Being a mum has made me soft.
I don’t mean in the physical sense – although I don’t think you can escape pregnancy without rounding and softening a little physically. Unless you are a supermodel with freakish genes, a personal trainer and a personal chef, and even then it’s a lot of work. I mean more personality-wise.
Although I was never really that ‘hard’ before Little Red, I liked to think of myself as quite tough – strong, independent and extremely capable. But since I became a mum, I feel softer and more vulnerable emotionally and mentally, much more disorganized in general, and a little lost.
The other night I was up late feeding Little Red. She looked so peaceful and trusting as she sucked away at my boob, snuggled in, all cosy, hand squeezing my chest to try to get more out. She clearly felt content, warm, loved and safe.
That’s the thing that gets me the most. Babies so completely and utterly, horrifyingly, trust and love – and rely on – you. For. Everything. And they know no different to what you give, be it good or bad. A baby’s innocence and need is heart aching and heart breaking. It is also completely endearing and triggers a protective instinct that I never before thought possible in someone as self oriented as me.
It got me thinking about all I want Little Red to have. Peace. Security. Safety. Love. Curiosity. Adventure. Travel. Fun. Confidence. Perseverance. Independence. Good health. Kindness. Humour. Strength. Empathy. To not want for food and drinks. A good education. A happy home. Lots of cats. Love, respect and appreciation for nature. Faith. And the freedom to choose what to believe in.
That got me thinking about all the other mums in the world, and what they want for their children. Mums in Syria and Iraq. Mums in refugee camps and on refugee boats. Mums in drought-stricken and impoverished developing countries. Mums in developed countries who are struggling to give their child what they dream for them – from basic needs to more. Sitting there, late at night, looking at Little Red, my heart broke for these women and their babies. And for how they may feel when they look at their babies, hearts full with adoration, awe, worries, fears, longing and hope. My heart broke for the possibility that their hopes may never be achieved.
We have a healthy, happy and loving family. We have a nice home, with a beautiful garden and killer views, in a safe neighbourhood, in a safe city, in a safe country. We don’t fear bombs falling on us. We don’t lack food. We don’t have to search for clean, fresh water or carry it in buckets up hills (like my host family in India does). Our air is relatively clean. We have access to a range of high-quality healthcare. We have access to a range of education, and opportunities to study and work (or not). We have pretty safe jobs with reliable incomes. We have these things and more for which to be grateful.
Consequently, Little Red’s chances of having all of the things I wish for her are pretty high. But what are the chances for the babies born in environments that aren’t as safe, comfortable or healthy? For whatever reason – a Sliding Doors-style twist of fate, or choice or chance – Little Red has ended up with us. For whatever reason, we’ve ended up with her. But it might not have worked out that way. And for many families it doesn’t always turn out so well. We have more than we need, but there are other mums and babies who are not as lucky.
Lately, these thoughts hit me at random moments, square in the chest, winding me and leaving me a little teary. They remind me of how incredibly blessed I am with all I am and have, including material things, safety, opportunities, freedom, and loving family and friends. This makes me want to work hard to be worthy of such blessings, to do more to help people who aren’t as lucky. To share the love.
After contemplating this for a day or so, I told my big-hearted boy what I’d been thinking about. Before I’d even finished telling him what I’d been thinking about, he suggested that we sponsor a child. It’s something we originally talked about a few years ago, after our trip to Cambodia and Vietnam, when we saw the malnourished street children begging. But for many reasons, and for none, we hadn't got around to it.
I know I said this blog would focus on happy, positive, nice things, and this post is a wee bit depressing. But the positive, nice thing is that despite all the crappiness and inequality in the world, we can do something, no matter how little, to try to help someone (human or animal) who isn’t as lucky as we are.
I know that no sponsor program is perfect, and they won’t solve global poverty or feed all of the hungry in the world. They won’t put an end to wars or help to balance international politics. But sponsoring a child will make a difference to that child and their family, and even their community. And I reckon that’s pretty nice.
So, I’d like to introduce Laxmi. She’s a nine-year-old girl from Nepal and the newest member of our family. That's all we know about her so far, but my boy thinks she's probably got attitude, based on her wonky tie, nose ring and hippy beads.
One day I’ll drag him over there to visit her. I know of a nice little café bookshop in Kathmandu we can stop by. It does a mean thukpa and momos.