Chinwe Kalu on “Scars Motherhood Has Left Me With”

I was watching a Jessica Parker movie titled, ‘I don’t know how she does it.’ It was about an American working Mum and the struggles she had trying to balance family and work. She was working in a high profile Investment Banking firm and they were in the process of clinching an important deal in New York (out of town). She needed to travel a lot at very short notice. She was perpetually rushing around, trying to satisfy her boss, husband and two kids. Their needs seemed to be tugging at her from all sides.

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Finally, she had to make a choice. Her boss announced one of those sudden trips on a day there was snow and she had promised her daughter to build a snowman when next it snows. This is after so many broken promises to the little girl. It also happened to be a Friday. She simply told her boss, ‘I will not do this anymore. I will go on Monday.’ She gave her boss the choice of sacking her or letting her go on Monday.

She got her way, but I could not help thinking what prices we pay as mothers. She could have been fired for daring to say no to her boss. I know several women who lost their jobs in similar situations. I began to think of the scars women bare just because we are mothers. I have quite a number.

Years ago, I got a job in one of the banks in Nigeria. My first child was one year old and I was not planning to have another baby, not just yet. I was working on a high pressure job that required my being on my toes from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Then I got pregnant. I could not afford to slow down at all. I could not afford the luxuries of calling in sick. I could not afford to have morning sickness. I ran up and down stairs just as I normally would. So, I developed one of my many Mummy scars- varicose veins on my right leg, just by my ankles. They never cleared. My right foot has remained slightly darker than my left one ever since.

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Then, I recall my younger sister’s experience. She delivered a 4.5 kg baby vaginally. She was doing quite well, but tore just before the baby came out. They sewed her up. Since it was not a neat cut-episiotomy, they took a little more care sewing her up. It took her quite a while to heal properly. I just thought, ‘what we go through to become Mummies.’

Another scar for me is my sleeping pattern. When I was having my babies, I formed the habit of them sleeping beside me at night. If they wanted to feed, I did not need to get up. I would simply put my breast in the baby’s mouth. But the downside of this habit is that I could never really sleep well at night. I was conscious of the fact that I had a baby sleeping next to me. I had to be awake to make sure they did not choke while feeding. I would hand over the baby to someone else in the early hours of the morning, then sleep for a few hours. My sleeping patterns have never returned to normal. I did it 5 times, so I guess that should not surprise anyone. Another price I have to pay to be a Mum.

I am getting older and my skin does not heal as fast as it used to. So, another common scar is skin burn from roasting, frying, boiling, cutting, etc. The other day, I was roasting chicken for Sunday lunch, forgot how hot the pan was and grabbed the handle without kitchen gloves. It burnt the whole palm. I screamed ‘Aaargggh!’ Then I loosened my grip and spread out my palm. It hurt badly, but I still had to finish the meal; the kids had to eat lunch! I have some dark scars from hot oil, splashed from frying chips and dodo. Before one clears, I would have had another set from just trying to make meals for the kids. The scars are really about feeding them.

I have not even talked about the emotional scars we bear as mothers while teaching our children, raising them and trying to get them to be responsible adults. How do I feel every time I hear my children making plans on how they will leave home? They plan their lives far away from home without any thoughts for how I may feel. Does that amount to an emotional scar? I asked one of my daughters who was planning to live in the US, ‘You don’t even care about Mummy.’ Her response was, ‘Mummy, you will come with me.’

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How do we feel when our children make grievous mistakes? Like when your baby girl comes home with a pregnancy at sixteen? How does a mother deal with that?

I could go on and on about mummy scars. But as mothers, we continue to make the sacrifices required to get our children to the place where they become responsible adults, who affect their world positively. I think that is why we do it. We feel an obligation to leave the world a better place by doing whatever it takes to get our children to play their roles in society. I am glad I am a mum despite all my scars. They have become trophies for me. They have a way of making me smile.

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“Chinwe Kalu on “Scars Motherhood Has Left Me With””

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