I am the youngest in our family of four. With a gap of nearly 7 years between siblings, there’s often a lot of pampering involved and I was no different. I grew up practically with 2 mothers, my mother-mother & my sister-mother. And while I had a great childhood, by the time I grew up, I realized I had become used to being the child of the house. And that meant I had absolutely no idea how to be a grown up with other children!!! As the years passed by, I would often see girls my age croon to babies and play comfortably with them while I looked at them as if they were aliens. I preferred puppies to babies and didn’t think that would ever change. My natural instincts were nowhere close to maternal…something which I thought many girls of my age already had. Sometimes I thought maybe my hormones had forgotten to kick in…you know, maybe the switch that goes off in girls at some age and makes them want babies just refused to flip or something!!
Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t imagine ever loving a snot-dripping, potty-expelling, vomit-issuing creature ever in my life. And that may have been true too!!
But something changed… My sister got pregnant.
All of a sudden, my life was all about the pregnancy milestones.
The first ultrasound image when I just couldn’t focus my eyes well enough to see anything at all! The day when the heart beat could be heard..Endless googling for pregnancy tips… The test when the baby was declared free of anomalies and we cried in relief… The first video where the baby steadfastly refused to remove her(we were pretty sure it would be a girl!!) hands off her face till my sister ate some ice cream… Shopping bigger and bigger clothes for my sister as she outgrew everything every 15 days.. Shopping for teeny tiny clothes of size 0… Waiting patiently with my hand and eyes glued on her tummy urging the baby to kick…Oh, those were some busy 9 months! My phone bills consistently went up as we spent hours figuring out baby boy & girl names. Lists were made for things to be packed in a bag in case of sudden labour. My sister googled for delivery videos so that she would be mentally prepared and I listened to her describe the details, both of us crying in fear!
I photobombed the pre-delivery shoot as well, standing between the would-be-parents in most photos, as excited as them, and they indulged me with love as usual. Blown ups of me kissing the baby bump were ordered for and I returned with a big smile. Soon we were excitedly counting the days down and I increasingly worried for my sister as the D-day approached.
And then my sister went into labour. My brother-in-law and I stood next to her, holding one hand each, teary eyed, telling her everything would get fine while not believing our own words looking at her pain. All through the delivery I stood outside, each of my sister’s screams piercing my heart, tears flowing down my cheeks, fervently praying that she had the strength to get through this and come back to me safe and sound. While the world thinks a baby’s coming is a beautiful thing, I still have chills when I think back to that day, they were really difficult hours.
It was she who was giving birth, yet I was experiencing more pain than I ever had.
When the screaming stopped, I waited with bated breath till my brother-in-law appeared with a smile on his teary face and said it was a boy and that the mother was fine. We entered the room and I saw my sister smiling at us, and that was when I dared to breathe again.
The first few days:
He was tiny. Like, really tiny. And for the first day, I refused to touch him. What if I dropped him? What if I couldn’t balance his neck properly? What if I hurt him by mistake? By night finally my sister told me I couldn’t avoid it forever. She had always been the one to instill confidence in me and this was no different. Finally, I took him into my arms, lifted him to my face and smelled him. And then I fell in love with him. I knew there could never be a smell as beautiful as his. There was no turning back then. He couldn’t latch properly for breastfeeding and I struggled with my sister to help him. Most of the times it is the mother who is with the daughter in such times. But in our case, it was me who stayed back with the new parents in the hospital to help with the baby. The elders laughed at this arrangement, but understood the emotions attached. The first night, there were 3 of us struggling to change his diaper, 3 adults fighting with each other on the right way to do it. The little brat kept us on our toes. The 3 days we were in the hospital we had to take turns sleeping and none of us managed to sleep more than 2 hours at a stretch. Little did we know that would be the norm thereafter!!
That first year:
By God’s grace, that was the year when my parents, me and my sister’s family all ended up in the same city. It was the most beautiful year of my life. My life changed that year. We lived from milestone to milestone. No jaundice, check. First vaccination, check. Eyes,ears tests, check. We cried on his first bath. We laughed as he enjoyed our massages. Sleep and rest were things to be dreamt of. I don’t think I have watched TV since that year, he didn’t let us and I just lost the habit thereafter. Somehow I was good at putting him to sleep. I would sit with him for hours on the rocking chair, crooning till my throat ached, not stopping till he fell asleep, scared to move an inch lest he woke up again. Handling snot, potty and vomit became my ‘baayn hath ka khel’! I would wake up in the middle of the night when he cried and when the parents were already too tired, and spend an hour again trying to soothe him. I do look like his mother at times and we used that trick to fool him so my sister could take rest. The first time he turned over on his own, the first time he lifted his head, the first time he smiled, the first time he started on foods other than milk, the first time he sat up, the first time he crawled, the first time he said “Dada” and “mamamama” and “phurrr”….my life that year revolved around his first steps in this new world.
And…somehow..surprisingly, he loved me back too.
He would stop crying when I took him, he would laugh the loudest when I played with him, he would come rushing to me whenever he was in the mood for masti…..and my heart would melt and I would fall in love with him even more each day, if that was even possible.
When he was 9 months old, I got married and had to move to a different city.
Telling him goodbye was the hardest thing I had ever had to do.
It was unimaginable not being woken up at night to his cries, not having his tiny hands pulling my hair, not listening to his gurgly bubbly laughter as I did monkey acts. I left my heart behind when I left, with the silent prayer that my baby doesn’t forget me, doesn’t forget the 9 months I spent with him pressed to my chest.
The bond we forged during those first 9 months has stayed on with my darling.
My angelic sister and wonderful brother-in-law make sure their son remembers how much his aunt loves him. From being a secondary-mother to being his friend who he asks to talk to over phone to demand for gifts, we have come a long way. Every time I skype with him even today, there is a desperate longing tugging at my heart to hold him close and smell his familiar smell. And though it isn’t always possible, I am happy to see him smile no matter how far away he may be. He is a big boy now, all of 3 years old, using big English words, acting grown up, asking us to leave him alone at times and I can’t help but think back of the day I was too scared to even pick him up in my arms!! 😊
I still love puppies 😝 But today I know I do have a loving mommy in me who can handle human babies as well! And what’s amazing was the realization that it didn’t even have to be my child for me to love him wholeheartedly….
the switch had finally flipped! 😊