I groggily woke up to the dim, humming of a gazillion machines placed around my head. I screwed up my eyes against the harsh light of the hospital room. This wasn’t a pleasant feeling. It took me a few minutes to work out what the hell was going on. Then the floodgates opened and it all came gushing into my consciousness, like a gallon of water which had been trapped inside a barrel, and had suddenly been overturned … pregnancy, hospital, c-section, operation theatre, kind-faced doctor, baby girl, happiness, exhaustion, adrenaline!
My wooly headed brain suddenly and sharply shifted gears into crystal clarity … it was the morning after i had given birth. I peered to my left side and saw my Mother laying crammed on to a small little couch and her legs were hanging over the hand-rest. She didn’t look comfortable. I turned to my right and saw a shiny little glass bassinet, inside of which lay a tiny human form, tightly swaddled in a pink blanket, almost as if to proudly announce her gender to the world (and any visitors).
I was happily enjoying these sights and sounds, when it suddenly hit me –The pain. I couldn’t move a muscle. The excruciating ache in my lower abdomen combined with the dull numbness from a cocktail of painkillers, meant i could barely wiggle my toes without having a shooting pain up my spine. I gritted my teeth, willing myself not to panic. “Ok, so once the nurses come in, let’s just ask them to increase the dosage on these damn pain-killers and once that’s done, you’re golden baby” i tried to tell myself. I lay my head back on the pillow and tried some deep breathing. Inhale- Exhale. Inhale – Exhale. “Those exorbitant pre-natal yoga classes finally better bloody be of some use!” i mentally exclaimed.
All of a sudden, before i knew it, there was a fresh cacophony of sounds – the baby was crying, my Mother was hopping around trying to calm her down, the nurse walked in loudly, wheeling in a trolley full of unappetizing food for me. I was temporarily rendered unable to deal with everything all at once – the pain, the paralysis, the noise, the machines. Make it stop! I successfully blocked out all sounds, until i heard my Mother whisper right next to me, “Time to feed her, Madhu. She is hungry. Come now, try and have another go at breastfeeding”. I contemplated telling her that i was bang in the middle of a full blown panic attack. I contemplated telling her that i couldn’t move a muscle and this kind of pain was unknown to me. I contemplated asking her why the hell didn’t she warn me that i will have so much to deal with after the birth. Instead, i said “Draw the curtains please Mom. Here, give her to me, let me feed her.” I realized then, that pain, is not something you’re allowed to vocalize as a Mother.
She pursed up her tiny little lips and took aim, throwing a cracker of a punch right into the pit of my stomach. I froze and felt my knees go weak. She promptly crumbled into an adorable heap of giggles, because it was all part of a wonderful game concocted in her little head. Nope, I did not flinch and with great difficulty managed to keep a perfectly straight face. Even though, i may have actually wanted to let out a blood-curdling howl, loud enough to awaken seven generations of Ramakrishnan ancestors. I squeezed my eyes shut, willing my abdomen to somehow, magically swallow the dull ache. She looked up at me quizzically, gauging if it is time for round two of the game yet. I mentally tensed up my whole body, ready for the next onslaught. “Play along and she will learn to be a tough cookie, someday“, i chided myself. Because pain, is not something you’re allowed to vocalize as a Mother.
I check the rearview mirror and change lanes swiftly. I’m in a hurry to get to the mall. It’s Thursday; the end of the week and the collective relief and exhaustion of the entire working population of Dubai hangs in the evening air ominously, like a thick blanket of morning fog. Driving, isn’t one of my favourite activities. Even less so, when driving with a sulking toddler strapped into her car-seat at the back of the car.
“Why Aarika can’t have packet of chips Mama!“, she demands making clicking sounds of frustration.
“Because soon enough, it will be dinner time and i want you to have a full meal Aarika. Not half-a meal because you are full of chips“, i try to reason with her.
I see an empty parking spot and start to hurriedly drive towards it. Just as i am about to pull up into it, i heard her say it. It wasn’t said loudly or with venom. It was mumbled very matter-of-factly. I turn off the ignition, more to properly hear what she said, rather than to disembark from the car and go into the mall.
“What did you say Aarika?“, i gently asked, willing her not to repeat it.
“Aarika hates Mama“, she repeated, lowering her head and peeping into my face, not in the least aware of my sinking heart and the heavy, deathly knot in my tummy. I didn’t want to hear those words and i wasn’t able to convince myself that she didn’t realize the magnitude or meaning of her words. I brushed a rogue, stray tear off my cheek as i gathered both our things from the seat beside me. “Don’t be so dramatic” i mentally scolded myself. Man, those words hurt. But pain is not something you’re allowed to vocalize as a Mother.