Friday, 5 October 2012

An Uncomfortable truth..

As I type this, there is a voice inside me telling me not to do it. "Don't do it, don't go out and tell the world what a horrible terrible mother you have been."

What exactly am I talking about? Like the world (or at least those in India ) wakes up to daily updates of baby Ahuti who died at the hands of her mother - I feel fraught with despair, not just for the poor poor child who died a death so brutal but also for the mother who was obviously over the edge and desperate. By no means can I condone her actions but as details of the case emerge - of a mother with three children - two of them premie twins with obvious care needs .. Children who cried and screamed through the night - and ostensibly no or very little help for the mother...I can somewhat see how the tragedy could have unfurled. Though the extent to which the child (children?) was abused is simply bone chilling, I simply cannot join in on pointing fingers at the parents with righteous outrage.

The reason being that several times in the past five years I have felt on the verge of hitting my child. Out of despair, frustration, tiredness..anger! I know many of you would say - but of course - most of us feel like that at some time. But what I am talking about is another feeling - one which involves grievous body harm - a feeling of harming your child so badly that it shuts up, quietens down - acquiesces..submits. The feeling I am talking about is at the edge of desperation and would according to me qualify as being beyond the ambit of anger and sense.

It happened to me more than once. This feeling that I am talking about. When kidlet was younger than a year old - I would sometimes scream - at her, at the walls..or into the towels in the bathroom. I possibly had post partum depression - who is to know. Since we lived abroad with no family or support around - my desperation just kept getting exacerbated. My child was fortunate that I did not take out the violent feelings that I felt onto her during that time. Really- I am grateful for whatever last vestiges of sanity that I had for keeping me from doing anything stupid - either to myself or my child.

I took anti depressants ..vented out on online forums .. Cried, cribbed and shouted at my husband..nothing provided respite. Then one day, I got a glimpse of how dangerous I could become. It was one of the nights that my husband was away. My daughter - always a fitful sleeper was not only awake but crying - a persistent whiny cry. I tried to pat her, carry her, sing, feed ..she would not budge - the whining persisted for the next few hours. I was exhausted - I implored her to quieten down ( she was around 20 months old) she responded by increasing her pitch. I raised my voice - the whining turned into full fledged crying. I shouted. She cried even louder. Then almost by its own volition my hand raised and rested with a resounding 'thwack' on my daughter's back. It was all quiet for a second. I looked at my daughter in the darkness and I could barely make out the shock in her eyes..and then I hit her again on the back..yes I did it twice. And even as I cried I felt the worst feeling that a mother ever should - that of feeling good after hitting her child. That one second of shocked quiet felt good. Good sense made me pick her up and take her to the living room and switch on the lights before I could do more harm. My daughter continued to cry. But suddenly I was numb to it because I was too shocked by my actions, too scared of myself. I begged my uncomprehending child for forgiveness. Later that day I would confess my actions to my mother and husband. They both reacted as they should - cautiously understanding but asking me to find ways to control my rage.

After that day, I became truly aware of how dangerous I could become under the combined influence of whatever environmental and biological factors that there were..and I knew I had to be very very cautious of myself. I would be lying if I said that I never again felt like hitting my child. Several times when I felt myself moving into that mood I rushed to another room - shouted, screamed, threw things around .. Put on music and closed my eyes .. But thankfully I managed to resist the urge to hit her again. The guilt and shame of that time has stayed with me though. Every time I remember that instance (and now that I write about it) I want it to have never happened. And then when cases of parental abuse come up in the media, I shiver and recoil in terror. Maybe I never could have actually committed such violence but my experience has shown me how darkness can seep through into what is otherwise painted as the most wondrous time of your life - motherhood.

I am not sure if I can do a 'moral of the story' sort of end to this post, but the reason I wrote about this is to admit to the tumultuous nature of parenting. Not every motherhood is hunky dory and filled with play doh and gurgles and all things happy. For some, parenting can the most painful, challenging thing - it would be good if we could accept that as being a possibility. 


  1. I think you are so brave to admit it not only to yourself and your close family, but to the rest of the world. Raising a child in a nuclear family is no joke and a lot of us at various points have felt and behaved as you did. Perhaps a mother going through this phase might read your post and be both comforted and also become self-aware about her actions.
    I commend your courage!

  2. Thanks Sunila for your very kind and understanding words :)

  3. I second Sunila's comment. It takes a lot of courage and honesty to write what you have! I had a lot of support from my family when my kids were born but if I had not, I can imagine myself as equally frustrated as you were. I'm glad I found your blog.

    1. Thank you Roshni.. :) It was a difficult post to write - but it is pushing things like these under the carpet that festers problems more, I believe. Talking and sharing helps hopefully!

    2. Kudos!
      You made my belief stronger that being a writer doesn't only mean expressing but to admit, to dream, and to observe the world but more oneself in the depths. That ways one finds the true self and the reader relates. Being a reader I feel language is just a tool. Having a spine is one thing I'd say more necessary than anything else to be a writer.
      Keep observing!