Anupama writes a letter to her 18-years old daughter. Read what she has to say.
This is my story of becoming a mother, a story of insecurity, faith, and love. And it is not easy, never easy – something we understand only after giving birth.
Two months ago, I attended the birthday party of my neighbor and good friend’s daughter. As I cross the threshold of Keerthi’s home, I met the usual celebration feast laded with balloons, ribbons, food and merriment. As I advanced to the end of the room, my eyes fell on a wall comprising moments that had started four years ago from that day. Keerthi had beautifully captured the essence of Saha’s last four years in pictures. There was a picture of Saha’s birth, and of her mudan ceremony, and one with her daada (father), and all the important milestones of her life.
For a second I felt a lump in my throat as I lived the bond that Keerthi has with her daughter. It is the most divine, surreal, and beautiful feeling we all have been through – be it as a mother or a child. This reminded me of my bond with my dot and the time we spend together – starting from the start.
Mysha, do you remember that time? Do you, darling? I do, and I have to put it in writing for us. It is for you to read when you are older and for me to reminisce, when I am old. Because this, this very time, is what is worth remembering.
When you came into my world I was not prepared. And how could I be? I was battling my own body changes and insecurities and you came with your own baggage of uncertainties. I admit I took a certain amount of time to understand your traits and demands but you knew me. I was your first human touch and yet you read me cover to cover. After all, you are the only one to hear my heart beat from inside.
What started from day one were the vaccination schedules. Being born in India, you were provided every possible vaccine. The immunization schedule started with BCG and OPV, and was soon followed by many more abbreviations. Every time I took you to the hospital for a shot, my heart would beat faster. I knew what we were heading to, but you had your dimples on, even when your pants were pulled down. You were just a baby then, not realising what you were going to get, and I miss that. I remember the first squeaky sound you made when you were pierced. I felt the pain but like you, soon my heart was immune to that sound. I am a strong mother. You know it more than anyone else.
Once we got you home, my never-ending battle with breast-feeding began. You were high on demand, and I did not supply enough. It took a lot of effort for me to accept you as a bottle baby. Your mother with OCD stacked your five bottles in ascending order on our bed stand. What accompanied those bottles was a blue kettle with piping hot water 24*7, and Lactogen, a product that topped our grocery list for one full year. Because it was formula, I ensured a gap of two to three hours between two feeds, but you wanted more. So started the saga of carrying and walking, in order to distract you from more feeds.
You were are a big hugger. You wanted me to carry you in a specific position – upright with your head laid on my right shoulder. You just melted on my chest and were a perfect fit. As if God designed these arms just for you. I could always feel your heart beat, and I am sure you felt mine. This was, is and (I hope) will be your most comforting place on earth. The nurses in the hospital told me that breast-feeding helps a mother bond with their children, but for you it was my neck. You sniffed it all night before sleep found you at the break of dawn. For the first two months you slept at 5AM and I was on my feet for most parts of it.
I sang to you, talked some sense into you, cried too. Yes, I was depressed, frustrated, and low, very low on energy. That is what childbirth does to you. There were days I felt I would never come out of that trauma. Motherhood, at the initial stage, is hardest to deal with. You have people to help you out, but firstly and more importantly, you have to help yourself. Finding happiness and comfort, at such a vulnerable stage, isn’t easy. Carrying you in my arms through the nights was breaking me. I used to stand next to our apartment window staring at an empty road, humming the tune of “O ri chiriya”. That was our song baby. I still cry at that song.
Today you are a “kala chasma” girl, but at that time you were all about “O ri chiriya”. I have no idea how a few days’ old could relate to a song that intense, dealing with the sensitive issue of female foeticide, but you did. The stellar line from the song still breaks me. “Humne socha nahi, tu jo ud jaayegi, ye zameen tere bin sooni reh jaayegi, kiske dum pe sajega mera angna.” We spent a good amount of time listening to it, especially when you were not well.
Aaah, the days you fell sick. You were two months old when you witnessed increased body temperature for the first time, with cough and cold. You refused to take milk and coughed the whole day. I was extremely desperate to help you feel better but was hardly able to do so. As the day ended so did my patience and I ended up crying in the washroom. Your Nani helped me soothe down and said “Abhi toh shuruwaat hai beta, bharosa rakho”.
Sure enough it was the start and then you had a blocked nose every other month, as your body was acclimatizing to the allergic air we breathe every day. Those five to seven days were and still are havoc. In your ailing period, home smells of menthol oil and a non-stop whistling of an electric vaporizer can be heard in all directions. Your eyes needed me more than anything, and you demanded to be held. Your father and I took turns to carry you and walk through the night. At some point towards dawn, our legs would give up, and we would resort to an upright position on bed, with you sleeping on our chest. While you were coping to handle allergies, we were coping to elude sleepless nights.
One of your Nani’s favorite lines of all time was, “Jab khud Ma banogi tab pata chalega.” Now I tell you, “Pata chala Mysha. Bahut pata chala.” As I was there for every second of your life, I came to know what it is like to be a stay-at-home-for-your-every-call mother. It is taxing and challenging and no convoluted project I ever undertook can compare to you. You are the baap of all challenges, my love. I gave birth to a SAHM with you on July 10, 2014 and you are such a terrifying and terrific prodigy, who gives me no chance to breathe, for both good and bad reasons.
No wonder you are a mumma’s daughter, as you saw me every time you blinked. But let me tell you my darling, your father is a hands-on-dad. He was the first family member to see you come out of me. He fed you well and changed your diapers, even in the discomforting setting of a cramped airplane bathroom. You might have not seen him all day, as he provides for you and is taking his duties very seriously. Yet he was always there when you needed him the most. I nurtured you in my belly for those nine months, but your father started saving for you the day we got married. I don’t know how many men do that, but that’s my man, and your father, Mysha. Children don’t understand logic, they understand who shows up. It’s time you understand the logic. It’s time you see your father through your mother.
Baby girl, one thing that you taught me more than ever, was to value my life. Your dependence on me made me realize how important it is to take good care of myself. As I want to be there and be healthy, until the time you become capable of being on your own. You may not need me as you grow up my child, but I can never grow out of you. You are my baby. At this point of my life, I live for you.
You know I always said, “She needs me.” But in retrospect “I need you more.” You are my sunshine darling. You make me feel so wanted and loved and no matter how much I shun you when I am angry, you climb your way back into my heart. No wonder, mothers are the most respected people in all religious books of life.
I don’t know what we have in store for us tomorrow. You may find me funny, controlling, obsessive, or maybe something completely different, as I myself don’t know what kind of a mother I will be five years from now. And I know for sure, we will have our days when you will question my stance on life, or disapprove of my parenting techniques, or even (God forbid) break my heart.
I seriously don’t have many expectations from you, just the basic of being a good human, who stands for right. That I will ensure you learn, and you promise me, you will abide by. Enough of the future for now, let’s keep today alive. In the current scenario, I am your favorite person, and I know that for sure since your big eyes light up every second we bond.
I am never short of words, but to state our bond, I will run out of pages. Somethings are better felt than described. That’s you and me my baby!
Published here earlier.
Image source: Saumya Srivastava
Header image source: pixabay
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