When does motherhood begin? We know that a mother is a mother as long as she lives, and her role (other than economic or financial, I hope) of being a mother to her sons and daughters ends when she dies. But when does a mother start to become a mother?
I believe that for a particular child, a mother’s role begins not at the moment of that child’s birth, but at his conception in her mother’s womb. Let us not forget that the phrase “to bear a child” does not only mean to give birth to, but also to carry, a child. The carrying is a nine-month burden that will lead to the moment of truth: the agony of labor, and the JOY of birth.
For Snowy, it was just the burden and the agony.
Snowy was one of the last litter, a sister to MsBraun and Warwik, given for adoption. She was the hamster who had an encounter with a house rat, so her foster-owner told. We don’t know her detailed experience there, but I supposed the nasty vermin wanted — but failed — to molest her. Somehow the rat had managed to put a notch in her ear. After a month she was sent back to us to be a wife to Mocha Rurik. The agreement was for her to get pregnant and after four weeks upon giving birth to her offspring, her foster owner will take her back with some of the litter.
So, after Snowy was given to Mocha Rurik in marriage, all we’ve got to do was to wait for the next 16 days of pregnancy to pass. On the 16th day, the signs of birthing was evident: Snowy refused to play but laid on her back all day. The whole day was nearly over, still no sign of babies. In the last few hours of the following day, one by one came out the babies, all lifeless…
Hamsters have a peculiar trait of eating up their newborn babies when they are threatened by the presence of hamsters other than their litter in their cage. Some experts termed this trait as protective cannibalism. What a horrible way of protecting one’s young!!! Protecting it by devouring it!? It doesn’t make sense! But I found it much harder to understand the reasons of some — sometimes even healthy, married human mothers. They maybe doing a less morbid thing for not eating their newborn child; but giving consent of expelling ‘it’ from their bodies while yet unborn, justifying that they are only protecting it from a bleak and uncertain future, is equally irrational.
I’ve learned that a zygote is kept alive by the pulsation of the individual cells in it(?), and as the zygote develops into a human embryo, one of the first organs to be formed is the heart in order for the embryo to help sustain his own life. The fetus at the earliest stage is already fighting for his life! Anybody who is heartless enough to think he has the right to stop the throbbing of this unborn child’s heart dare to stand up? Even you — his ‘mother’ — sit down! In the whole world, you should be the last person to dare to stand…
I am condemning the deed here, not the doer. These young ladies badly need understanding and guidance. If you know somebody in the same situation, I am urging you not to ‘push’ her in doing something that she’ll be sorry for later in her life. I knew a few mothers who have committed such a mistake long ago but until now each is keeping a skeleton in her closet, knowing not how to confess it to her living sons or daughters.
As for Snowy, she didn’t eat up her litter. The babies just came out dead; they didn’t come out on time. But somehow Mocha Rurik was so relieved she was still alive.
After what happened to Snowy, I never mated her again with her husband worrying that it might risk her life. Her foster owner never bothered to send for her again, so Snowy stayed here with her family for the rest of her life. As to if her life drama — that rat-encounter and the lost of her litter — was retained in her memory, I don’t know. I just hope that in her brain, the space for sad memories was blank clean and white like her name.
Snowy perished due to an illness, possibly a reproductive or urinary tract infection. She lived for 18 months and 7 days. Soon a clock will be ticking atop Ikabod tower in memory of her.
Appended on 28 December 2007:
— PLEASE WATCH THIS PRESENTATION —
WARNING: This presentation (.pps) may make you feel
uncomfortable (better if it does), but I want it for your eyes to see.
Be ready to explain it to the kids if ever there are some around.