Most children begin forming words using the sounds made by p,b,m,w,h, and vowels, which would explain why the word "mama" is the first word many children say.
I have always wanted to be a mom. Many things have changed regarding what I want to do with my life since I was a child, but wanting to be a mom has always remained a constant. I would say it is so for a majority of females.
When I taught kindergarten, it was not a rare thing to have one of my kids accidentally call me "mom" or "mommy" but they would soon realize their mistake and usually giggle. There is something sweet about being called by that name, even if not by your child. There is also a heavy responsibility carried there, for it assumes that you are someone providing love and care to a child.
I remember the first time I heard the word "mama" being said by a little Chinese baby girl in reference to me, it was from my sweet Caroline. It was special before, but there was something so achingly beautiful hearing it come from the lips of someone who did not have a mother. When I would leave her room after playing, she would reach up for me and say "mama". On some days, it was almost more than my heart could handle, joy and pain all wrapped into one big mess of emotion. My heart ached for her; as much as I loved hearing her call me by that sweetest of names, I wanted so badly for her to have someone she would call mom for the rest of her life (she has since joined a forever family and does have someone she will be able to call mom for the rest of her life).
Since sweet Caroline, many more children have called me "mama" from time to time. I know part of it has to do with the fact that it's one of the only words they know and many associate it with female caretakers in their life. Most of the kids call their nannies "mama" which I love because that is essentially what they are. Many times if a child calls me "mama" I try to get them to say "Becca" not because I don't want them calling me mama, but because I don't feel like I "deserve" such a title.
A few weeks ago we had a surgical team come through. Surgical weeks are some of the hardest weeks I've experienced here as I've watched some of our sweet babies in such pain with no ability to do anything to ease it other than hold them or talk to them. But they are also some of the sweetest weeks as they have given me an opportunity to bond with those babies in a way our every day interactions do not always allow. There's something about a child reaching for you when they are in pain, and being able to offer some kind of comfort that others may not be able to, even if it's not physical comfort, simply because they know you and you are familiar to them.
This was one of those weeks with a few of our babies. A few days after the team was gone and the babies were well into recovery, I walked into one of the nurseries to check on some of them. Immediately, one of them ran over with arms outstretched and said "mama" with a big smile on her face (she is a cleft baby, and their smiles are beyond priceless). Her nannies all noticed and affirmed the fact that she had called me mama. In some small way, I feel like I earned that name that day, not necessarily because I deserved it or because of any blood relation I shared with her, but because God allowed our paths to cross in a way that we shared a bond that could be summed up in one sweet word, "mama".
Although I still hope to have children of my own one day (by birth or adoption), I realize that hope may look different than what I may picture. But for today, I get to be a "mama" to precious babies on the other side of the world; more than my heart could have ever hoped or imagined.