Chapter 16: There shall be showers of blessing


Amid all the pandemonium that descends on your life post new-baby, there are tiny, ever memorable islands of peace.

When I got home from the hospital, my mom-in-law gave me a traditional welcome. She’s sweet and high on the traditional stuff in life, which was a big boon for me during my post-pregnancy days—she knew all about the herbs and traditional dishes that are given to the new mom to help her body get back its strength and shape.

What I remember most are the herbal baths that she prepared for me in the first week post-childbirth… equally exciting and embarrassing at the same time. Exciting, because a concoction of herbs is being poured upon you with much fanfare… so much like the Maharanis of yore…! But embarrassing because you are the new mom who’s not supposed to strain herself in any way whatsoever (caring for the baby is strain enough, thank you!) and so you can’t rub your body or soap your body yourself. Oh Lord, is that embarrassing! Even if it was my own mom who did the soaping… and even if all she washed were the back and the legs… still….

But the feeling of warm herbal waters flowing down your limbs…  unforgettable!

Traditions have their flipside too, though.  Tradition says the woman has to be confined in the house for 40 days. Am I thankful this part of the tradition wasn’t enforced! Not that I’d have given in, anyway….

A really old and decadent and terrible tradition that was inflicted upon one of my friends was the one where husband and wife are not allowed to sleep in the same room for 40 days. It was, of course, meant to prevent insensitive, psycho husbands of yore from torturing their ‘injured’ wives… if you know what I mean.

I, however, might have murdered someone if they dared try to enforce that.

Just having the love of your life sleeping beside you is such a great comfort and source of peace… even if the only sleep you get is in two hour bursts… sometimes only two hours in one night… but at least you have someone whom you can wake up anytime and in whose arms you can sob unrestrained in the dead of the night …

Here I must say that my mother saved my life. My baby just would not sleep at night. At all. He wanted me to sit there with him in my lap the whole time. If I put him down… that was it. I used to cry and cry out of fatigue and helplessness. That’s when my poor darling mother began to keep him in her lap for three-four hours at a time, after which he would start bawling for milk. And for those three hours, I could—wonder of wonders—sleep. For many, many months after that, my mom was the chief source of all my sleep.

The world is a beautiful place when there are people who love you and make life better for you…

Chapter 13: And pain comes in many forms…


Everybody emphasises over and over the important fact that as soon as the baby is born the terriblest part of the pain is over.

But.

Nobody tells you what comes after that.

So, my baby has been born and I’ve been stitched up and cleaned and covered. I’m still in the labour room; exhausted, shaken and lifeless. Sajjad is holding up a glass of juice and I’m sipping it with a straw. It’s a tad uncomfortable drinking this way and I want to shift up a bit, in more of a sitting position (the bed’s already inclined to support my back). I try to scuttle a little upwards. And then it hits me.

Moving my back—and my hips—even a quarter of an inch creates waves of screaming pain inside me.  I cannot move a muscle without grimacing in the most horrible way imaginable. The entire portion is numb, but not numb as in ‘without sensation’. Numb as in ‘heavy as lead, impossible to move without the greatest effort and creating an indescribable, tear-inducing agony’. The mere act of sitting up is so frustrating, so petrifying.

I wish there were more synonyms for pain, more words to describe a sensation that is as much physical as mental. But words can only show you so much and no more.

The events after this are jumbled in my memory. Maybe one came first, the other later? It’s difficult to remember.

My mom’s in the room. So is my mom-in-law. My brother in law has just arrived. I feel happy to see him; that he rushed over from another city at such short notice. But both of them—the in-laws—have started calling up people in a mad frenzy and spreading the good news like I just won an Olympic gold. That doesn’t really make me happy, though. It takes away attention from me when I want it the most. When I’m at my weakest and shittiest. (In case you haven’t noticed I’m a big attention seeker.) And it takes away my man on totally unnecessary phone calls. Grrr….

But I digress. This is the small stuff.

About an hour— or half? — later, after the room’s been cleared of everyone but my mom, they bring my baby back in, to be fed. Now, Lord knows how eager I had been about feeding my baby and no formula-feeds whatsoever. But right now? Do I really have to do it now? I can’t even get up…all I want to do is sleep… (as a matter of fact I kept dozing off in between the 5-minute gaps of labour pain….)

Ok. I have to. Right now. Great, he won’t latch on. I’m not holding him correctly, perhaps. The Lactation Counsellor shows me how.

So, I’m feeding my baby for the first time… this ought to be a wonderful, tender moment… except it isn’t. I’m acutely aware of the pains shooting through my behind.  And the sleep clogging my brain.

But then, after he’s finished, he simply nuzzles my skin with his face, almost clutches me with his fists, and goes back to sleep. There’s a tiny, warm feeling, like a little closed fist, that wraps itself on my heart.

However, there’s no time for joy.

Another nurse arrives and asks me to stand up, walk to the toilet and take a leak.

I look at her as if she’s just landed from outer space.

Get UP?!

WALK to the toilet?!

Have you freakin’ lost your mind, lady?

Of course my ever-loving mother protests and asks for a bed pan for me; anyone could see I was in no condition to get up. Although I’d been told beforehand in the pre-natal workshops that the sooner I did the getting up and taking a leak thing, the faster I would heal. However. Listening is one thing and doing it is another.

But the nurses haven’t been trained for nothing.

“Oh, ok,” she says, coolly. “Guess we’ll just have to insert a catheter to pass the urine.”

In case you don’t know what a catheter is, it’s a tube that’s inserted right inside you to get the waste liquid out. It’s not a thin tube either. And I’d seen my grand-dad use this thing for years. Yes, years. And you can imagine where they stuck it in his body. Yeah, you got it.

I’d just pushed a 7 and a half pound baby out of my body for good. Nothing, absolutely nothing is gonna be pushed in now.

“NO! Please, no. Just help me up and support my weight, please. Of course I can go to the toilet. That’s gonna aid the healing, isn’t it? Of course I’m gonna go.”

It’s a wonder what a little incentive can do…

Turns out, the getting up and going part isn’t the hardest bit.

Not since potty-training in childhood did I have so much fear of the toilet seat. I shakily murmur ten different prayers and hold my breath the entire while, like a person stepping across a field full of landmines. Only, here, I AM the landmine.

For many days after that, trips to the toilet were like trips to purgatory. Feared. Hated. Terrifying. Tear-inducing. But more on that later.

As I’m being wheeled out of the labour room into my room for the next two days, I have just one thing on my mind. I’ve spoken to a lot of women about their childbirth experience and almost everyone said they had absolutely no physical desire for the first few months. Well. Not me.

Here’s what I’m thinking—

(To be read with a panic stricken tone): “OH GAWD this is all so terrible, I have terrible stitches and injuries….ohhhhh I’ll never ever be able to DO IT again!!! Oh how, how, how am I gonna HAVE IT now?? How???? ” (Mental sob)

Then I remember… people just don’t stop having kids after one. They have more. Many more. Which means, of course….

And then it dawns.

Uh-oh.

More kids?More? MORE???

Never, ever. Never ever is this process going to be repeated, I swear. Never. EVER.

Chapter 7: Oh, those hormones!


March 1, 2012

4 p.m.

I’m taking a walk outside my house. (Thank goodness I can finally find the strength to go take a walk) It’s spring and there’s a lovely warmth in the air, the sun doesn’t sting yet and there are flowers blooming all around my society. I’ve just finished the light exercises advised by my doctor and I sit there on a raised part of the ground, watching the squirrels scamper on the buildings…. I remember my sister’s amazement at squirrels climbing cement walls… I guess that’s adaptation for you.

Nature makes me happy. Hope my little one turns out to be a nature lover. She probably will, because her father’s a nature-guy, too.  I place a hand on my belly, “See that little furry thing scampering about with its tail in the air? That’s a squirrel. Oh, and this is a tree… And see those pink things growing there? Those are flowers…aren’t they pretty? Oh, darling you’re gonna love it here…”

March 5, 2012

11:30 a.m.

I miss my office. I miss going to work everyday. I hate having to sit at home with nothing to do….Don’t wanna watch movies… don’t wanna read books… miss my office friends, miss our conversations…. Hate having to be like a housewife…. The worst part about being a housewife is that if you want a conversation, the only people available around you are those who will just talk about how irregular the maid is or what’s going on in tulsi/parvati/ichcha/tapasya’s disgusting fictional lives, how clean their cupboards are or how much zeera, adrak and lehsun to put in a particular dish………..aaaaaaahhhhh………..!!!! Give me a break!!!

Ladies, I know it’s wonderful to keep cleaning your cupboards every minute and cook the tastiest dish in town but really, do you ever come across a name in history or general knowledge that says “This person had the cleanest house” or “this person cooked the best food”????       No? I thought so.

(No offense to housewives. I’m one myself, now. The above rant is just a presentation of my thoughts at that point of time.)

March 10, 2012

This isn’t going to be so bad…. Children are nice….mine won’t be like that bawling kid across the block… my neighbour’s anniversary celebration was ruined by her tantrum-throwing kid…nope, mine won’t be that way…. My husband’s cousin says the first 2 years are terrible…nope, mine will be an angel….

Kids are nice, kids are nice, kids are nice……………… They are nice, right?  Right????? Anybody there????

March 12, 2012

I’m watching a movie called Waitress. I can so empathise with this woman, the heroine. She has an unplanned baby. Of course, the reason she doesn’t want it is that she hates her husband and wants to run away from him…quite the opposite in my case, huh?

“Not everyone wants to be a mother, Dawn,” Jenna tells her friend, “That don’t make you a bad person.”

“I respect this baby’s right to thrive…I do not do anything to put it in danger…” BUT. She doesn’t love her child. She doesn’t want it. “Dear damn baby.” That’s how she addresses it when her husband finds her hidden running away money.

Dear damn baby. That’s quite a phrase, isn’t it? Damn baby.

What the hell’s wrong with me??? Why can’t I love my baby? It’s been months! Get over it already, girl!

Jenna gives birth to a baby girl whom she falls in love with the moment she holds her in her arms…the baby gives her courage to set her life right and mum-and-kid live happily ever after.

Will I fall in love with my baby when I hold her/him? Will I? Will I………. ?

March 15, 2012

1 p.m.

Sonia Naik is the best gynaecologist I’ve ever met. She’s my savior.

“I’m not able to eat anything, you know,” I complain to her as she carries out her routine checks. “Just tomato soup the whole time, sometimes bread and butter… I haven’t had a single roti in 5 days. Nor rice. No vegetables. Or dal.  Maybe a little home-cooked aloo ki tikki sometimes.”

“That’s fine. You’re getting enough nutrition. Don’t have to worry.”

That’s not really what I wanna tell her. I’m on the verge of tears, actually.

“You know all this stuff about great glorified motherhood? I think it’s crap.”

I have her attention now.

“Why?”

“I don’t know…I don’t feel anything for my baby. I just feel angry all the time. You know, like I wanna get a punching bag and keep at it the whole day. I don’t feel happy about anything. WHY WHY WHY don’t I love my baby? What’s wrong with me… I feel like crying all the time…”

“That’s just because you’re not well,” she says gently. You’re having nausea, fatigue and all these problems, they’re making you weak and irritable. Once this passes, you’ll be fine and you’ll love your baby.” She smiles.

“I hope so,” I sigh.

“In the meantime, you can just fight with your husband and make him your punching bag!”  she suggests with a twinkle.

I grin. Poor Sajjad!

 

MORAL OF THE POST: You see these pendulum swings? From showing squirrels to my baby to wanting a punching bag? They’re called hormones. That’s what makes us women change from green to red in the twinkling of an eye. If there’s any man reading this, hope you were paying attention.

Chapter 5: New Rituals and a li’l love


Feb 14, 2012

This is our second valentine’s day after marriage.  Normally I’m the super-enthusiastic, let’s-do-this-let’s-go-there types, but when you’re throwing up at least 6 times a day and feeling dizzy for the most part, all you want to do is lie back on the bed and groan. (The first Pregnancy Workshop I attended at my hospital revealed that I was the ONLY one out of about 40 women who was experiencing such severe nausea and fatigue. Hallelujah.)

So nowadays I have to be dragged from bed to go anywhere. But here’s the silver lining: although I can’t eat a bite of home-cooked food, every time we go out to a restaurant, my appetite returns and I have fun. Thank Heaven for small mercies!

This time, we’re celebrating our Valentine’s Day by having golgappas together. Not at some roadside stall, though—that’s forbidden for me right now— we’re at the food court of The Great India Place. (For my blogger friends—Golgappas are tiny edible balls filled with potato pieces and lip-smakin’ spiced up water.)  Mmmmmmm….. Golgappas…. Even the thought makes my mouth water.

“Hey… chunnu is eating golgappas for the first time!” Sajjad grins at me.

“yeah…” I grin back. “I think she likes ‘em.”

Chunnu is a gender-neutral term for ‘little one’ and that’s what we’ve always called our baby, even when I was not pregnant. And this is a new ritual we’ve created: everytime I eat something new, Sajjad exclaims delightedly over it, reminding me that chunnu is trying out all this new stuff! And everytime I watch an animation movie—and I watch lots and lots of those—he asks me whether the baby likes it!!

So, I’m quite sure my chunnu likes golgappas. How can she not! I’m crazy about them….

For my V-Day gift, Sajjad gets me a fluffy, feathery, heart-shaped pillow that says ‘I LOVE YOU’.    How sweet is that?

I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t a diamond ring. But the thing is, I’m not the diamond-ring types. I’d much rather have something fun, cute and imaginative, than something expensive and mundane. Or, if my husband really wants to spend that much money on me, I’d much rather he took me on a vacation to some exotic locale where I’d see the magic of a living world.

Who needs another stone?

And this pillow remained my best friend particularly for the entire duration of my pregnancy –supporting my bump when it began to grow, helping me sleep on my side. (As it is, I couldn’t sleep on my back from the very beginning coz of acute back pains even before the bulge appeared.)

And, of course, Sajjad would remark –“Hey, chunnu has already started using a pillow!”

(Read from the beginning)

Chapter 3: Fasten your seatbelts, please. It’s gonna be a long and rickety ride


Here are the top safety instructions given to me at the beginning of my ride:

1. No eating in restaurants (because I am prone to stomach infections)

2. No road travel (because roads in India aren’t exactly something to be proud of )

3. No lifting heavy loads (that’s a no-brainer)

Jan 1, 2012

The Jaipur Literary Fest is a much awaited event in the world of bibliophiles. For the first time in my life, I’m going to attend it. I would get to meet so many of the authors whose voice I had heard in their narratives, whose worlds I had lived in through their pages…and I have lived in those worlds much more than I have lived in my own, perhaps….

The event is just a couple of weeks away now and I’m overjoyed at being asked to cover it. My time to go places has just begun. I’m making reservations to get to Jaipur by train. Until, of course, I’m hit by a sickening wave of nausea, and then another sickening wave of the truth.

I have this wonderful, much desired, much awaited thing in my hand, and I have to let go. I cannot attend the literary fest. Because a) there are no train reservations available and I cannot travel by road and b) even if I did get there I would most certainly have to eat “outside” food.

There goes the literary fest and any other assignment that involves travelling. My time to go places …. has stopped abruptly.

Jan 6, 2012

5:30 p.m.

I’m writing an editorial — that’s my usual job. I love my job. I’ve said that, haven’t I ? So I’m doing what I do, I have my eyes fixed on the screen and my fingers typing with demonic speed and my mind churning out one edit-worthy thought after another. Until.

All of a sudden, mid-edit, my mind goes for a spin. My eyelids swoop shut. I cannot get the sleep out of my eyes. I cannot think. I complete the rest of the edit with the thumb and forefinger of each hand forcing open each eye.   Every thought takes twice as long to form itself and every sentence takes twice as long to be typed. As soon as I’m through with the edit, I hand over the completed page to my boss. And ask permission to go home immediately. I think I would drop down to sleep just standing up.

On the way home, twice I almost fall out of the open-sided autorickshaw, because I have dozed off.

Jan 9, 2012

11:30 a.m.

It’s already my time to reach office and I’m in bed. Can’t go to work. Too weak to get up from the bed. Sajjad is already off to work, having given me my usual glass of hand-squeezed orange juice and an egg. (That’s pretty much all that I can bear to eat) He’s being such a dear about this….

I have to inform my boss… hate having to send in a ‘leave message’ every other day. I send the message. Immediately go off to sleep again.

Jan 20, 2012

Threw up twice in office. Had to literally run to the washroom from my seat. Seem to faint with weakness on my way back home.

Jan 22, 2012

There were two women in my office who gave birth to pretty, healthy babies before I even knew I was pregnant. They kept working almost till the eighth month, took maternity leave and came back to office after a few months. There are women all over the world who do just this, and so I had been reassuring myself that I could, too. Until, of course.

Until my body grew so weak that I couldn’t get up from bed even if someone was ringing the doorbell. Until my brain got so fatigued that I was sleeping most of the day as well as most of the night. Until something went so wrong in my brain that any strain on my eyes for more than half an hour at a stretch — reading, working on the laptop, watching TV– started giving me splitting headaches… headaches where I writhed on the bed, clutching my head and screaming in agony… headaches where I wished for a hammer to break my head and end all this once and for all.

Whoever said that pregnancy was a beautiful, wonderful, ethereal experience should definitely get his/her head examined. Or maybe, they were just plain lucky.