My daughter is 10 days old today. It’s been a tremendous journey from being an expectant, naive woman to an inexperienced, naive mother. True to my character, I do not remember much of what I went through during the last nine months. It’s all got washed away in the swirling waters of time. The day of the birth, however, remains fresh for now. Unlike the fairytale stories one gets to hear, I daresay mine was the kind I’d like to forget. People say that a new mother forgets all pain and discomfort when she hears her child cry after birth and holds her in her arms. I didn’t quite experience that because local anaesthesia didn’t work on me for the C-Section, the doctors ultimately had to resort to general anaesthesia. I didn’t hear my girl cry, I didn’t see her when she was born. I didn’t see her the entire day, because I was under observation for having mild hypertension.
While it is just another medical complication, to me it seems like a small defeat. Having laid there and felt every part of my body rising up from slumber, minute after minute, while thinking about the one whom I had carried all this while and had hoped to hold in my arms by then, was traumatic.
What is even more interesting is that the most joyous moment of my day wasn’t when she was brought to my room in the evening. It was when I was rolled out of the labour room on a stretcher in the afternoon, and after one harsh hospital ceiling light after the other, I saw Bhartan’s face looking at me. That felt like a long, slow breath of relief after rafting through tumultuous rapids. A very personal victory.
The painful days in the hospital weren’t so bad since I had this little girl of mine to see and touch. But not quite. What with the discomfort, I had to depend on a hospital nursing attendant to cradle the baby, assist me when I fed her, scrub me clean, do my hair, stay up when the baby needed attention. This was hardly the way I’d imagined the first few days after the birth.
Why am I telling you all this? Perhaps because I do not wish to pretend that the birth automatically brought about unbounded joy. The joy is coming, minute by minute.
She has different names, my daughter. Pari, Chunu, Putki. Loving people name her as they please. Bhartan and I call her Baby for now. So, Baby is like a bud opening, unveiling tiny little wonders with each new revelation. I see each part of her one after the other in a very special light only I have access to. A tiny finger, a tiny smile, those soft, soft hairs on her brows when she wrinkles them, that slight curl of her lips. Everyday I become more mother. Each passing minute, she claims a little more of my heart, of my soul. No, it wasn’t automatic, I am afraid. What happened automatically was a sense of responsibility. A duty to take care of a being I chose to bring into existence. What is happening now must be what they say is motherhood. But I am yet to reach there. Or perhaps I’ve climbed my own unique summit on which I camp and from which I view the happiness, duties and trappings of being a mother.
For now, I am living in terror. Is she well-fed? Why is her skin so red here? What are these spots? Is the room too cold/hot/humid? Is it diarrhoea? Oh, she’s not able to feed well. What am I doing wrong? The list is endless, as are the hours in a day. And yet, they both get whirled around and thrown out of the centrifuge like inconsequential bits the moment I hear her, see or touch her. Like now. She’s getting up. Time to feed her!