Thursday, August 09, 2007

imbibed with mother's milk
Having grown up as a resolutely black sheep and ugly duckling, my thoughts continue to travel down the same road. What does it mean to be a good mother and to what degree can I help inoculate* my child with gloriousness? My mind conjures a daughter because that’s what I know best - a Maggie Tulliver, dark-eyed, rosy-cheeked, willful little spark of wild being. But, of course, the children of our imaginations are not real; they are tenacious wisps of wistful wish fulfillment. I’m aware of the pitfalls of this kind of thinking - the danger that Sprout will be second best, always fail to live up to my great expectations and be aware of it. And, as well, there’s the bitter tang of exploitation about the whole endeavour. Why aren’t I a Maggie Tulliver or even, better, a George Eliot-Tori Amos-Jeanette Winterson-Virginia Woolf-Regina Spektor genius of womankind, with better skin and hair, more vibrant, magnetic and dangerous to hold than the rather ordinary woman I grew up to be? Too easy to blame the parents whose passions lie in different fields for starving me of the start in life I needed and ignore my own responsibility for settling for mediocrity and safety in the crowd.
There’s a finer-than-a-hair line between opening doors and correcting the perceived flaws of one’s own upbringing (not enough of the ‘right’ books, not enough guidance about education, literature, music, theatre, too much new-age hocus pocus) and overbearing, burdening. This child is not a mini-me, I can’t hope to produce a better version of myself, nor should I want to.
Who is to say what the twin wonders of genetics and nutrition are creating in utero? In five months we’ll be presented with a little stranger that proximity and, presumably, a passing resemblance have fooled us into thinking we know better than ourselves. I think pregnancy is nature’s way of conning us into a lifelong commitment to cherish and nurture a cuckoo - the idea that something made from our bodies should be a part of us is hard to escape, perhaps particularly given my adoptive background. I’ve signed up to this and I’m not regretting the decision, I’m just trying to remember that the cuckoo has its own needs and desires that may bear no relation to my experience of living, despite our blood tie. To be a good mother is to meet those cuckoo needs, rather than the needs that I (or TA) had when we were confined to the nest.
Perhaps it would be best if Sprout turns out to be a boy, I suspect that TA is less conflicted about being a good father to a son than I am about being a good mother to a daughter.

*Inoculate? I was thinking of "inculate" - christ, I hope my child has a better vocabulary.

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