Today I turned a year older, not much wiser, but definitely older. I entered a new decade. I hit the big 30. Am I where I thought I would be? No! Did I accomplish everything I thought I would? No! Yet, am I happy? YES! As I sat eating cake for breakfast, I had one of those moments when the past flashed before my eyes. I could see each of my birthdays pretty darn clearly. How they were celebrated, who were with me and to some extent even the resolutions I made. Some of the made me giggle, some made me happy and some sad. So today I thought I’d write about my past birthdays, starting with the one almost 30 years ago.
Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (How many of you know where I took those lines from?) The first day ever, 28 of August 1983. Obviously this is only a dramatic recreation of the events of the day seeing as I was slightly occupied with entering new world and all to actually remember anything.However most of the childbirths in my family follow the same blueprint, the one I will be explaining to you.
Mine is an extremely close knit family. Something happens and everyone in the family comes over from wherever to be a part of it. There is no extended family. Everyone is immediate family. On of the most celebrated moments in our family is the birth of a new one. I’ve attended enough child birth hooplas to know what must have transpired when I was born. Technically the festivities start from the moment you pee on a stick and see two lines. From then on its mayhem. Every food ever to have been made in the world gets made and presented to the pregnant person. Any hopes of not putting on weight and having a healthy diet is bundled up and thrown into the ocean. The family singularly unites to fatten the pregnant woman. They will have it no other way. Little children, ogling at the delicacies, are shooed away lest their desire for the food cast an evil eye on the pregnant woman. I know, I’ve both been shooed away and have had kids shooed away from my food. Though its infinitely more fun when you are the pregnant woman than the kid.
Anyways, the family usually unites when the woman starts showing signs of labour. I remember my Mum telling me she had a fairly long labour and so I’m guessing the family gathered as soon as my Mum felt her first moment of discomfort. From then on, while Mum lay in the labour room, there must have been pre-birth celebrations outside the labour room. Food would be brought to the hospital and distributed. Everyone decides to camp outside the room to hear the good news as soon as it happens. There are singing and dancing shows by the kids in the group and intense gossping amongst the elders. Everything from wars, to suspicious looking new neighbours are discussed. Everything goes on until, the nurse pops out and announces the birth of the child, which in this case is my birth. There, I have officially been born. The news is usually received with shouts and cries of joy. Everyone hugs each other, some people squeeze hands, kids are jumping with joy and the nurse who announced the birth is gifted money. Everyone tries to outdo the other. If an uncle give 50 bucks, the other gives 100 and another gives 200. Everyone is in a mad dash to show that they are the happiest. Don’t ask me why? I was only just born!
In the midst of all this, someone rushes to pass the good news to the ‘Dad’. Usually, the Dad does not partake in the discussions and gossip outside the labour room. He stands away from the crowd, probably by a nice long hall way that he can pace. Even non smoking Dads turn smokers just for the duration of the labour. You could have a token friend or a cousin about the same age as you for company. There will be a nervous energy in the air and he will compulsorily pace the hall. I mean, what kind of husband does not smoke or pace the halls when his wife is in labour? Its a must. It is in the giant rule book of childbirth.
Once the news of the kid has been announced to the Dad, he can then proceed to stop pacing around. He can now look sheepish or smug and come join the big gang where he will be thumped on the back. Someone will produce a packet of traditional sweets from somewhere and then suddenly everyone is clamoring to feed the Dad. He gets enough sugar pumped into his veins. Adequately satisfied that the Dad has been force fed, the family then channels their collective energy towards the next nurse who happens to pop out of the labour room. When she does, she will be bombarded with questions about the child and the Mum. their well being, who the baby looks like, the baby’s weight and so on to which the nurse is now obliged to answer cause one from their tribe has been adequately compensated.
The kids meanwhile jump into action. Taking advantage of the all around happiness, they target the Dad and approach him for chocolates. It is another of the traditions to feed the entire hospital, well atleast the entire maternity ward, chocolates to celebrate the birth. So off the Dad and the army of kids go to buy chocolates. This however is a trap. It never stops with chocolates, the army will attack and won’t stop unless a loot of ice cream, juices, sodas, candy and chocolate has been collected. The Dad still appears largely happy, though considerably poorer financially.
Usually, by the time Dad returns from the shopping spree, the Mum and the Bub have been brought to the room. Dad avoids eye contact with Mum and sneaks glances at the baby who is now being passed around the room. The baby, for atleast the next 72 hours will be rocked to sleep and just generally held by the assortment of doting grandmothers, aunts, cousins etc thereby effectively ruining it for the Mum. Having tasted the first dose of familial spoiling, the baby hence forth rejects the bed and demands to be held all the time.
Thankfully, because of the absence of Facebook, no pictures were posted or status messages uploaded. Kids were born into the hands of the parents and not on Facebook. No messages were sent on Whatsapp and no one Facetimed with anyone. Everybody where either there or would come visit in the next 24-48 hours.
So there, I’m pretty sure this is what happened when I was born too. Since then, I’ve attended so many childbirths in varying capacities..as the enthusiastic candy distributor, to the bored teenager, to the gossiping cousin and then more recently the Mum in labour. Except for the advancement of technology, everything else is almost still the same.