Messages to my dear friend, Monica, as we share our experiences of being a mother, the things we learn from our little girls, everyday and the lessons we learn from life itself.
A Blog-dialogue across continents, countries and oceans of time and space...
(We last met in 2000 A.D, in India.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Daughter!

Whenever the birthday of a loved one rolls around, I get ponderous, wistful and, at times, a little bit sad. Just a little bit, though! Last weekend was one such day. What made it extra special and extra poignant is that my first-born turned eight that day. There's something irrevocable and definitive about birthdays. Like time has been stamped and chronicled...so-and-so is now and henceforth eight years and counting....time that has passed on, never to return. All that remains are memories, growing fainter and fainter with the passage of time, save those special details that make memories feel so very much alive...

My first baby...Shivangi. I quite vividly remember the day she was born in all its glorious details...It was a Monday, and a sunny one at that. I had walked home, after being discharged from the hospital that very morning, after a weekend 'under observation'. After reaching home, I cooked and waited for my M-i-L to return from work. As we watched TV that night, I felt an uncomfortable pain around my bump, as if an invisible band was being gradually tightened around my ample middle... Mum asked me if I was all right, and, since I had no clue, I nodded. Later that night, as the discomfort intensified, she told me to take care and get some rest, and to wake her up if I felt any pain. My husband worked afternoon shifts as a restaurant manager, so I called him and we talked about the possibility that tonight was THE NIGHT!! After an excited exchange and numerous text messages to him, I rang the Delivery Suite team and was told to take some Paracetamol and try to relax until the contractions were five minutes apart. When I told my husband Raj, he just jumped up, and said, "Let's go!!" 

I can recollect, with some accuracy, the way the Delivery Suite Midwives settled me in, and the way I held my husband's hand with bone-crushing intensity. (Its a good thing he has always been fit and works out at the gym, come rain or shine; a lesser man would have howled and pulled away as the waves of pain crashed over me with alarming regularity.) It all felt so rushed, and uncomfortable that I felt like saying, "hang on, can we run over this bit again!!??" It left me ill-prepared to use the gas-and-air mask that a nurse told me to breathe with when the pain intensified. Consequently, I managed to deliver my precious first child whilst feeling as if I were being ripped from the inside out. I pushed and pushed and then some more until the searing pain gave way and I felt a warm, wet and soft form escape my body... I craned my neck to catcha glimpse of my child, (all I could see was black hair and a tiny, limp form, face down on the sheets between my knees. Worried and anxious when I did not hear her cries (as I had expected, thanks to the hundred-odd hindi films depicting the birth of a child) my feeling of dread was pushed to the back when the super-efficient midwife wrapped her up in a clean towel and proffered my husband a pair of scissors to cut the cord...With shaking hands, he did just as she instructed, and she lay my baby in my ams for a quick cuddle.... Meanwhile, Senior staff who entered the room (I had no idea who they were and scrambled to preserve the remnants of my dignity) A supportive midwife helped me sit up and I was relieved to see I was decent! The seniors consulted amongst themselves about her low APGAR score, and debated on the next course of action. All this took just a few minutes and soon after her birth, they had a little sterile trolley brought in and were ready to take S down to NIU to be monitored for a few hours.

In the moments following her birth, as the NICU staff whisked her away, my dear husband looked worried sick and torn in two as he brushed away tears with the back of his hand. A nurse plunged a needle into my thigh to give me some vitamin K and another prepared to 'stitch me up'. Late that morning, after an hour of bed rest, and a wash (that made me feel like I was still alive) and being examined and monitored by the wonderful staff, I was wheeled down to see my brand-new baby daughter, who I had only just held in my arms briefly, until that point... (My husband and his mum had gone home after seeing to it that both of us were okay and resting.) She looked so tiny, so fragile and yet so much her own person!! Her spiky, jet-black hair stood out in all directions,  her eyes tighly shut, an unmistakable frown (her Dad's) imprinted her forehead as she lay on her tummy, under the warm light in an incubator. As she slept, I looked and looked at her, unable to fight the urge to hold her close, yet afraid to do so, as she clearly, needed the drip and the warmth. I debated with myself and continued to look at her until a kindly nurse asked me if I'd like to hold her!!?? So, as mother and daughter were finally re-united outside the womb, a new chapter of our lives began! A chapter that said, "Hello!!"

In all our interactions so far in her young life, I try and recollect that first meeting and that first touch... As she snuggles up to me at night and falls asleep to this day, her breathing becoming regular and her little hands clasping me in different places, I thank God for the gift of motherhood...