Summarizing Motherhood

Jahanara was born on an overcast October afternoon after I had been in early labor for three days and active labor for about 8 hours. My first memory of her is her thick black hair as the nurse rocked her trying to gauge her weight. “Looks to me like six and a half pounds,” she said. They weighed her and announced “Seven pounds seven ounces.” I remember feeling faintly smug, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Usman was hovering around me and the baby like an excited old lady. I have never seen him fluttering so much before or since. I would love to hear what exactly he was thinking, but he doesn't talk about emotions pleading plain forgetfulness.

Last night, over a year after the day that brought Jahan into my life, I was talking to my friend about those two nights in the hospital. On the first night I was so exhausted that I remember crying every time the baby cried. The second night, I sent her to the nursery just so I could sleep. They brought her back after two hours; I fed her, and sent her away again. The desire to sleep consumed me. Early in the morning, the pediatrician visited my room and told me she’d just been to the nursery and the baby was perfect, sleeping peacefully. I wanted to justify myself. “But she was crying a lot, doctor. She wasn't settling down. That’s why I sent her to the nursery.” Apparently, I just couldn't calm down my own baby. I felt utterly incapable of being a mother.

I still realize in fits and starts how wrong I was when I doubted myself. We learned to love each other in leaps. I memorized her face, the broad forehead, the wrinkle between her eyes, the long thick lashes, the perfect pout, and she squinted at mine with her marble eyes. We came home and became best friends forever. A few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post for Afia Aslam’s blog about our journey so far. In it I marveled at how much land we've covered in just a few months.

This morning when I was leaving for work, Jahan sat in her high-chair next to her nanny eating breakfast and watching Elmo. I climbed over the safety gate above the stairs cringing inwardly, preparing myself for her loud cry of distress. She looked at me and smiled. When I said “Bye, lovely miss, mama has to go now,” she gave a little cry. “It’s OK,” said her nanny. “She’ll be OK.” I walked downstairs waiting for her screams. They didn't come. A few seconds later, I heard her babbling to her nanny. She was fine. I felt a mixture of pride, pain, and joy. We’ll be OK. This realization strikes me often and with much vigor each time, and it fills me with wonder at this little person who thinks I am her whole world.

Being Jahan’s mother has made me a better me. And that’s really all there is to my motherhood story.