Friday, July 5, 2013

Being a mother

Several weeks ago Chad and I were watching the show NOVA on PBS and I have thought about that episode a zillion times since. It was talking about how similar apes and humans are, but then also showing the significant aspects that the apes lack that have stopped them from being just like humans. As they kept saying on the show, they were highlighting some fundamental behaviors that apes are missing which prevent the world from turning into the "planet of the apes". The similarities are eerie that is for sure. However, what I found the most intriguing, and haunting, was the footage they showed of a mother chimpanzee mourning her dead child. The mother literally carried her child's body around until it was nearly completely decomposed. She slung it over her back as she would do if it were alive, and she hugged it, and held it, and looked at it lovingly, as if to say, "Why are you dead? Why?" 

What has run through my mind about that footage is how similar the emotions seem to be between humans and apes. I truly believe that if it weren't for the fact that we would be instantly shackled and sent to a sanitarium for life, human mothers would react in the exact same way if they had a child that died. I believe that to be true because I feel certain that I would need to be sedated and have Lucy pried out of my arms if she ever passed away. I feel this certainty based on how I feel about her each and every day.  Some days are more heartbreaking than others, but regardless, every day brings at least a tiny bit of heartbreak for what Lu has lost, what she is missing in life, and what I want for her, but can't give her because it is out of my control. I feel so...fierce? Passionate? Primal? I'm not sure that there is really a word that describes how I feel about Lu's well-being better than the video of that momma chimp carrying her dead baby. Maybe what I am saying is that I don't always feel the civilized "human" feelings that are socially acceptable when it comes to Lu. I kind of feel like a wild animal that will do anything to see that she is safe, healthy, happy, and whole. 

What I also believe is that the majority of human mothers feel the same way. The sisterhood of motherhood, I think, is a strong bond that our society's civilized rules have watered down to the point that mothers are more casual with each other. Mothers can be judgemental, stand-offish, and unfriendly even, in spite of the fact that each of us would be likely to attack an intruder in our homes to protect our children, or lift a car to save them...or claw someone's eyes out if they threatened to hurt our precious babies.  I believe that just below the surface, most mothers are ready to pounce at the mere notion that someone might hurt their young, just like animals in the wild.

 I felt so incredibly sad watching that ape carry her baby because I think I can just imagine, just a little bit, what she might be feeling as she lovingly totes it around, trying to change its fate. But, she can't fight death, like she could fight a lion. I can't fight Rett Syndrome like I could fight an intruder.  They are not tangible foes, we can't beat them, we can only try to accept them and live with their consequences.  Acceptance might be the civilized response, however, and as I have stated, I don't think that "civilized" is a mother's gut-reaction, so we just keep fighting, and clawing, and carrying on. 

1 comment:

  1. Keep on clawing, fighting and carrying on. You're doing a fantastic job of parenting Lu. And, furthermore, I agree fully with your theory about how you think you would react, compared to the Mother Ape, with her dead baby. Whether we are the parents or, as is my case, a grandparent, would anything happen to my kids or my grandkids, civilized is probably not a word that would describe me or my feelings and actions.