22

Ghost of Birthday Past – The First Day!

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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.

Pic credits: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Birthday_candles.jpg

15

How do I react.

About half an hour ago, as I was making breakfast, my three year old sauntered into the kitchen. He quickly noticed that I was making fried eggs and so came and positioned himself next to the tray of eggs. Z likes to help around the kitchen and so I give him various titles to make himself feel important and more importantly to keep the kitchen mess free. On somedays, he is the Master Stirrer, stirring chocolate syrup into his glass of milk perfectly. On others he is an Egg beater extraordinaire or a Jolly Jam spreader or even an Onion Peel Thrower, meaning he throws the onion peels into the bin. He takes his titles very seriously too.

Today when I conferred upon him the title of Super Egg Passer, he launched into his role headlong. He was diligently handing me the eggs but not before he had whispered something to it. I turned off all the noisy appliances in the kitchen so that I could listen to what he was whispering. Turns out, he was willing every egg he passed on to me to somehow miraculously survive. He kept saying, ” Its OK baby chicks. Don’t worry baby chicks!”

I just did not know how to react.

4

When a kid dies

 

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People die. Its normal. It happens. It pains you but you survive. But how the hell do you survive the death of a child. The death of your child.

My friends lost their new born yesterday. When I heard about it, I wanted to reach out to them but I did not know how. What do you say to a person who has lost their little one? What do you say to a Mum who had her rights to cuddles and spit bubbles snatched? How do you console a Dad who did not get a turn to change a dirty nappy? How do you make up for lullaby never sung or the bed time stories never told? How do you come home empty handed to a house ready for tantrums and giggles? Its just not fair when a baby dies. Its just not right.

Its never just the kid. He took with him so many relationships that had not yet blossomed. He took with him a Mum, a Dad, a Grandma, a Grandad and so many others who were born with him. What do you say to make that loss better? My heart goes out to each of those premature relationships.

When I heard about the loss, I cried. I relate things to me and so when I heard about the baby, all I could think was about mine. About how much I took him for granted. How I made faces at his stinky diapers, how I tried to wriggle out of burping him after every meal, how I complained about sore backs and broken sleep. How much I complained about something that in the end is not really mine at all. 

To know the true value of a poopy diaper, of a bib reeking of spit-ups or of months of no sleep, ask the mum who just lost a child. She will gladly take potty training hell, the terrible twos, the tiresome threes, the years of teenage rebellion and everything that follows, even having no life (which most of us complain off following a child) for a few moments back with her newborn. I know I would.

 

If we had control over things, no one would ever die. Atleast no baby would.

 

Pic courtesy: amourningmum.com

2

About kids, advices and pessimism.

I remember being bombarded with advices when I got pregnant with Z. ‘Sleep as much as you can’, ‘Only breastmilk’, ‘Watch your weight, preggy weight is the hardest to shake off’, ‘Cloth nappies only’ etc. Everyone from my relatives to friends to co-workers, everyone deemed it their moral responsibility to tell me how to raise my little one. I soaked it up too with wide eyed wonder being as this was my first tryst with letting something grow in me. I had much earlier been convinced I had a tree growing in my tummy from eating a seed, but that had never got me so much attention as this little person in me.

Anyways, I soon found out that much of this “advice” was also present on babycentre.co.uk and that it frankly was nothing new. It only just seemed new to my first time pregnant self. But as Z grew, I realised there is so much they did not tell me. Not my relatives, not my friends, not my co-workers and not even my trusted babycentre.co.uk. Nope, there was so much more that people had missed telling me or I had missed in my infinite searches on the internet. Things I learnt the hard way, spilling tears, with a lump in my throat and feeling completely helpless. I’m not talking about discovering a poopy diaper from under the bed, a good whole week after it crept there. Well, that does bring in the fore said emotions but what I am talking is not bout that.

I am talking about the forever being afraid. Of forever being emotional. Of forever being unable to watch a thing for what it is and not connecting it back to Z. I cannot watch a news report about a missing child anymore. I cannot read the obituary about the death of a young one or even an adult. I cannot read a new story about malnutritioned children in lesser fortunate worlds. I cannot watch ‘Step Mom’. I cannot listen to ‘Ronan’ by Taylor Swift without breaking into hysterical tears. I cannot read about the sweet little kids falling prey to cancer without hugging Z, almost in a death grip. I cannot stop myself from being paranoid about a little bent in his leg, a twitch in his eye, a chocolate mole on his nose. I cannot listen to a friend’s story about a troubled child birth and complications without instantly saying a prayer for a healthy Z.

I have become a pessimist. I worry about the evil eye. I worry about things within and outside my control that could take Z away from me. I worry about a life without Z.

This is not to say I live a sad life. Not even a bit. Its a party everyday in the house. We are woken up to cuddles and kisses. Calls of “Daddy…Daaaaadddy, Mommy..Mooooommy” have replaced alarm clocks. ‘Can I have some chocolate milk’ is often the first order to be placed in the kitchen. ‘I love you..You love me, we are happy family’ the theme song on most mornings and ‘Wanna watch Peppa Pig’ the first we hear when we switch on the TV. Our lives have been taken over. Our home more so. Its like an invasion of toys. Our sitting room is incomplete without legos strewn around or our bedroom without action figures under the sheet. Beach toys are found in the shower and my clothes line incomplete without an array of brightly coloured super hero underwear on it.

Life is fun. Yet, even amidst the uncontrollable laughter at the beach, a little twitch of the nose worries you. Even when he comes bravely down the water slide, that little bent of his pinky bothers you. The three year old’s rebelliousness and refusal to answer when I call him, does not make me angry but makes me worried as to whether he can hear me right.

This.This is what people should tell you about when you get pregnant. This is what we would like advice for. This is what we need to prepare for. The poopy diapers, the sleepless nights, the long unending story times will all pass but not this feeling. This is what we need preparing for. We don’t want honeycoated lines about how perfect mommyhood is. Tell us about this and how it is ok to feel this way. OK to be pessimistic and be afraid.

I was a normal person. I lived my life normally. I was happy with the normal-ness of it. I was adequately emotional. Satisfactorily empathetic. Reasonably human. Not any more. Now I am caught in this myriad of ‘what ifs’ and ‘could its’ and ‘Oh My Gods.

But would I change any of it? Trade it for the old life? Not a chance.