When we are young, we are invariably asked what we would like to become when we grow up. Responses can range anywhere from Musk inspired engineer to Chawla inspired astronaut.
My hubby, I presume, responded with – “I want to become a papa.”
While fatherhood was a pretty straightforward lifelong aspiration for the hubby, motherhood has been somewhat of an ineffable experience for me. It continues to evolve every part of my being, whilst adding layer upon layer of bags under my eyes from the many nights of sleep deprivation.
Physically and emotionally, it has been nothing short of a stunning symphony; with the second trimester serving as the reprieving interlude, the laboring childbirth as the peak crescendo, accompanied by the moments of undulating sonatas (not to be misconstrued with “sannata” – (i.e extreme silence in Hindi), of which there was hardly any).
One of most underrated pleasures of motherhood is coming home to your baby’s toothless smiles, whose innocence heals every wear and tear of your heart; not to mention the huge advantage of farting in public and blaming your baby for it (gotten away with this on multiple occasions).
The revelation took place one fine day in January when I had a slight implantation bleeding and the hubby whipped out a pregnancy test faster than Sagar Ratna serves you extra sambhar. The test was negative on the first go. A minute later, hubby walked into the room with more gay abandon than Mary Poppins on opioids. He was holding the test with a faint line forming to the first one.
We waited another week before disclosing the news to our closest family members, who immediately looked at me with equal measure of joy and apprehension; the latter on the belief that I needed to be preserved like a delicate porcelain doll. Of course, that is a highly unrealistic expectation given the pot-holed nature of Delhi roads. The greatest irony was having to finish my scans at a women’s hospital, only to be greeted by a crater shaped “gadda” at the exit.
I had my first ultrasound at week 6, roughly around the time when the nausea commenced. It is amazing how a little cashew shaped creature with a humongous heartbeat (>140 bpm) can invoke so much unconditional love in a human. The most memorable moment of my pregnancy, strangely enough, was when I was on my fifth bout of throwing up in a day. My hubby, who was helping me stand, looked at me with the most sympathetic eyes and said, “I think one kid is enough for us.” This is the same man who secretly aspires for a cricket team of a family. Luckily, my gynae prescribed me a wonderful medication that allowed me to work without looking like an inebriated mess.
By the end of my first trimester, my nausea subsided and my chest and gluteus maximus showed signs of inflation that would make JLo and Pamela Anderson proud. (Please note that these are short-lived assets that are expected to restore to their usual levels post-delivery)
Trips to the Doc
Some favorite moments of my pregnancy took place during my meetings with the gynae who fondly called me “Madhubala” even though I hadn’t waxed for weeks, mostly to boost my self-confidence. Along with her team, we couldn’t have been in better hands (literally). Though her visiting fees were a bit much (in line with the diamond solitaires on her fingers and ears), I would refer her to any lady in a heartbeat.
At every check-up, she would conclude by stating, “you can continue having sex” and for this, her gaze would solely focus on my husband. Now anyone that has interacted with my hubby knows he seldom conveys any lustful desire or drooling, unless there is a plate of Qureshi’s butter chicken in front of him. But I guess my gynae had a special means of gauging his primal desires than I ever did. It took great effort to control my laughter each time she said this.
Even though we couldn’t know about the gender of our offspring because of some very wretched people in India, we did try some scientifically approved techniques to guess the gender — like dangling my engagement ring on a thread and checking for its rotation near the belly (worked like a charm in Hum Saath Saath Hain).
Boy or girl, there was one thing we were certain about as Indian parents – hairiness. In fact, we’ve already set aside a FD for potential laser sessions.
The holy (crap what have I gotten myself into) trinity — Trimesters
My second trimester was a time of varying mood swings, the recipient of which would almost always be my husband since he was primary reason for my impregnated state. There were valid reasons for the moodiness too, such as the back aches and being advised to sleep on only one side, whilst the hubby comfortably snored on his tummy.
There is an actual psychological phenomenon known as “Couvade Syndrome” wherein the spouse feels similar symptoms of nausea and weight gain as the wife. During the second trimester, I gorged on all kinds of desserts and pizzas and still could not reach the desired weight gain, while my hubby was gaining extra kilos and complained of queasiness. These moments made me forget who was pregnant between us.
Towards the third trimester, I started experiencing the extraordinary phenomenon of my baby’s movements. It started as small butterflies fluttering below my bellybutton and evolved into full rattling of the tummy from one side to other, particularly when the hubby whispered sweet songs near my belly. At times, I could feel a little hand or foot pushing outwards which was easily visible on my tummy – an experience like no other.
You think moving from adolescence into adulthood is a rite of passage? That a few measly pimples and hairy underarms and a Rani Mukherjee type cracking of the voice is tough to beat?
Try having contractions every minute for the last twenty-four hours and trying every mofo (pun intended) pranayama to get through to the next contraction, only to be told by your doc that you’ve barely dilated 3 cm and are expected to have nearly six more hours of these labor pains to get to necessary 10 cm before you can actually go into active labor! Phew!
Now, I don’t mean to instill fear into any expecting mothers. Childbirth is a serious rite of passage for a woman and there are great medical offerings today that aid the entire process to help a woman deliver safely.
I had a normal delivery, but I can’t say that mine was a textbook example of ease, wherein I was giving birth in a natural lagoon with my doula gently caressing my back whilst rubbing natural lavender oils on my back. I opted for the epidural to gain some rest in order to ready myself for the active labor stage. Squats and swimming played a very important role in prepping my body for the delivery process and I encourage all expecting mothers to consult with their gynae on the modes of exercise recommended for them.
In retrospect, I could have done more squats in my 3rd trimester to reduce the pre-active labor period stage but as life often teaches you, there are plenty factors out of your control (for e.g. my actual gynae was out of the country and I delivered my baby with a completely new doc).
Even though my baby was born 3 weeks early, I delivered her full term. My grandmother once narrated how she gave birth to my father in the village with no medical equipment and just a midwife who could handle only the very basic of emergencies by employing desi “nuskes.” And then granny was back working on the fields the same week. Or the case of my Nani who was toiling throughout her first pregnancy and delivered her son in a makeshift tent. Salute to such ladies!
Now I ain’t Kate Middleton who needs to step out and wave at bunch of random folk like an inflatable tube man, but most woman look like an inebriated mess from the lack of sleep and immense fatigue after giving birth.
Once the baby was out and the post-operative medicines kicked in, I shivered for a straight hour like a naked rishi on Franz Josef glacier. Even 5 blankets did nothing to calm my tits. Speaking of tits, my bevy of nurses walked in an hour later and showed me the little human I created from one night of no protection, and immediately urged me to breastfeed her. At that moment, I didn’t have the emotional comprehension to talk, let alone start latching a tiny life onto my breast. But this is precisely what motherhood is. I imagine it like being on the other side of a discus throwing competition, with every hurling of the object as another new, unprecedented development in your face.
It is true that sleep is forsaken since the day you go into labor, and you must rest in the intermittent moments of the baby’s power naps. I’ve nearly broken my back from months of exclusive breastfeeding but I’m so grateful for India’s six months of maternity leave that I don’t even mind being a Hunchback.
Overthinking is also a common ailment for first-time mothers, particularly in the department of overtly sterilizing and purifying your baby’s environment, only to realize she has been licking a rattle toy that’s been dropped umpteen times on the floor and inhaling air that has made Delhites lungs as charred as the kebabs we so relish on Pandara road.
Cavear mater- you will be fatigued from unwarranted advice of whether your breastmilk is “enough” and how a baby’s gas/cold/crying is somehow indirectly related to the mother’s doings. Granted you need vital rest for the weeks following childbirth as the effects of the hormone relaxin haven’t fully left your system; but don’t sweat about eating foods that you love. All newborns will be gassy and there is no conclusive study that states that a mother eating her fix of black bean burrito has managed to transform into the wind energy from a baby’s bottom. Also, please don’t cave into following crazy vegan moms who swear by a plant based diet. Enjoy your period of bellyhood and satiate all your unique cravings. We’re humans, not grasshoppers!
Last but not the least, becoming a mother does not imply that one forgets the identity of the woman; that she has needs and hopes that extend beyond the sacrificial life she has to so graciously accept. Post-partum depression is more common that we can imagine and a mother must step outside the realm of her daily routine to know that there is more to life than just the motherly stereotypes we have helped create.
In short, pregnancy is one of the few experiences of life where you can’t necessarily just go with the flow (period joke ftw!) but you eventually learn to appreciate the wonder that is a woman’s body.
To all my family, friends, colleagues and even random people who went out of their way to make me feel comfortable during my pregnancy – thank you!
And to all mothers, fathers, grannies, grandpas and guardians who invest their hearts and souls into raising another life – may we celebrate each day as our own.