"I have a new respect for all mothers of the world" this is usually my response when I'm asked how it feels to be a new mother. Aside from the 24/7 baby duty that keeps mothers constantly on their feet, a greater responsibility of nurturing children who will hopefully contribute positively to their communities lies mainly with mothers. There truly is no greater calling.
Parents often describe their feelings for their children as intense, complete and overwhelming. On the day I had my daughter, I waited for similar 'motherly' feelings. All I felt was excruciating pain as my anesthesia wore out but interestingly, through the pain, I couldn't get her off my mind. Was she eating right? Why was she crying so much? Why did the nurse hold her that way? Was she comfortable?
Being a mother comes with a myriad of unexpected emotions. Who knew that a crying baby's pain could cause my own tear ducts overflow? Or that loud shrieking sound of a happy baby could be so musical? My protective, obsessive-compulsive, mother-hen instincts crept up on me when I wasn't looking. Overnight, my entire reason for being alive was altered. The spotlight shifted from me to her. My biggest dreams, all of a sudden paled in comparison to my urge to take care of my baby. I am not sure when exactly I became this way but one sure thing is, it was subconscious and it was natural.
My husband and I are discovering that every age comes with its associated concerns. We've worried about everything from harmless hiccups to bowel irregularities. Even at this stage, we find ourselves often talking about school districts, 529 savings plans and college options. Raising our daughter to appreciate our Nigerian culture is also big on our list of things to do. Incidentally, we were both born in the United States and relocated to Nigeria as toddlers. In spite of the political unrest that we lived through, we feel fortunate to have experienced the rich, vibrant and diverse aspects of Africa that make it such a wonderful place to live.
I don't intend to move back home just to expose my daughter to my culture. I will introduce her to her ancestry in several other ways: by speaking igbo at home, teaching her about her family history and maintaining close interactions with other Africans. These are all little efforts that I hope will someday culminate into a long-lasting impact on her life. At the end of the day, she will end up making her own choices. My role as a mother is to do the best that I can, no matter what.
Photo credit: Alvarez Tostado.