Conversations with the little person

(Found this lying in the Drafts, from Dec 2014 apparently. Dammit, I miss this baby-talk and the baby! He’s growing up so fast and talking nine to the dozen these days.)

 

Lunch time. Son is watching some trucks hauling mud/stones in a nearby construction site.
Son: Amma! Baby dive matti lolly (drive lorry carrying mud).
Me: Haha..no, baby can’t drive yet. You need a license to drive, baby!
Son: Pease Amma. Baby dive. (Please Amma. Baby drive.)
Me: If you drive without a license, the police will come and catch you. You know what they’ll do right, the police?
Son: (Eyes wide open, eyebrows raised, in a loud whisper): Thaim-outh! (timeout!)

The ones we lost

There are some things we don’t talk about. Some words we just hush up or just whisper, making sure we’re not overheard. When the topic comes up, we look away, make some excuse, act like we didn’t hear or just change the topic.

An abortion.

A miscarriage.

A termination of pregnancy.

A stillborn child. (I like the other term some people use here – angel child.)

October 15, apparently, is Pregnancy and Infant loss Remembrance Day. I say apparently because I came to know of it just now. It’s a day for remembering our loss (es), a day to talk about it to show that those going through it are not alone. I wish I’d known this sooner. Why? Because I want to talk about it. Because this here, this blog, is probably the only place I can talk about it. No one at home wants to listen – it’s painful, so we bury it deep along with other unmentionables. We don’t forget, but we don’t remember either.

I lost 3 pregnancies before having my son. The first, at 9 weeks, was a spontaneous miscarriage. 2007. I was pregnant. They even found a heartbeat. But then 2 weeks later there wasn’t one. I got a tablet to expel the pregnancy, a super painful night of cramps and what not..and then it was over. The next morning I cried over the phone to my mom. I was back at work 3 days later.

I lost my second pregnancy at 23 weeks. 2009. It was supposed to have been a regular second trimester scan. But as the radiologist was doing it, I could sense something was off. He wouldn’t make eye contact and when I insisted he tell me what was wrong, he said there were some abnormalities and my doctor would explain it to me and most likely suggest an MToP. Medical termination of pregnancy. He wouldn’t tell me anything further. It was around 8 PM and I remember holding back my tears from the scan centre till the car. I was trying to be strong. I called my Dad from the car because my Mom was alone at home (Dad was traveling) and I didn’t know if she could handle it. I said hello and started sobbing uncontrollably, unable to utter even a single coherent word. My husband took the phone and explained it to Dad. He said they’ll take the next flight out. We went home, sat on our bed and cried. The next day, in the bathroom, I held my stomach and cried again, asking that unborn child to forgive me for what I was going to do and begging God to not let my child feel any pain. We were in the hospital the next day and 36 hours of labor-room-screaming later, it was all done. Not even a scar. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I came home feeling empty and guilty. I screamed at my Dad and husband that we threw our baby in a dustbin and came home. It was a girl.

13 weeks was how long I could hold on to my third pregnancy. 2010. The year my brother got married. I was around a month into the pregnancy at the time of his wedding. But the trauma of the previous one was still on the horizon. So I stayed back with my parents till the first trimester was over. 12th week scan. Rinse and repeat. I was a labor-room pro by now. The wide open hospital gowns didn’t make me feel naked. I couldn’t care less. A few hours of cramps, a D&C under general anesthesia and I was done. Back to work 2 weeks later. A girl. Again.

2012 was a good year. I had my own little miracle – my son. And I’ve bid adieu to this whole pregnancy thing. My body has done enough.

I’m crying as I write this now. It was 5 years ago, the last one. Yes, I have a child now. It should have healed by now, no? No. It never does. Not even time can heal this loss. Know why? Because you have nothing to hold on to and remember. No memories. No photos. Not even a name. Nothing. But that feeling in your gut every time you think of it, like you’re falling down from a height, like all your insides are suspended in mid air and then suddenly there’s a lurch and they all come crashing down – that feeling never goes away. Not in 5 years, not in 50. The first step in the process of healing – grieving – is absent. We don’t get an opportunity to grieve for a child we lost.

Let’s not be like that. Let’s talk. I’ll show you you’re not alone. You show me I’m not. Maybe just this one day. So we can remember the ones we lost. And grieve a little. They’re our children. So what if they weren’t born?

My unborn children showed me how strong I am, how strong I can be if I had to. They put all of my other troubles into perspective. They taught me to cherish what I have, to never take anything for granted. That the miracle of birth is exactly that – a miracle. There are a 100 things that can go wrong, in those 9 months. Sometimes they do. And when they do, we undergo a transformation and come out slightly (if not entirely) different. We won’t always have scars on our bodies, but in our hearts, we do. Once a mother, always a mother. Even if there’s no child.

We don’t have to forget, you know. And we can talk about it if we feel like. I’m listening. And I know you are too.

The second snip

My son started nursery school 2 weeks ago. The first week was orientation and I was present with him throughout. He was fine. The second week he had to sit through 3 hours of school without me. He bawled his eyes out for the first 30 min every day. But he was ok. This week – yesterday was the same clinging-to-Amma’s-legs-and-crying routine. Today? Today he walked in like he owned the place, kept his bag in its place, looked at me and said, “Will you come back later, Ma?”. And when I said, “Yes, baby! I’ll come pick you up at 12!”, he turned and walked away to his friends and toys. Not another glance. His class teacher and I were gaping at each other wondering what the heck just happened.

And on the drive back home, I realized what just happened – the second snip on the umbilical cord. He’s spending a part of his time on his own, without me. Without his parents or his home. His first few tentative steps towards being himself.

Even though technically the cord is cut at birth, the way I see it, the first real snip was when I stopped nursing him. When my body no longer nourished his. When he had to eat and drink on his own, to nourish himself. His body and mine were no longer connected in any way. If I ate, that does not mean he got the nutrition anymore. The first few days I was actually apprehensive – is he getting enough food? Is that formula any good? What if he loses weight? You get the drift. But then I adapted (yes, me and not him). And before I knew it, there were a whole new bunch of challenges to face and milestones to celebrate. Like weaning him off the bottle. Like the first time he recited the entire Gruffalo book to an awestruck mother and father. And then came school.

After breaking our heads on a million different parameters and planning which banks to rob, we decided on a school and got the admission done. I was more nervous than him, trust me. Nervous mostly on how he would adjust without me. And then I looked at my husband and realized the poor man was even more terrified. The 5 minutes when a teacher took him to participate in an activity (while we listened to the Orientation demo), his attention was entirely on the son and I’m sure he would’ve sprained his neck trying to see where he was and what he was doing. It’s another story that the little guy came back in 5 min saying he wanted us. Yeah, well.

So now looks like he’s all set in school. Yes, there will be days when he still might cry and refuse to go. But I think he knows by now that school is going to be a big part of his life hereafter. Once he makes friends and finds activities he loves doing, he might actually love school.

Well, I hope he adjusts well and adjusts soon. I’m already all adjusted with the 4 hours of ‘freedom’ I’m getting, 5 days a week. I’m planning to catch up with all my friends over breakfast and if that’s not enough, I’m going to make new friends and catch up with THEM over breakfast. Yeah, baby. Because I can. Because I don’t have a toddler hanging off my legs anymore. Well, he does get home by 12, so I have a curfew after that, but still. 4 hours, yo. So many bookstores and supermarkets to get familiar with. So much ‘adult’ time. Please stop me before I sound too desperate and lame over 4 measly hours. What? Too late? Ok.

It’s 5 PM now. And he’s here, eating my brains with his ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘where’. Another couple of years and there will be a change in the communication. I’ll probably be running to Google every hour to answer him then, but hey, it’s good progress! As before, there will be new challenges, new beginnings and a lot of more memories. I guess the next milestone I’m looking forward to is to have a diaper-less handbag for myself (yes, my bag will always always have a diaper – I might forget keys or even my phone, but good God, I won’t forget the damn diaper).

There will be many more after that, the little steps from being a baby to a little boy to a teenager to a grown man. Some good ones, some that will make you realize how fast time flies, some that might even break your heart a little bit. For now, I can probably take heart with the fact that there is still a long time for the third and final snip – when he flies the nest, armed with whatever we have taught him, chasing his dreams and all I am is a contact on his phone that says ‘Amma’.
image

A penny for two thoughts?

A couple of thoughts that got processed over the past few days, interestingly both related to books in a way –

I was reading a book review (this one) and it made me realize that motherhood has made me weak-hearted in some ways. It’s another matter that I’ve become brave on certain other fronts, but let’s leave that for another day. So this book –  from the review, I could imagine it would be a nightmarish read. The kind that would twist your insides and make you want to curl up in a corner and die. And I’m almost sure it wouldn’t have been so if it weren’t for the mother part in me. Because, and I’ve been noticing this very often, every time there’s a person in pain, I end up seeing my son’s face.

Those child beggars at the traffic stop that we’re so used to seeing that it’s part of the scenery now? I notice them more. And I can’t bear it. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling. The closest description would be someone holding your heart and squeezing it till you feel nothing but an emptiness there. Slowly, that emptiness travels to your gut and there are some moments of weightlessness, like just before a fall. You’re this close to breaking down and then the light turns green, you drive off and remember to breathe.

I don’t recollect being like this before my son was born. It’s a bit like the character May in Sue Monk Kidd’s ‘The secret life of bees’ – she takes empathy to an extreme level wherein she starts to feel sad as if she herself were enduring the pain, even if it was actually happening to somebody else.

So, yeah, to quote what I had written as a comment on the book review, my tolerance for pain or sadness has gone down a lot. It’s probably because of this feeling of helplessness that after that moment when he came out of the birth canal, my son is on his own. Yes, I’m here for him but I can no longer shield his body with my body. I can no longer nourish him with mine. He’s another person – OUTSIDE of me. And he can be in pain, all on his lonesome. And THAT, by far, is the most scariest thing ever for me.

Sentimental, much? Ok, I’m stopping.

*********************

The other one is on this article, about those weirdo children’s books we reading-parents come across all the time. I say ‘weirdo’ because, even though the language is fine, the books themselves are an empty read – there’s nothing to remember or learn, other than the actual act of reading to the little person in your lap. I could identify so much with what’s written in the article! Like this bit –

The problem is that young children have terrible taste and enjoy garbage. Another problem, which compounds the first problem, is that they want to hear the same books hundreds of times in a row. So for all the joys that storytime can offer, it frequently entails a kind of dismal self-abnegation that’s too excruciating even to describe as tedium—an actively painful sense of my precious time on earth being torn from my chest and tossed into a furnace.

It’s so so true. And I also agree with the part that we tend to buy books that we remember from our childhood – but the thing is we’ve forgotten what the book is about and we only have the nostalgia of seeing that book when we were kids. And, honestly, when we come across the stories now, my first response is usually ‘What the heck?!’. Like the one about the goat kids and the wolf – the wolf eats up the kids but the Mother Goat then goes and cuts up the wolf’s belly, takes out the kids and sews it back up, with stones inside. Say what?! I had to change that entire bit to say the wolf stole the kids in a bag and the Mother Goat saved them by tearing open the bag. Why couldn’t the story have used bag instead of belly? Which kindergartner needs that kind of gore?! And how am I to explain to him later that you can’t just cut open stomachs and sew them back up with stones stuffed inside? As if I don’t have enough tough questions to answer as it is.

That said, I feel we shouldn’t THINK too much about the content, as long as it is written in a coherent manner, with tasteful illustrations and without any general bias or prejudice. Just like those umpteen nursery rhymes about old men being thrown down the stairs or little boys indulging in eve teasing (yep, those are rhymes. See this.). The article refers to ‘The little engine that could’ as one of those ‘terrible’ books – I don’t agree! 🙂 It’s a story about how an engine breaks down and the toys in the train try to hail some other engine to pull them up the hill. Most engines give some reason or the other and go away without helping. And along comes a little engine which hasn’t really pulled a big train but is willing to help and try! It’s a bit adorable, actually. I’ve read it many times to my son and recently, in a different context about helping me with chores, he just said, “Like the little engine helps, Amma. I help.”. What more do you want of a children’s book, eh? So, yeah. Let’s just screen the books for language and child-friendly content and let the kids have some fun without worrying about morals and lessons and what not. They have their entire life ahead to deal with that!

To have or not to have

image

Motherhood evaded me thrice. The fourth time I prevailed. By then, it had come down to pure probability – the more times I lost, the better my chances of a win. But it’s so tiring. Physically and emotionally. Once that need comes in, that need to create life and nurture it, little else can compensate for the absence.

Sometimes I feel it’s a very selfish thing, wanting to have children. I mean, the child didn’t exactly ask to be born, right? I wanted a child. Me. I wanted to be a mother. Ironically, once you do become a mother, somehow, you enter this whole phase of selflessness where anything and everything you do is for that little person who you brought into the world. Good one, God – we humans must be such a source of entertainment for you! 😉

Where am I going with all this? As usual, nowhere. I have a small presence on Instagram and my next photo there will be my 1000th. Since I’m such a sucker for mostly meaningless milestones (I originally wrote just ‘meaningless milestones’ but who can pass up a chance for a pathetic alliteration, eh? I can’t!), I will make a little disturbance in the otherwise calm surface that is my blog and watch how far the wave travels before returning to steady state. Given how cliched the world is, my 1000th photo will obviously be one of my son’s. I still haven’t decided which one. If you’re wondering why I spend precious time contemplating a photo on Instagram, well, don’t. It’s bad enough I’M wasting time, no reason why you should do it too.

Anyway..long tangent short, I was thinking about the kid and how much the husband and I have struggled to be where we are now. Being childless is like living with a constant pain that just won’t go away no matter what you do to distract yourself or change your surroundings or any of those things you’re told to do by people around you. Oh, as opposed to being childfree, which is a choice and one that I totally respect. And sometimes feel jealous of – you know, during those days when the son is driving me up the wall and it’s all I can do to not lose my cool with him and make things worse (what? I’m human. And I’m just being honest. I dare you to show me a mother who’s all chirpy and happy 24×7, 365.25 days a year. I dare you.).

So yes, getting back, I’ve been on the all sides of the motherhood scene – initially childless, then temporarily childfree and then a mother. Neither of those is an easy place to be in, trust me. If you’re childless, there’s this baby-shaped hole in your life that you can’t fill up. If you’re childfree, there’s all those uncomfortable questions and judgmental glares to navigate through at least till every aunty in a 500km radius and all your Facebook/Whatsapp contacts are sufficiently satisfied that what you do with your life is your business, not theirs. And if you’re a mother, well, it has its own set of challenges, the most difficult of which to deal with is resentment – that others get to do such and such thing while you’re stuck doing the same thing day in and day out (here we are both equal – the SAHM and the working mom) – and it’s never ending. For all of us.

Children. Why are they such a big deal?

Oh wait. The human race. That’s why.

But is that all? Instead of my neighbor and I having one child each, if my neighbor had 2 and I had none – the human race is going to do just fine, no? So it can’t be that.

Then what is it about having children that makes it so complicated irrespective of whether we have one or not?

Is it so we can see little photocopies of ourselves, ours to bring up in our own messed up way? But that doesn’t explain adoption or donor pregnancies. The lengths we go to or are willing to go to, no matter how painful, to attain parenthood.

And why do people look at it as such a bad thing if you decide not to have children?

I don’t know. Tell me, if you do.

Or let’s just wait for an epiphany.

The Amazing Race

“You know X? His 1 year old son can eat almost 1.5 idlis, that too just dipped in water without any sambar or chutney!”

“You know what Y gave her barely year old daughter during that function? One big bowl of rasam rice and she ate it in no time.”

“Why is your son not eating well? He’s not putting on any weight.”

“You’re not giving him any fruits. Z’s son loves fruits, it seems. Can eat an entire apple in one go. When he came here last time, he ate an apple, some pieces of orange, 4 or 5 strawberries and even some papaya! Why doesn’t your son eat all that?”

Got tired just reading this? Imagine having to listen to this, not once, but every time you’re feeding the kid and he/she is already pissing you off by not eating properly. For every 15 fussy eaters out there, apparently there’s a superhero kid who will inhale his food, that too only the healthy type. Yeah, such children exist it seems. My mom never fails to tell me.

The proverbial rat race doesn’t begin at school (or pre-school), people. It begins when the child is conceived. “Does your baby kick a lot? Mine does somersaults already and it makes me so nauseous.” – what I heard when I was pregnant. If I were a naive recently-married girl who was pregnant, I would have freaked out and run to the Ob-gyn saying my baby is not kicking. But one is not. Thankfully. And then when the baby is born? Oh dear Lord. Color, hair, eyes open or not, smiling or not, drinking enough milk or not, sleeping well or not, colicky or not..the list is endless. The only comparison I haven’t heard yet is the APGAR score – probably because hospitals in India don’t make a big deal of this to the parents (even though its noted in the file), so the parents are probably not that aware of it.

If the baby is very quiet, the comparison is with another baby who’s like a 5 year old in Disneyland, on a sugar rush. If the baby IS like a 5 year old in Disneyland, on a sugar rush, then the comparison will be with one who’s Buddha’s long lost cousin, deep in meditation. I’m not kidding. Your baby can’t catch a break, is what it is. Of course, none of this is meant to be hurtful – everyone knows that all babies are not alike but that when did that mean there should be no comparisons, eh? :-\

Most of the time, I’m ok with the comments. The in-through-one-ear-out-through-the-other mechanism works beautifully in most cases. But there are days when I wish people would just let me and my son be. Yes, he’s not a great eater and no, he’s not putting on as much weight as I would have wanted him to. But you know what? He’s doing just fine. He’s active. He’s learning new things everyday. He’s social. He outgrows his pjs and shirts every 2 months. He’s not going to be 6’2″ when he grows up, but that’s not his fault – blame his genes. He’s learning to use his potty. He’s slightly obsessive-compulsive about things being clean and tidy, but hey, it’s cute and I’m not about to teach him to be ok with wallowing in filth.

So there. Let him be. Let ME be. We don’t want to be part of this amazing race. We’ll get there in our own sweet time. And you know what? It’s ok even if we don’t get there. We’re in this for the journey, not the destination. We’re doing just fine, him and me.

image

Creepy freaky scary rhymes

image

Were nursery rhymes always this scary and/or depressing? Now that my son is of an age where he likes them, I find myself reading more rhymes and wondering when they got so creepy, weird and sad. And in some cases, even a bit cruel and rude!

Sample this –

Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away!

I know it’s just a nursery rhyme and I shouldn’t read between the lines, etc. but I’m really confused on what I’m supposed to teach him through this rhyme. If this weren’t a nursery rhyme, it would probably be some girl’s painful account of being harassed! You might ask me why does it always have to be teaching him something; why can’t he just read it for fun and forget about it? Well, children these days are not like that. My son is noticing and learning things even when I’m not consciously teaching him. He correlates and comes up with his own interpretations far too often. So it becomes my duty to ensure he gets the right meaning before he figures it out on his own.

And what is with all the violence (minor, but still!) in rhymes?!

Check out this one –

It’s raining, it’s pouring,
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed
And bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning!

Or this –

Goosey goosey gander, where do you wander,
Upstairs and downstairs in my ladies chamber.
There I met an old man, who wouldn’t say his prayers
I took him by his left leg and threw him down the stairs!

What do we have against these poor old men that we get so much pleasure in seeing them hurt?! And did we ever wonder if Jack and Jill were in pain, when we happily sang about them falling down the hill?

And here’s one I read recently, which left me totally confused and lost –

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread
And she whipped them all soundly and put them to bed!

What the heck?!

I know that most nursery rhymes came out of a parody of historical or political events and were usually in jest of the people involved. But when it’s for children, I’d much rather read something fun and magical, like this one –

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport.
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

This one also is probably based on some event in the past, but hey, it’s a fun read, with cows jumping over moons and the cat playing the fiddle. My son loves the part about the spoon. He likes this one too:

The owl and the pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat.
They took some honey and plenty of money
Wrapper in a five pound note.

And thankfully, popular ones like Twinkle Twinkle and Baa Baa Black sheep, Mary had a little lamb, Little Bo Peep, etc. are still ok.

Given how hyper-aware and paranoid parents these days are, the day is not far when nursery rhymes will also have G, PG, R and A ratings!

So what’s the most freaky/scary/confusing rhyme you’ve ever read? And if you’re a parent, how do you deal with inappropriate content in the reading that’s still meant for children?