By Bindu Adai-Mathew
The light, fresh smell of baby powder in the pastel-colored nusery…the sound of a sweet melodic lullaby playing while rocking my baby to sleep in a rocking chair while she gurgles and cooes…days spent gazing in wonder at my most perfect gift from God…
(now imagine the sound of a record being scratched!)
Yep, I was NOT one of those women! And I mean that with all respect! I was not one of those women who had sweet, ideal, but let’s face it, basically delusions in my head about what having and raising a baby would be like! People like my friends who every time they saw a baby would respond “Oooh, I want one!” while I would just smile tremblingly and fearfully and shake my head while responding with “Yeah, they’re cute now, but they’re a lot of work! A lot.”
I knew the truth. After all, I had a sister who was 12 years younger than me. A sister who made her sudden appearance just as I was about to enter wonderful puberty and adolescence. A sister who appeared just as I quit caring that I no longer had a built-in playmate at home…after spending years, 11 years in fact, begging for a younger sibling, my parents indulged me (or so they say…).
No, I definitely knew the truth. The truth that babies don’t just coo and gurgle all day. That they cry. A lot. For no reason. Or for no reason that you can determine after trying everything under the sun from changing diapers to feeding them. I knew that every time you left with a baby, it was like going on an overseas trip. You had to think of every scenario and pack for every thing. Diapers. Wipes. Changing pad. Diaper Rash cream. Bottle. Spare bottle. Spare formula. Water for the formula. Pacifier. Clothes. Spare clothes. And sometimes even another set of spare clothes. Whew! As they get older, it gets more complicated. In addition to everything I just mentioned, you also had to pack snacks and toys, and if they’re sick….oh, boy…the list can go on and on…
No, I definitely knew that babies, as cute and as beautiful as they are…they are a lot of work. A lot. And I warned my friends who didn’t have the benefit of my experience. But did they listen to me? Of course not! Most of them still wanted one! And after they got married…a year or two later, they would each call me with the “wonderful news.” Can you believe that? After everything I told them! And then they would call me and tell me how hard it was. I, being the good friend, I am would listen patiently and encourage them that they could do it while in my head I would be thinking, “Tsk, tsk tsk, didn’t I warn you?”
No, I knew.
So eventually, I, too, went on to get married. (sigh). Evenings spent making dinner together and cleaning up together…then hours spent cuddled on the couch while watching a chick flick. Having hot romance novel kind of sex. Every day.
Yep, I was one of those women! Unfortunately, while I had no delusions about children, I definitely had many, many delusions about marriage and what that would be like. But that’s another blog.
So after I got married and survived the first year of marriage, I started getting hounded by my parents, by my relatives about having kids. The first year it started happening, I would get exasperated and exclaim, “We just got married! Why are you always rushing me! I at least want to be married two years before I can think of kids!”
Then the second year came and left, and then I would smile and say, “We’re just not ready yet. Two years went by so fast…I just want to enjoy marriage.”
Then the third year came, and my twelve years younger sister started asking me about kids, and I would look at her incredulously and ask, “Do you have any idea how much work you were as a baby and a kid? Oh, you don’t, huh? Well I DO! YOU are the reason I am waiting until my last egg can be fertilized before I can consider having a kid!”
Then my fourth year came and went, and while my parents remained silent and just give me their saddest, most forlorn puppy dog eyes, my relatives would not hold back: When are you going to have a kid? What are you waiting for? You’re getting old…who is going to take care of you when you’re old? I would look downcast and shrug my shoulders and say, “It’s not up to me…it’s up to God.” And then they would look uncomfortably at each other and then sympathetically at me and gently pat me on the shoulder, “Don’t worry, Bindu-mol…it will happen. We’ll pray for you.”
Hey, don’t judge me. It’s not my fault that they jumped to the conclusion that I was trying but nothing was happening! I did what I had to do to get them off my back! After all, I knew! Besides, for all of their well-meaning intentions, where would they be for those 3 am feedings? Yeah. Exactly. See…I knew.
But the fifth year came…and finally I had to ask myself…why aren’t I having kids? Sure, it’ll be a lot of work. But heck, my parents did it. My friends are doing it. I can do it. It’ll be a lot of work, but at least I will not be surprised that it’ll be a lot of work. I will be prepared. After all, I know.
So on October 14, 2009, beautiful Ava Marianna Mathew was born into the world! The first two nights, it was something unlike anything I had imagined! To my surprise, motherhood was just like the storybooks. The fresh, light smell of baby powder…the baby soft skin that I couldn’t stop touching. The unbelievable feeling of wonder every time I looked at this tiny, tiny baby whom I had talked to endlessly while she had been in my stomach for 9 months. It was perfect.
I found myself energetically getting up when she cried in the middle of the night. I found myself not feeling tired although I had just given birth hours before. I was amazed. This wasn’t as bad as I thought! I had been wrong about motherhood!
My mom arrived my last day at the hospital, just in time to help us transition to home. She watched Ava at nights, so I could catch up on sleep. She bathed Ava. She completely took care of Ava.
So what was I doing, you ask? Well, thank you for asking. I nursed. Or at least I tried to. I tried to nurse a crying baby who didn’t want my over-sized breasts. My oversized Triple XXX boobs that should have easily been overflowing with milk and honey. Ava would suckle for two seconds and didn’t get what she wanted and then screamed. Loudly. Very loudly. So I gave up trying to directly nurse her and went for the breast pump. I secluded myself in my master bedroom, attached these suction cups to my sore boobs and awkwardly waited for the tiniest drop of milk. And waited. And waited. I would glance around the room, looking for something to focus on while trying to ignore that awkward, uncomfortable tug of the suction cup around my nipple. Until I caught my reflection in my dresser mirror. My hair was a tangled mess, sticking out in every frizzy way possible. I was sitting in my pjs, still looking 5 months pregnant (which is only cute when you really are five months pregnant), with these futuristic gadgets attached to my boobs. I not only felt like a cow. I not only looked like a cow. I was a cow. Not one of those metaphorical, low-self-esteem feelings of cow-dom. But an official, true-to-life cow. Being milked for every bit of nutrition that my body could officially produce. A cow. A real, real cow.
To be continued…