. But Ma was there for me, all the time.
Ma is the oldest child of her parents and I of mine. With MJ’s birth, Aita (my maternal grandmother) became a great-grandmother. She is seventy-seven years old, has one good eye and walks with a hop due to a broken hip joint. But she was so stoked with MJ’s birth that she stitched several frocks for her. When we were kids, my sister and I, Aita would sew us beautiful frocks. It was a ritual that she sewed our birthday dresses. But with time, her physical health halted her sewing expeditions. So her making frocks for MJ reflects her immense love for her great-grandchild. A few uneven stitches on them makes me emotional and the fact that she is not getting any younger drives home.
I think when you become a mother yourself, you finally understand your mother and your relationship becomes thick like never before. You experience the same hardships as her when she bore you, brought you into this world and raised you. All of a sudden, you appreciate all of it in new light. I had not shared my feelings and thoughts with my mother ever as much as I did when she stayed with me during my pregnancy and the sleepless nights after childbirth. I understood and learnt her with renewed meaning. When a mother becomes a grandmother, it is as if she becomes a mother again. But she does twice the mothering, to her grandchild as well as her daughter, the new mother. Do you know a woman’s lifetime supply of eggs are developed when she is in her mother’s womb? That means when Ma was pregnant with me, my daughter was already inside me (well partly)! Uncanny, isn’t it?
When MJ was seven weeks old, we came to my parents’ place. Thanks to the COVID19 pandemic, we are overstaying our visit. My husband is working from home here and we are fortunate to be together in such a unsual and difficult time. MJ is now almost six months old. I am feeling super blessed to be home during these early months of motherhood. We both are looked after well, I don’t have to do much other than take care of MJ and I am supported in this job all the time. We have lots of open space here and lush green all around.
So yes, I now understand the depth and importance of the ritual of a new mother spending time at her mother’s before and after childbirth. While I am discovering the joy and pain of motherhood each day, I am rediscovering the length, breadth and depth of my mother’s love too.