The day she was born, I finally understood how it was like having a Kohinoor diamond that radiated like the sun in the room. The people who dotted on me and waited on me hand and foot just an hour back had turned all their attention to the pint size baby in the cradle. All of a sudden I saw only backs of peoples head and their butts swaying in front of me as they tried to get some attention from the baby. I felt like some piece of rag cloth tossed into the corner of the room. I felt like sun suddenly set that afternoon in my life. Sigh! Yes I was a brand new mother then, feeling the heat of love and affection shifted from me to my brand new daughter.
Till then, I was the only daughter to my parents. My moms eldest sister and husband who dint have children considered me as their own. So I had 4 parents not 2. I was spoilt rotten. My hubby being an only son made me the only daughter in law for my in-laws and the pampering of being the girl in the house continued. I was given the best of everything in the house, I was the one who decided things and mine was always the choice that was first asked and always followed.
Well…it was..till a few minutes back! Till the pink faced baby with the tiniest toes and full hear of hair (I thought all babies were born bald) showed up exactly one month before my gynecologist who always said ‘sorry sorry’ for everything had predicted!
I was not even ready. Not even minutely ready. The bag in which I planned to pack my ‘perfect post delivery stuff’ was not complete. I had forgotten to get the lip balm,front open dresses and feeding undergarments, I even forgot to pack hairbands or the magazines i had planned from the carefully made up list like it was said in the book ‘nine months and a day’ which had become my bible in the past 8 months.
The day before she was born had been a very usual day. I went to work in the morning, had lunch with my colleagues and had planned to go for a movie and some shopping that weekend. I had a regular check up with ‘chorry chorry’ and had gone to the hospital. I had a scan and the next thing I knew , I was in a wheel chair being pushed to the pre operation room! It seemed the baby had decided to turn upside down, bored or something being in the same position and the umbilical cord was around her. Dangerous!
That whole night I was alone in that pre op ward with an equipment around my protruding tummy to count the baby’s heart beat which i felt ticked like a time bomb. There were no other patients in there and I just had a grumpy looking nurse for company who dint even allow me to get up and sit. I understood the true meaning of isolation that night, with just one ‘allowed’ visit from the husband and family. I could have looked at my watch a million trillion times but time was moving slower than a snail. Either that or my watch was dead.
The next morning I felt like how Kasab would have before he went to the noose. I was woken up, given an early morning hot water bath and given the scriptures for prayer. I was helped to change into a new robe that was thankfully not a back open negligee. My operation was scheduled at 9, and I was sweating like I was in sahara desert even in 17 degree of air conditioning! I was taken in a stretcher and I saw the images pass by like they show in movies. Well, it was all movie like, mom and relatives trying to see me full of worry and the husband holding my hand till I went right into the theater and then it was total silence. I had dangerous images of an operation theater in my mind but surprisingly it was calm and yes a bit cold. It was white and bright from the intense overhead lighting but the bed was comfortable at least. In walked my ‘chorry chorry’ in her theater gown and said something cheerful to me. And then to my disbelief she started explaining the recipe of the paneer sandwich she made her son vijay who was going somewhere in the 11 clock flight the same day. The paneer sandwich was the last thing I remember and then it was total blackout.
I don’t know where I went or how long i had gone but when I opened my eyes I thought someone was strangling me. But it was only an oxygen mask in my face and I felt groggy. There was no pain and I felt numb. The nurse saw me wake up and said she would bring the baby. And that’s when I remembered about the baby too. I was so excited I felt like I was going to get a present for my birthday. With that thought I drifted back to sleep only to be woken up by the nurse again and I saw the most beautiful sight I ever saw after I was born. There cuddled in her arms , bundled in a white terry cloth was the cutest baby I ever saw. A girl baby! She was pink faced, with chubby cheeks, tiny nose and a rosebud mouth. One fat little hand was poised under her chin like she was deep in thought and her eyes were closed. I felt like sushmita sen when she won the miss universe crown. I was gasping and crying and smiling and I don’t know what all I was doing. She was just soo bloody cute. I looked again and she had opened her eyes and was calmly looking at me. The nurse placed her next to me and I started checking her. 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 eyes, one nose, 2 ears, and full head of hair. Everything looked perfect. I felt her soft skin and held her tiny tiny palm and exclaimed at her micro tiny nails. She looked like a doll. So beautiful. The universe suddenly became small for me it was just me and her in this beautiful world. And I was in bliss.
And then to spoil the moment walked in ‘chorry chorry’ and the husband. Exclaimed how pretty the baby was and how much she looked like the father. The husband was overjoyed beyond belief and he beaming ear to ear. Then came relatives, more exclamations. More claps and more flowers. More happiness. I was soon shifted to my room and it was like a pandemonium going on. I dint even know I had so many relatives and friends. And I dint know why they thought it so important to see me on the same day the baby was born! It is not like what is seen in movies when the new mother comes to room in perfect make up and unruffled hair and looks pleasantly calm and excited. I looked like a mess. Common I just had an operation and I needed some rest. The pain had started showing up and I couldn’t even move and the last thing I wanted was a room full of people with balloons and cake and gifts. But that was how it was. An hour after I was bought to the room, a nurse came and announced that the baby will be bought to the room. Everyone stood up all smiles and excitement and in a few minutes she was carried to the room. I tried painfully moving a bit to make place for her but they put her in a cradle instead because I had too many tubes on me. And everyone was around her. She dint cry and she was awake, I saw her looking at everyone calmly.
And then I realized the stark truth. The people who came dint come to see me, they came to see the baby. None seemed to be asking me how I was feeling or if I wanted something. It was suddenly ‘oh close the door, mosquitoes will bite the baby, the baby is feeling cold , the baby is feeling hot, oh look she lifted her hand, oh look how clever she is, she tossed the duvet with her leg, Rohit stop smiling at her she doesn’t like you look how she started crying…..blah blah blah baby baby baby’. Everything was about the baby. Even the husband dint talk much to me or sit in my bed. I was there in a bed alone and the rest of the world was with her in the other end of the room. I tried to look through them to see if she was looking for me. No she had drifted to sleep!
I too drifted to a nap but woke up with all the noise in the room. I was still alone in my corner and everyone was still around the baby who was awake too. Suddenly I panicked thinking what if she dint know I was her mother. I remembered the little duck and baby birds in tom and jerry who always called jerry ‘mamma’ as soon as they hatched and saw jerry before they saw their real mother. Would that happen here too? I looked at everyone closely and zeroed it down to the maid who had just come in to take care of the child and me. She was over-smart and marked her zone around the baby. She was changing her clothes, wiping her and cleaning her and also carrying her. I was an adult and something inside my head gave me a smack for being dumb. I tried to be calm for sometime. Rest. Sleep. Yea right with all these people in the room.
I smiled politely to all of them and rolled my eyes and did the face palm when my mother in law wanted to switch on the TV for watching her daily soap. I had taken the suit with air conditioning but nobody had said anything about a TV and that’s when I noticed it in the room too. Soon it was on and the serial was running, the baby who was sleeping again woke up to the sound and started crying, a lot of mouths immediately started hush hush and the maid started singing a lullaby in her irritating froggy voice. The baby wailed more. ‘shes hungry, feed her’ said my aunt.
I looked at everyone and realized oh that’s my duty. The baby was bought to my side, finally. All the men in the room immediately vanished. And the woman looked at me like I was about to do a product demonstration. That is the thing with Indian families, nothing is a secret with the woman folk after a baby is born, its like you grow up in one day. You are treated equal like your aunts and mothers even if you were served food in the first round only a year back! And suddenly kids stop calling you ‘chechi’, it turns into aunty. Recently at a family function a cousin of my husband even made her daughter who must be in her late teens call me aunty. I wanted to smack her- the mother I mean. I felt the woman did it on purpose. But then what do you have kids for, if not to get even I made mine call her daughter aunty too. 😉
I think that sufficed her.
So coming back to feb 8th of 2010, the day was ending, finally. I was still in iv tubes so I dint need solid food. I still had held baby boo just 3 times and all the times were to feed her. She would open her her eyes feed hungrily, burp and go to sleep. And the frog voiced maid or mom carried her to the cradle. Slowly guests were all leaving. And finally it was just my mom, the maid, me and baby boo. I wanted her to sleep on my side but it was not practical with the tubes and all and to my utter disbelief frogg voice carried her to her bed and started her croaking lullaby. I wanted to tell her to shut up and get out but I never say mean things to people and was in dilemma. I realized I was insanely jealous that my baby was by her side and I wanted to smack her face for doing it. I counted from 100 down to calm myself, to get my breathing normal and told myself that I was tired from the operation and I needed some sleep and closed my eyes as I felt tears coming to my eyes. And then, that very moment I heard a wail and realized the baby had started crying. Frog face hit the note in the lullaby to a higher pitch and the baby wailed higher too. She got up from her bed and started walking rocking the baby but the wailing never stopped. Nothing seemed to stop the baby’s cries. Finally I asked her to place the baby by my side.
And as soon as she was on my side the crying stopped like a switch was pressed. In 2 minutes she was gurgling and looking and somehow cuddling to me. It felt like a strong statement from her telling me that we will always belong together and I belong only to you. I held her close with my free hand and we just lay there absorbed in each other, in the dim hospital light. I admired her perfectly round head and soft hair, the softness of her chubby cheeks and I kissed her forehead and realized for the first time in my life that this was the smell of innocence and eternal love.
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