I happened upon this half-written entry from 2015, and the complex nature of cross-cultural motherhood struck me again. This is my challenge to connect across barriers and differences- to share together as mothers in the joys and suffering of today.
I stepped into the mountain hospital to get my tummy checked– in Hindi they say, “my stomach is walking”… Ha! A little checkup turned into 2 days of waiting in the crowded hallways of this small town establishment, a century-old white structure with the green roof and cross, a beacon on a hill in the mountains. Barrack-style common rooms and simple wood benches with hunched-over patients sitting hip-to-hip. An old but wonderful “mission” hospital where hundreds of village families walk many miles to bring sick little ones and hurting elders.
With every passing rugged village momma carrying a sickly toddler in her arms (my robust toddler ran around the waiting room collecting sweets from all of his admirers), my heart lurched deep inside me. I wanted to take each child, heal her body and send her home in a new car.
As I walked out I felt compelled to step back in and ask one man how old his toddler was, and if I could see her sleeping face and limp frame hidden under the heavy blanket draped over it. I gave him some money quietly to help… I couldn’t understand his description of what was wrong, but I did what I was feeling compelled to do. As I walked down the steep hill (Husband and Little Man had gone on home) I saw yet another young momma carrying her feverish, sleeping baby. My heart ached again… This new pang it has been throbbing with since I arrived in this country for the first time as a mother.
That experience at the hospital is one I still experience. The immense blessing in being a mother creates a bridge with other mothers. It ties our hearts to one another if we allow it to) and gives us empathy like nothing else can.
While I’ve shared openly about my struggle to transition from the active, adventuring single to motherhood, I have recently been recognizing the aspects of motherhood that are such deep and irreplaceable gifts. I do not take this lightly.
I have walked through the dark valleys of stillbirth with my closest childhood friend, and the wilderness of infertility with another. And I remember my own hopeless longing for family and companionship before marriage, and I recall the brief but gripping fear over just a few months of waiting for conception.
And yet, when my two treasures came along, some of the joy was shamefully stolen by my own struggle to adjust.
Much of my life had felt rather epic (even if it was in my own eyes), and motherhood brought monotony.
The ongoing sleep deprivation and the realization that all control and independence had left me indefinitely (on both occasions) plummeted me into a dark well of wide-eyed panic, grappling for routine, competence, and control.
Yet, despite the struggle, I could not help but notice the immediate connection that motherhood gave me in a foreign culture.
Like the immediate pang for the village mother in the hospital, I may not have had anything in common with her, but to have a sick child and feel helpless and desperate… well, I knew in my bones what that felt like.
As we Americans watch grevious acts of hatred and violence across our country, I naturally observe it with Mom eyes. I ache for the mother whose child has made hateful alliances, and my stomach churns for the mother who could lose her own children amid the violence she faces.
For those of us in subdivisions on country roads, the violence and hatred seem fictional– someone and somewhere else. But recently I stood in line at the grocery store and smiled at a mother my age with a head covering as her toddler played with mine. We connected, and I saw fear in her dark quiet eyes.
As mommas, if we let ourselves, we have such a unique opportunity to connect deeply. We share joy, pain, suffering, and fear of raising children in a changing world.
But I warn you, you can’t rejoice with and love another momma without suffering when she suffers, too.
So my answer amid tumultuous events is to find the mommas, to smile and reach out. To love and to suffer together too. Let’s build a bridge and teach our children to cross that bridge too.
And this immediate connection and corresponding empathy is just one of the mighty joys of motherhood that I choose to embrace. I encourage each of you momma friends, to keep crossing that bridge with me into “other” mommas’ lives too.