They begin advice with the words “As a mother…” for inexplicable reasons. They muse of a love only a mother can feel, yet simultaneously of a face only a mother could love. Scientists have tried to understand why their pain tolerance is so unmatched.
These facts should have us fear their voodoo charms, yet they are loved. They grow compassion like new cells, and shed none. Compassion. I thought I had some before joining the coven, but as a mother, let me tell you how and why I can never look at a cow, an egg, an ant or Kevin McCloud in the same way again.
Our family is made up of two Mama Bears and our little bear cub. We are perfect. We are flawed. Our bed cave is frequently and violently disturbed by the thrashing of our cub’s legs after he has deemed 3 a.m. a perfectly good time to play. We growl at each other. We play.
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We would rip the throat out of any human or creature who dared harm our cub (I’m still getting to the compassion bit). Some mothers have asked us how we decided, as two women, who would carry. As if there were this incredible battle over who wanted to sign up for the glorious journey of nausea, haemorrhoids and leaky bladders. Imagine the conversation:
“No, I want to gain 20 kilos guilt free. Not fair!”
“Oh, so you think you get to have all the stretch marks?”
“Well OK, you go. As long as I get to massage your perineum each night. Deepak Chopra said it reduces the risk of episiotomies.”
“You got it, babe”.
So how did we decide? Easy. The heavily tattooed idiot with the pain fetish who thought she’d ‘bounce right back’. Yes, that’s me, readers. It wasn’t as easy or as fun as doing a bit of online sperm shopping. I found out early on in the lesbian fertility game that I carry a sneaky little genetic chromosomal disorder called Robertsonian Translocation, or Trisomy 13;14.
This diagnosis ultimately led to my carrying an embryo made up of donor sperm and my partner’s egg. An early miscarriage of my own embryo saw us take this road less travelled towards motherhood and so blessedly for us it seemed that two wombs might just make a right.
During this period of loss, however, a strange repulsion filled me. Eggs. I could not stomach them. Not poached, not fried, not green. It was as though the chicken world was telling me ‘Our eggs are precious too’. What madness! What absurdity! Chickens can’t talk! Still, I would wake in the night in a sweat remembering Nigella Lawson separating her yolks from her whites with her bare hands. Why, Nigella? It took months before I could face my favourite protein source once more (sorry vegan friends).
More recently I had an unwelcome vision of Kevin McCloud, he of Grand Designs fame, he of the very proper vowels, as Mama Bears sat to watch the series Kevin McCloud’s Man Made House (Yes, ladies. Man Made. Let there be no mistake). In the series, Kev searched locally to source every log and Doe hide he used in his very masculine shed-cum-house.
Using an innovative milk based concoction which would be mixed with hay and other earthly delights, Kevin planned to make a very manly floor. He hit up a local dairy to snaggle some curds and whey. Kev has always had a proclivity for getting his hands dirty, whether it be dipping a pinky toe in someone’s cement on Grand Designs or trudging around in wellies and hard hats across the English countryside.
So there were to be no exceptions here. Kev got in amongst it behind the cow’s cracks, deftly dodging intermittent sprayings and getting his slender fingers around a teat. As he joked about the old girls’ udders and looking for one with the greatest need of milking, I found myself there. In the stalls.
Engorged breasts as I lay at the mercy of humans who took my young and left me there to fill to a painful crescendo before deciding they would relieve me of my milk, which, after all, I wanted them to relieve me of, as mothers do. There I found myself once more, lying awake between night feeds with visions of Kevin McCloud milking me.
I decided then and there I would finish off the last of the Organic Lite Milk in my fridge and start the 30 day Rice Milk Challenge (that’s trending, right?) Well, I may have made exceptions for the old Glass and a Half, but hey, I didn’t say I was enlightened.
The trail began at the edge of the splashback and worked its way into the pantry. Opening the pantry door I could see it trail behind the soy sauce, uninterested it its salty siren song. It bypassed the camomile tea (as a mother I recommend it for calming nerves and for babies’ teething) and then disappeared into a darker recesses of a full but tidy pantry. Once upon a time I may have emptied the shelves of all and sundry, and wiped them clean. Or laid down some bicarb in a strategic fashion, redirecting them, thus minimising casualties. This time, I let them be. They are someone’s babies, I thought to myself.
Instead, I watched their progress throughout the day, knowing there was nothing to see here, no boon for ants in the shape of unscrewed jam jars in my pantry. Surely enough, they left of their own accord, their days work done. No lives lost.
Now, I’m not exactly at Bodhisattva level (yet) but underpinning a lesson on compassion with a Buddhist reference is rapidly gaining me spiritual bitcoins which I’ll trade in someday for a nice carob bar and a reduction in my Karmic Debt. As a mother, may I say that compassion moves in mysterious ways.
Belinda was one of the short-listed writers on MWN and HarperCollinsPublishing’s 2015 Writers’ Competition.
Belinda has a passion for storytelling and spoken word poetry, with a love of queer history and stories of identity, migration and the urban landscape. In 2014 she and her partner Cecile Knight released the self-published book CO_The Creative Couples Project, a collection of stories and interviews of 12 Australian couples from the more eclectic fringes of life. She has been published in The Victorian Writer, n-SCRIBE and the anthology BOLD: stories from older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people by David Hardy, published by The Rag and Bone Man Press. Things are looking pretty peachy.