Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cradle of love

By ANU GAITHRI SUBRAMANIAM


A young woman learns about mothering the hard way.

FOR as long as I can remember, my mother has always been my strongest supporter. She cheered me on when I was holding two jobs to ensure my university tuition fees were paid. She cried when I made the dean’s list. She is always there when I need a shoulder to cry on.

The best thing about my conservative Indian mum is that she has never stopped me from doing what I want – from wearing short skirts to choosing the course for my Masters. She is always happy to stand on the sidelines and be the proud mum.

So when we had our first major fight, it was both heartbreaking and frustrating for me.

I had my life all mapped out, right until 80 (or so, I hope, with details like whom I was going to marry and how I would still be a stunner at 60!). But what I didn’t share with mum was the plan to adopt a little girl before I got married.

I love kids, more than anything else in my life. When I turned 27, I wanted to adopt a baby and give her the opportunity to have what I had struggled for. But all my efforts to apply for one failed, given the fact that I am single and there were other eligible parents. But I didn’t give up, and started enquiring through friends, grabbing at every chance available.

Then it happened: a friend of a friend sent a message to say that a young, professional was looking for a home for the baby girl she was carrying. She wanted someone to pay for her delivery and confinement. I was elated; this had to be my child! I immediately thought of a name for her.

My hands were trembling when I dialled the NGO involved, not quite knowing what to expect. The voice on the other end of the line greeted me pleasantly and I felt at ease immediately. We exchanged information and I was given the mother’s details.

“The final decision is hers,” Miss Susie said.

I couldn’t wait, so I called her immediately. We spoke for a while and it become evident that the mother was quite like me, a young professional, except that she had fallen in love with the wrong man and made a wrong decision. And she was extremely confused.

We chatted for a while and become pally quickly. But soon, the problems began. The mother became very clingy with me, She couldn’t eat; couldn’t sleep; the man didn’t call her (yes, she was still in contact with her boyfriend); she had no money at all.

I sympathised and made extra efforts to help. I told her to give me a missed call and I would phone her back. I told her she could phone me whenever she was upset. Soon, I became a full-blown agony aunt who was at her beck and call.

She wanted me to trace her boyfriend’s number to investigate who else he was calling! I didn’t mind it all, as her baby was my priority. But the more I spoke to her, the more it became evident that she was not willing to give up the child. Neither did she have the resources to raise her. With no support from her family, she was relying on me to tell her what to do.

Now, I was no expert in this. I was just a woman who had worked hard and could live comfortably now. And I felt I was capable of raising a child.

But I didn’t know how to trace phone calls, or what advice to give her. Slowly her problems started to affect me even as I prepared, mentally, to welcome her baby into my home.

And when I found out that she was not willing to give up her baby, it broke my heart.

Mind you, I was not happy about separating the mother from her child. I had always told her that she was welcome to see her baby, any time.

I started having sleepless nights and my work suffered for it. I began having panic attacks and felt an almost unstoppable urge to beg her to give up the child although deep down in my heart I knew that she loved her too.

And the fights began at home. Mum was not happy about my wanting to adopt a newborn.

“No one is going to believe you when you tell them you adopted her. They will all say it is your child,” she yelled.

“I don’t care what people think!” I yelled back.

Mum tried to match-make me with some eligible men, but I refused to budge. Instead I stopped telling her what was happening in my life. But one night, when the situation became unbearable, I spilled everything out.

That night, mum taught me the most valuable lesson I will ever carry with me throughout my life – learning to let go. She simply told me to pray and let it go. Just like that.

Gradually, I ignored the calls and messages. I quietly stopped all contact with the mother and cut myself off from anything to do with her. And I had my closure.

I still don’t know if I made right the decision, or that I have failed the baby. But I know that doing the right thing is always hard – it is the only thing I should do.

And I still believe my little girl is out there, waiting for me. For once, I agree that mothers know best.

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