By Mallika Chopra
When I found out that I was pregnant several years ago, it was one of the happiest and most exciting moments of my life. I was awed by the fact that I had a living being growing inside of me. I spent hours visualizing what my baby would look like, talking and singing to her, caressing her, and beginning to plan for our new family with my husband, Sumant.
However, as my love for my baby grew with each new day, so did my apprehension about whether or not I would be a good mother. Would I know how to take care of my baby? How would I contribute to her happiness or unhappiness? How could I make sure that she treated others well, that she felt secure, that she was on the right path? What was the right path? I became overwhelmed thinking about the responsibility of being a good parent.
It was at this time that I appreciated, probably at the deepest and most sincere level, how grateful I was to my parents, Rita and Deepak Chopra, for the security, patience, love, and support they had given me growing up. For much of my life, people have asked me, "What was it like growing up as Deepak Chopra's kid?" or "How did your parents teach you and your brother, Gotham, spiritual values and ideas when you were children?" Of course, for Gotham and me, our father was always just our father, and Mom was Mom. We never analyzed what it was like to grow up with them or how that was different from others.
But in the context of becoming a parent, I started to think more about the way in which my parents taught us, how they made us feel loved, and how easy it was for us to communicate. Because of my father's work as a spiritual teacher and writer and his eagerness to impart his knowledge to us, I understood at a young age how love and compassion set the foundations for everything else in life.
Gotham and I did have a wonderful childhood -- not only because of the fascinating people we met, but because we were taught to look at the world with magical eyes, curiosity, and passion. Perhaps because of this background, during my pregnancy I was inspired to make commitments to myself about how I could emulate what I had learned from my parents, as well as from other family members, ancestors, friends and from my own experiences in life. My hope was to give Tara a childhood filled with wonder, magic, adventure, and mystery. And I felt intuitively that the time to start was while she still a part of me -- I somehow knew she would be listening.
My desire to bond with my baby reflected what I knew scientifically, that the love and support a child feels -- perhaps even in the womb -- results in specific biological outcomes for health, self-respect, confidence, and behavior. And intellectually, I knew that my baby and I were connected at every level. But now, I actually began to experience my unborn baby as an extension of myself, of my body, of my mind, and of my soul.
So I started to write down promises to myself and to her. These promises were inspired by all the love and hope that I felt for her and by the anticipation of who she was going to become. As I wrote, I realized that each promise was inspired by something that I myself had actually experienced or learned. I started to write down the stories, memories, and lessons that I wanted to share with Tara as she grew up, as well as the values and intentions I myself needed to be reminded of as I faced the challenges of parenting. The result was that I could feel our bond grow and deepen as I wrote. This bond only strengthened after Tara was born and continues to evolve as she grows. I see that my love for Tara is reflected in her love for me. I know that we are constantly growing and coevolving.
Tara is now two years old. With her birth and the ensuing year, my writing project was pushed to the side as I immersed myself in actually being a mother. I have loved mothering Tara more than anything else I have ever done in my life. I have also realized that some of it comes naturally and that other parts of it are hard -- very hard. You need patience, determination, and understanding. And frankly, some of the original promises that I had made to Tara were not really practical (i.e. I promise to never say no to you.)