Sunday, September 6, 2009

Turning over a new leaf - Part 2

Two lines. And pink at that. How scary can they get? Right?


Yes, it takes only these two parallel pink lines to throw you into a tizzy. To tell you that those hallucinations you were having the previous night in bed, sleeplessly tossing and turning,somewhat excited,somewhat nervous, somewhat anxious,somewhat unsure have actually come true. No wonder those butterflies in your stomach couldn't stop fluttering all the while.They already knew what was up over there.

That's when you realise all of a sudden, that you are not alone, even in that restroom where you're standing staring at them.

I mean, these home tests are great, aren't they? For one, they make something as mundane as going to the bathroom first thing in the morning, so eventful. You see them, smile at yourself in the mirror while clutching your belly when you suddenly remember there's another stakeholder involved who is snoring away to glory in the bedroom,blissfully unware that the world has actually changed inside that restroom not too far away. You pause for a second and think of breaking the news to him in a much more fanciful way. After all, when would those "101 awesome ways to tell your husband the big news" you so diligently read in Cosmo come to any use?

"Who are we kidding?", you think. You know you haven't been able to keep the lid on anything for more than probably a couple of minutes your entire life. You barge out and wake up a rather sleepy husband who thinks he is sleepwalking when you lead him holding his hand to the restroom. You walk all the way with a broad grin, surprised you haven't blurted it out to him already. You show him the test half expecting him to break into a jump-up-and-down sort of jig. That grin on your face is still on. He's still not fully awake. He just looks at the test.Keeps looking. Doesn't seem to comprehend the situation, let alone the hysteria. Not a good thing when the frenzy has reached a fever pitch with you. You realise you are this much away from whacking his head and yelling "Look what you did!". But, just in time, you know it has finally dawned upon him when he smiles from ear to ear and responds with a hug. Sigh. No jumping up and down, but you got to take what you get. You both return to bed deciding 6:00 am in the morning is not the time one should ever have to wake up from sleep, no matter what. Somehow you drift off to sleep. I'm guessing that grin was still on. This time though, on both faces.

The fact that the baby news came close on the heels of my MIL's passing evinced all kinds of responses from the family. As one can imagine, there were quite a few who would comment about my MIL "returning" through me or how pleased she would be to have known it had she been around. My aunts, specially the one who had set me on this race against my biological clock was ecstatic. L'il sister couldn't stop shouting "Really?" when I called her, despite my threats to hang up if she said that one more time. And needless to say, dad was all too pleased. I saw a genuine smile lighting up my FIL's face after days of grieving. The pall of gloom that had descended on the family had finally, begun to fade.

They sure printed that right on the test. The result was Positive. In more ways than one.

And once the delirium died down, the waiting began. For those visible signs of pregnancy. But there was none to be. No morning sickness or food aversions/cravings. No aches and pains and not much fatigue either. It wasn't really easy for my hypochondrial self to deal with this situation. I mean, come on, everyone should be granted atleast one true "filmy" moment of their pregnancy. That throw-up-and-everyone-smiles-coyly scene or the get-dizzy-and-fall-safely-into-your-husband's-arms scene. However, I wouldn't call my pregnancy a cakewalk either though. There were those sleepless nights and backache issues in the final two months. But what the heck, this was a pregnancy, not a common cold.

And while the smooth sailing was going to last, it dawned upon me and G that we should have this one last vacation before the baby arrives on the scene and all hell breaks loose. So, we packed our bags and got on a plane to Dubai. The land of extravagance. Where everything is larger than life and built to breathtaking proportions. We drove through the deserts amid endless sand dunes and also felt the sea breeze in some of the blue-est waters I have ever seen. And of course, what better therapy to soothe a hormonal pregnant woman than the retail variety? Just like oil, there's no dearth of malls in Dubai. We soaked in the aromas of the Spice Souk and cursed the obscenely huge sizes of gold ornaments in the Gold Souk. Oh yeah, that's what you do when you can't afford them.
I think it was right after this trip that we picked out the name. "Smriti" (meaning remembrance in honor and memory of both moms). Yes, only one name. Female. My sixth sense had never wronged me. Both of us so wanted a girl and knew we were going to have one. In fact, we pretty much spoke about 'our daughter" everytime we discussed the baby.

Not long after, the baby decided that the parents were having too much fun and decided to intervene. Those were the days I went to bed every night with a prayer that labor doesn't kick in at midnight. Guess the prayer wasn't good enough.For I realised that God had different plans when I discovered at 2 in the morning on Sep 10 2008 that my water had actually broken. And lo, there it was! My very own "filmy" pregnancy moment - the-husband-dashing-to-the-hospital-at-midnight-with-a-wife-in-labor-cursing-left-and-right scene.

Twelve hours of screaming my guts out,and one huge push later, the gyanec finally pulled out and plopped her on my belly. I was all set to smile that triumphant "I-knew-it-would-be-a-girl" smile when the gyanaec announced. 'Male baby - Born at 2:35 pm". My sixth sense had been kicked in the ass.

My Smriti was a boy!

I reckoned "Dang it" wouldn't really be the nicest first words from mommy to baby. And smiled an exhausted smile to him while hoping that he hasn't realised how awful mommy can be.

Truth be told, there were no tears of joy or anything even remotely close. I guess, it was the exhaustion and relief (that the ordeal called labor was over) that totally overshadowed the overwhelming joy bit. I held him close for almost the whole day there after. Yet, the signs of extreme joy or fulfilment seemed elusive. You hear about other women speak wonderful things about how they felt when they first held their babies and you think they are such awesome moms. And when you seem like you don't exactly fit the bill, you start doubting yourself wondering if there's something amiss.

Who knew that it would take jaundice and a phototherapy box to dispel those doubts?
It was only a day after his birth that the baby developed jaundice. "Happens to every baby" said the paediatrician, almost callously. They brought a huge contraption with fluoroscent lights and placed him in there. With a blindfold and no clothes on. And that just broke my heart. The waterworks which were missing at the time of his birth showed up now. I must have cried for hours into my pillow just watching him lie there rather helplessly. And then, I knew. I was in love with this little fella. Madly.

The story of the besotted mommy had begun.

(To be continued...)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Turning over a new leaf - Part 1

Death.Birth. Rebirth. A New Beginning.

They all happened. Right here. In my life.

I have written of
my mother in this blog. As much as that post was a celebration of the amazing person she was, it also spoke of a sense of void that has been left behind in my life with her passing.
Only people close to me know the cause. Or rather I choose not to talk about it to everyone who wants to know "what happened" due to reasons, some obvious and some not so much.
Some years ago, when my husband G and I were on the brink of starting our wedded life together, I'd sometimes open up to him about how my life changed forever after she was diagnosed with a Stage 4 case of the kidney. He, who had never met Amma, would patiently listen to my heart wrenching account of her suffering and offer that much needed shoulder of support ,all the while sympathizing but never truly perceiving the magnitude of impact on the entire family when a member, more so, the mother falls prey to this deadly monster. I was thankful enough I'd found my sounding board in him that I never cared or even wished that he be able to empathize.

Little did I know then that the monster would return. Yet again.

A couple of years after our wedding, when G and I were in the middle of our respective professional assignments in the US , we learnt about his mother being diagnosed with a Stage 3 malignancy of the stomach. When we returned to India immediately thereafter, the doctors assured us that all hope wasn't lost and there were realistic chances of a recovery.
Usually, just a malignancy diagnosis is enough to devastate you . I half-expected to see a totally bogged down person weakened both physically and mentally, but a surprise is what I was in for. She did look a little emaciated from the surgery but I'd never forget that smile lighting up that rather paled down face as soon as she saw her son and her daughter in law at the doorstep. The surgery and the diagnosis was probably all forgotten that one moment as she melted into her son's arms.
Later that day in the kitchen, as she poured coffee into cups, she said "Its your father in law I am worried about..I can totally handle this, but I am not sure how he's going to. I don't want to hassle anybody in my family". As she looked at me, I could see half a tear at the corner of her eye. Eyes of a beautiful middle aged woman that I'd seen teary only when she bade goodbye to us on our onward journey to America. Those tears weren't the "heavy" kind. They had a rather flimsy purpose, lament about someone you're going to miss for a year or two. You vented and you were done. You would even forget you were teary eyed a while ago.
But this tear was heavy...With fear. With uncertainty. With sadness. With guilt.
The last I saw it was in my own Amma's eye when she had to undergo a major brain surgery at a time when both her student daughters were in the middle of their grad level exams.
I had hardly lived with my mother in law to know her well. It was just about three months after our wedding that we traveled to America. But that day, I knew this. If there was anyone going to be her tower of strength through this entire ordeal, it was herself.

Dozens of chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions ensued thereafter. She amazed the docs themselves with her never-say-die attitude and resolve. She made the hair loss issue seem like a minor cosmetic change that she was going through, making no qualms about hiding it under a wig. She avoided discussions about the disease with anyone who brought it up even by accident. She was cooking, traveling, attending family functions, gardening..doing just about everything that had made her the energetic and enthusiastic person she was.

She so wanted to treat this whole episode as a nightmare that she will one day wake up from and heave a sigh of relief realising it was all just not real.
That never happened.

Our relationship though only went from strength to strength through the entire ordeal. We were talking more. We were sharing more. We were learning from each other more. We were being grateful for each other more. I am not sure if we would have bonded any better otherwise. I sometimes wish we hadn't.
One particular day, when most days had turned miserable, she lay there on the hospital bed looking at me rather wistfully as I massaged her feet. It was a time when she no longer had the strength to talk much or be mobile. Those days, my eyes had become weary of making contact with hers to avoid becoming teary . I felt a nudge on my elbow and I moved closer.
"Did you need something? A blanket? Something to drink, maybe?"

As she nodded, I felt her frail, almost shivering palm stroking my cheek. I managed a slight smile clutching her palm in return, but somehow they rolled down, the damn tears. And right there in that hospital ward, in absolutely no words at all, she conveyed to me something so clearly that words couldn't. I had become to her, the daughter she never had.

And then her battle was over. Cancer proved itself invincible yet again.

Another loss. To me, of a mother, yet again.

It has been well over a year and a half now. Her spirit lives on though. In the warm, wonderful home that she built for her family...

...And, in the smile of one certain person she never could meet. A newcomer.A debutante.

(To be continued...)