IN the legends I have read that males invented to explain life, it was said that the first human creature was a man called Adam. Eve arrived later, to give him pleasure and, of course, trouble. But it wasn’t sin that was born when that careless woman Eve picked up an apple; what was born that day was a splendid virtue called disobedience for which she and women who will bear children in that indescribable pain during childbirth.
I’ve been taught that to be a mother is not a trade. It is not even a duty. It is only one right among many, and what an effort it will be to convince others of this fact. How can a man understand a woman who is expecting a child? He can’t get pregnant. Is this an advantage, a limitation, or even a privilege?
There is something glorious about enclosing another life in one’s own body, in knowing yourself to be two, instead of one. Invaded by a sense of triumph, nothing bothers you — neither the pain you’ll have to face, the work you’ll have to sacrifice, the freedom you’ll have to give up when you’re deprived of fun, a slim waistline and sleep and the frustration when those stretch marks will never go away.
And the terrible question: what if that child did not want to be born? What if someday it were to cry out its reproach? Who asked you to bring me into this world? Why did you bring me into it?
In a world when moments of joy are parentheses for which you pay a cruel price, is there a way to know if it wouldn’t be better if you throw that one away? The one who cannot speak, whose drop of life is only a cluster of cells that has scarcely began?
Only the possibility of life, silent and without opinion can’t even help a woman decide. Its existence began by chance, perhaps by a mistake or a moment of carelessness of others—man’s inhumanity to another when he violated a woman. Among those consequences, blossomed a cell.
Some women ask themselves, why should they bring a child into this huge and ruthless world that could be sad and ugly. So it will be hungry, cold, betrayed and humiliated, to be slaughtered by war or disease? Rejecting the hope that hunger will be satisfied, cold will be warmed, it could be a world of innocence and gaiety if they devote a life with a magnificent effort. These thoughts strike fear in every woman’s heart.
The first time I saw the photograph of the 4-week-old embryo of the first daughter, all my fears went away as quickly as it had come. She looked like a mysterious flower, a transparent orchid. One could make out, perhaps a kind of head, with two protuberance that would become the brain, lower down a cavity that would become a mouth. At four weeks, it was almost invisible. My doctor explained she was about an eighth of an inch, but she was growing a suggestion of life with something resembling a spinal column, a nervous system, a stomach, a liver, intestines and lungs. The heart was already present and it was big in proportions, nine times bigger than mine, it pumps blood and beat regularly from the 24th day on.
But how can anyone throw that child away? What do I care if I’ll be walking around in a swollen belly for months deprived of fun, waistline and sleep, frustrating over the stretches that won’t go away? I accepted that children interrupt a career, journey, vacation, appointments, games, erotic attachments, telephone calls, self-development, education, meditation and other enlightened, useful and joyous pursuits, including the challenges of splendid or horrible possibilities.
A pregnancy is not a punishment inflicted by nature to make you pay for the thrill of a moment. In the darkness that enfolds the multiple breathing cells — who is not even aware of its existence, who could be thrown away or butchered and would not have known, who won’t have a way of knowing whether I’ve done it wrong or a favor bringing it out on this world.
In accordance with the only arrogance that is legitimate, every mother takes the responsibility of choice. That is an arrogance no mother can resist, to carry that child. Whether that child likes it or not, it has no opinion.
It happened because the magic of maternity could happen, therefore had to happen—I don’t have a choice but obedience. That child whose first encounter with the world was a desperate wail, when everything made it cry—light, hunger and anger.
I waited when Milkah’s first smile was given to me, then came Natasha, Raisha, and Veruschka. They all face it to me because I obeyed, and they were born.
E-mail Mylah at email@example.com