ESSAYS


Mother is Born

Naoko Miyaji

 

 

Translated from Miyaji, N., Mother is Born, Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers 2016

My friend gave birth and became a mother. A child who didn’t exist before now suddenly does. That child continues to exist, and now you are entirely responsible for this new life every moment. Feeling like you are also still a child, and if anything, you want to be the one taken care of, but all of a sudden everyone now expect that you are completely capable of taking care of this new baby. My friend was surprised about this sudden societal expectation. She felt unsure of herself in this new role. Even through the unease, she was slowly becoming accustomed to the job of being a mother.

 

Partly to celebrate, I went to visit and also got to play with the baby. The baby wasn’t at the stage of being afraid of strangers yet, so it gave me its full weight without hesitation. As I was holding the baby, the memories of holding my own children as babies and the sensation of holding a small, warm body against me came rushing back, along with the smell that only babies have. I held the baby for a while, letting the small fingers wrap around my finger, or lifting the baby high up, to the baby’s delight. When the baby started to get grumpy, I would try to change the way I held. If the whining continued, my friend would go through all of the other possibilities. “Maybe the diaper needs to be changed, or maybe it’s feeding time,” and she would carefully take the baby into her arms. Before then, I had mostly only seen her in work capacity, and seeing her change the baby’s diaper or breastfeed felt strange. Then, I thought to myself, “Not only was a child born, but also a mother was born.” I watched her make funny faces at the baby that I’ve never seen her do before, and console in baby talk, and saw a new mother in action. 

 

It’s not as if my friend herself has disappeared. While I was playing with the baby or when the baby was napping, she was on her laptop, maintaining connection with the outside world. We also discussed our work project. On top of this existing person, the experience of being born as a mother has been added. Those different aspects of her may clash or conflict, but with time, they would start to cooperate and harmonize. 

 

However, similarly to newborns, new mothers also need to be raised. In order to deal with the day-to-day of being a new mother, people that teach and help her with taking care of the baby, as well as a support system and knowledgeable advice are indispensable.

 

Furthermore, being the lifeline of a precious new life every minute of every day can be daunting. Without other people that are taking part in the responsibility, raising children would be a scary and lonely experience. This is not limited to the mother’s partner. Partaking in taking care of children, people around the mother also grow as “mothers.” Regardless of gender, even babysitting for a short time will allow you to build experience taking care of another life. There are even men who never really took part in raising their own children but use the birth of their grandchildren as an opportunity to become involved in taking care of them. In those moments, the power of motherhood in society as well as its power to raise the next generation grows. 

 

A baby is born, and a mother is also born. Those surrounding are put into action, connections are forged, and they all grow. This is how the future blossoms.