An Arabic proverb I often heard while growing up, in school, on TV, read in books, yet I never truly realized the real meaning of the words until I was blessed with children of my own. Nothing prepares us for the flood of feelings that comes with our own child joining the world of the living to eventually walk the earth. In pregnancy, a woman is especially overcome with new indescribable feelings that spread over her in waves, with the first doubt of a pregnancy on a stick, the verification of the fact by a lab test, and the smile on the doctor’s face when he gives the woman the thrilling news of a wanted pregnancy. I stress “wanted”, as it is essential for what I am aiming to write about.
The first imagined flutter of what we think is the baby, to the actual kicking of our insides by a little Monster seemingly practicing for the fetus kick-boxing championships, to the moving mound of a poking hand or a foot from inside our bulging belly, much like an alien movie, all make us swoon with the love of someone we never met. You see pictures in black and white of a blurry shape on the ultrasound, and that is enough to make you sure he/she looks like you, or like the father, if you like the father. Then the big moment comes, when you go through that simple procedure called childbirth (ha) and you are given a tiny human covered in slime, wrapped up in a cloth, thrust on your bosom, eyes closed tight like a new kitten, the objective is supposedly to bond with the creature. And oh my God, you do bond. You look at the little squinty eyes, the puffy face that just had an ordeal of being born to join you in the land of the air-breathing living things, fists clenched, fragile as a delicate ornament, a helpless lump that is the most adorable human you will ever meet.
My very own child. Panic. Will I break her? An Arian like me had to think that when I was handed my baby in a Houston hospital after three hours of labor . You see, Sasha’s was one of the easiest births on record. She however made up for it in her teenage, that was the time when I thought hard about introducing chemicals to my system to dull the reality of being her mother. Fine, I ended up resorting to locking myself in my room and watching Everybody Loves Raymond instead, but I would have been justified had I turned into a junkie a couple of years ago. Totally justified, ask anyone who knew her then.
But, that teenage demon from hell was an angel when she was born. The ugliest newborn ever, and the most wonderful one to hold, kiss and love. She became pretty a few days after she was born, when the swelling in her face subsided and the alien features took on a more human look. When she opened her eyes, they shone with a beautiful blue green light, she lost the ape-like hair that was covering her face and ears, and she turned into baby Sasha, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I loved her since the second I laid eyes on her, and I will love her till the day I die, even long after I die, I think I will come back often to check on her, haunt her a bit to repay her for the teenage horrors she put me through. You can’t help loving your kids, from the moment you realize that they are conceived, you love them unconditionally, without bounds, without reason, no explanation, you just do. Every new one you have brings with him or her a new flood of love from inside you that is enough to smother a whole nation with care, attention and worry.
Just imagine what it must feel like to love another person unconditionally and with the same intensity as you love your kids. What kind of love would that be? How devoted can you get? Does that kind of love really exist? I think it does.
When you love another human without an agenda, without insisting that they love you in return, just as it is with kids, you don’t expect much, you just love them for them, and you do that without so much as a second thought, you just do.
I sometimes wonder if unconditional love is a common occurrence these days. With all our preoccupations with concerns of acceptance, rejection, belonging, suitability, do we still manage to love another with no bounds, with total abandon, the same way we love those walking, talking pieces of our hearts? I think unconditional love exists, and is everywhere around us. We just have to open ourselves up for the possibility and the wonder of it. Loving without limits, just for the heck of it, and knowing full well not to expect anything at all in return. It is called true love.
Have a wonderful Sunday and enjoy the poem on Children from Khalil Gibran – our national Lebanese treasure.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, ‘Speak to us of Children.’
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable
The 13th Century poet and Sufi Mystic, Rumi’s poetry read by Deepak Chopra and Madonna (My Burning Heart and Bittersweet)