By Ranjani Aravind for Twisted Tiara
If we are to believe every book ever written on pregnancy and child rearing, including the brochures on family planning at your doctor’s clinic and your basic instamoms, the day your child is born is supposed to be magical. It’s supposed to be filled with rainbows, unicorns, skittles and candy, with the picture-perfect chubby baby and the beautiful new mama, with her perfect hair and make up… NOT!
The Delivery Room
Nobody tells you the truth about what they went on behind the scenes just hours before that photo you see on social media: the screaming, the sweating, the unexpected poop on the delivery table and most definitely, the swearing. I remember my oh-so-supportive husband telling me not to twist my body while I was contracting and pushing. I have never felt loathing such as that towards anyone prior to that moment, let alone my own husband.
I remember thinking, “YOU…YOU are the reason why I am here, I will twist my body any which way I damn well want!” I leaned towards him with all the dignity a person who laid with her legs wide open and a human being sticking halfway out could muster and held my index finger to my lips, and with wide unblinking eyes said “SHHHHHH” in the most menacing way possible. A warning, a caution, to run while he still could. He cowered to the back of the room like a lamb in a slaughter house. A wise decision on his part, might I add.
The reason why nobody tells you the truth about childbirth is because your brain is a beautiful thing that represses traumatic events; a trauma so great that you compartmentalize it, and it then tricks you into having another child. Imagine a baby the size of a watermelon coming out of your vagina, ripping up your insides, after which they hand over the baby over to you and say, “Congratulations! here’s this little being! It poops, farts, cries and you are perfectly capable of caring for it! Now go on and take it home”.
I was shocked that the nurses would trust me with him, alone! I remember looking at him and thinking, he looks nothing like me or my husband. He was wrinkly, pink, skinny and delicate; he barely looked human. He contorted his face into such an awful scowl the first time he saw me, that I was so sure he was disappointed that the universe chose me to be his mother. The truth is, I wasn’t so sure myself. Weren’t babies supposed to be sweet and cuddly? This one didn’t even look remotely friendly. I did not feel love or affection for him at the time. I was slightly distracted, by the burning in my insides, the stitches, the popped blood vessels in my eyes resulting in blurry vision and the blood loss. I remember thinking “Thank God the difficult part is over, now I can rest!”
Spoiler alert: I haven’t rested since.
Maternal duty or maternal instinct?
The first couple of months, I did nothing more than the bare minimum for my son. I did not go over and above my job description. I performed the duties as one would do a job that they tolerated, not enjoyed. There was no cuddling, loving, or any sweet promises made to him in gentle whispers. I would feed him, burp him, change his diaper and let him sleep in my arms.
I would then gingerly place him down in his bassinet, lowering him a centimeter every 20 seconds with my heart beating in my throat. It’s like the moment in every horror movie where it’s so terrifyingly silent, you know you are going to hear someone scream. Only, in this horror movie, the shrill scream would come from my baby. I would firmly lay a hand over him to achieve the illusion that I was still holding him. I would then slowly withdraw it and with the precision of a well-trained ninja assassin, I would quietly get in my bed and finally close my eyes. Inevitably, moments later, I would hear the familiar “ihhh ehhh ihh” followed by a “waaaAAAHHH”. I would sometimes wonder, “if I were to lay perfectly still and pretend to be dead, will he soothe himself back to sleep?”.
Adjusting to a new reality
I would cry to my husband on several occasions that we had made a terrible mistake and we should not have had a child after all. I was incapable of loving him. Our life was so perfect, why did we have to go on and ruin it? He would reassure me night after night that we would eventually fall in love with him. I mourned my old life where I would get dressed and go to work, speak to adults, enjoy a coffee and have casual conversations about the weekend, without being interrupted by the sound of a baby crying. Now, it was a good day if I had enough time to take a shower or brush my teeth.
It’s a love like no other
I did eventually fall head over heels in love with my little boy, it isn’t all doom and gloom after all. It wasn’t the second he was born, or the first time I held him. It was nothing like what you see in movies or expect to happen. It was about 2 months after he was born and the first time he smiled.
He opened his big beautiful eyes and looked up at me and smiled his dazzling smile (I later found out that babies smile involuntarily when they fart). Regardless, it was my moment…it was our moment. I felt something I had never felt before for anybody else. There were many firsts for us after that. The first time he giggled, sat up, crawled, chased after our poor puppy, and the first time he leaped out of a stranger’s arms to come to me.
I remember feeling a sense of pride and an overwhelming feeling of love; an emotion I hadn’t felt before. I sobbed uncontrollably that day. I often shed a tear or two, when his beautiful brown eyes search for me while he plays with his toys, and the big grin on his face when he does. There is something unsaid there, an inexplicable bond. I don’t lay him down in his crib slowly now, I often do it shabbily just to feel him cling tighter on to me and nuzzle closer into my neck.
To tell you the truth: I’d lie too
If an expectant mom is to ask me what childbirth is like, I am likely to lie to her. I will allow her to figure things out on her own and enjoy the experience (or not) the way it comes naturally to her. It might be love at first sight for her, or like me, love after many sights. But I assure you, the day that child looks up and smiles at you (whether for a fart or at the sight of you), you’ll feel an overpowering feeling of love rushing through your veins like never before.
Happy Mother’s day!