She and her husband decided to send their seven-year-old daughter to a boarding school. Little did they know that this would be a roller coaster ride, for they had to prepare her to live independently. The most difficult part was getting her accustomed to sleeping alone in a different room.
One night, when the girl was fast asleep, her mother had a strong feeling that the child was falling off the bed. She immediately ran to her daughter’s room to find her sleeping on the edge of the bed, about to fall.
The rest of us might find this hard to understand, but mothers may know this feeling all too well. They say life is never the same once a woman becomes a mother. Indeed, mothers love and care for their children unconditionally, but it is strange how they can sense when their children might be in danger. Mothers seem to have a special instinct that helps them protect their little ones. It is what we call the maternal instinct. While some believe it is an internal drive, others believe it is the bond between mother and child, reflected in their caring behaviour. Counsellor Amita Mani believes it is a bit of both. She says, “It is an instinct that drives mothers to nurture and care for another life.”
Some mothers swear by their maternal instinct. Wedding planner Divya Chauhan is a mother of two. She strongly believes that maternal instinct is a heart-to-heart connect between a mother and her child. “Sometimes, I have this feeling that my daughter is not okay or that I need to call up my son. When that thought comes, I instantly know I have to call them up to make sure all is well with them. It is like a sixth sense,” she says, matter-of-factly.
Most mothers would agree with Divya. They ‘just know’ when something is wrong with their children. However, Nupur Varma, mother of a teenager, does not agree that it is an ‘instinct’. She believes it has to do more with the behaviour of a person. “For instance, my daughter doesn’t usually like taking a nap in the afternoon. So, when she says she wants to lie down in the afternoon, I know something is wrong with her. After a few hours, she develops a fever on such days,” she says. Perhaps, when you are emotionally attached to the person, you are aware of every little thing that is happening to them.
Of late, it has become a topic of debate as to whether maternal instinct is biological or psychological or learned. As women have been assigned the role of nurturers since prehistoric times, this instinct to nurture has come to be seen as specific to all females. Does that make it a learned behaviour? Perhaps, say some studies. They reveal that maternal instinct is hard-wired in females.
Some view it as a biological concept purely based on the changes a woman undergoes during pregnancy and motherhood. When a woman is pregnant, her body produces copious amounts of female reproductive hormones–oestrogen and progesterone. Meanwhile, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland secrete oxytocin that triggers birth contractions, prolactin that stimulates the mammary glands, and endorphins to ease the pain of birthing.
To care and love another being, and be responsible for its life is being ‘maternal’.