The Unexpected Struggles and Joys of Being a Young Mother
When I got married at the age of 18, this is how I pictured my future to look like. I pictured a honeymoon on the beach, sipping on a kurumba and lounging on white sand. I pictured moving to Bangalore with my husband a while after, the both of us starting a new life together far away and working to earn our degrees. Tickets were already bought, university fees already paid for. Everything was set. But the only thing we managed to go through with was our honeymoon. A few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.
As someone who is often irregular, I didn’t think too much of it when my period was late. Just in case though, I decided to take a home pregnancy test. Not being able to believe my eyes, I then went to the local hospital to find out that yes, I was in fact four weeks pregnant, six weeks into my marriage. Cue the shock and panic. To add fuel to the fire, there were soon rumors circulating that I got married to ‘hide my pregnancy’, which is something that still pisses me off to this very day.
Nonetheless, I slowly became used to the idea of a new life growing inside of me. I noticed my belly (and my cheeks) becoming a little bit bigger with each photo I took, and the little kicks here and there felt like riveting pulses of pure joy. But along with my growing belly came its many, many complications.
I had my first seizure at a fish market in Sri Lanka, where my husband and I had then moved to. I honestly don’t remember much. I remember blinding flashes of bright purple light, eyes rolling to the back of my head, goosebumps, beads of sweat, followed by immediate unconsciousness. Some more episodes of this, and what felt like a million brain scans later, the doctors were unable to pinpoint an exact cause. They correlated it to my history of epilepsy, a nerve disorder that I had been dealing with ever since I was a child. I was offered to take some risky class C medication that had not yet been properly tested out, but eventually, the seizure spell passed on its own.
There was then a period of suspicious calm. The lull before the storm, as they say. It didn’t last very long.
At nearly seven months, the palms of my hands began itching like crazy. When I told my mother-in-law, she assured me that it was all normal, that it must just be the hormones. But the itching persisted. It reached the point where I could no longer sleep, it was that unbearable. And so, there were a few more visits to the hospital, a few more tests to be done. The waiting was the hardest part.
Obstetric cholestasis is what the gynecologist called it, which is just a fancy term for a rare liver condition. Apparently, the bile acid levels in my bloodstream were 6 times higher than normal. I didn’t realize how problematic it actually was, until a panel of specialists told me I had to be taken in for an emergency C-section the very next day.
All throughout my pregnancy journey, I spent so much time anxiously worrying about what would happen when the day finally arrived. What are they going to do to me? Will I be okay? Am I going to survive? A number of possible scenarios were whirling around in my head, the blood, the needles, the relentless agony.
But the moment they took me into the operation theatre, I was unafraid of death.
Before I even became a mother, I changed. It’s true what they all say, about living with hope and fear for someone else. In that moment, my pain was irrelevant. I didn’t matter anymore. The only thing that mattered above all, was my son’s life.
During the 20-minute operation, his heartbeat fell twice.
If you were to ask any of my friends, they would have told you I was the exact opposite of what you’d call ‘mother material’. I was the sort of girl who was always going on impulsive joy rides with reckless abandon, always looking for the next thrill, always seeking the next adventure. Being a mother, especially at the tender age of 19, was the last thing I had ever expected for myself. And yet, the second I laid eyes on my baby boy, a maternal switch deep inside me suddenly flipped. I knew right then and there, that this was the reason I was put on this Earth. This was the adventure I had been searching for all along. Thanks to the brilliance of my doctor, the both of us made it through, healthy and happy. I haven’t looked back since.
Motherhood is said to be the hardest thing in the world, but for me, it’s been the easiest. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a humongous load of work. There are nights where I lie awake for hours and hours, singing lullabies to try and get him to sleep while sacrificing my own. There are weeks where I don’t get any time to myself, to sit back and relax, or go out alone and do something I enjoy. And there are days where literally all I do is wipe baby food off the floor, change stinky diapers and binge-watch psychedelic cartoons on Baby TV.
Despite it all, I feel like every bit of it is worth it in the end. Being an only child most of my life, I used to only think about myself and what I wanted. I had never learnt to put someone else’s needs before my own until my son came along. Because of him, I’m able to prioritize, put things in perspective and focus on what’s really important. I can proudly say that I no longer have the time to indulge in negativity or petty drama. The only time I have is for love and for family, the two most important things to me right now.
It’s upsetting that there’s such an unwarranted stigma surrounding young mothers in this day and age. People need to understand that having a child does not take anything away from the woman that I am. I’m still planning on getting a degree, and I’m still planning on having a career. One day, when the time comes. Until then, I’m going to focus on raising my son the best that I possibly can, and there is absolutely no shame in that. There shouldn’t be.
To every mother out there, young, old, married or single, I’d just like to say how much you inspire me on a daily basis. Because of you, I’m constantly reminded of the sheer resilience and strength of the feminine spirit. Keep being the badasses that you are. That all women are.