The day I reached back home with Vedu, I was so upset about the state the apartment was in, even though Hari had done his best to keep it as clean as possible. I was highly irritable and kept getting angry about everything. Deep inside I knew my irritation had nothing to do with my home; it was solely a product of my anxiety about how things would be once Amma left.
Vedu, on the other hand, seemed at peace all on a sudden from the moment she entered the apartment. Despite the long and tiring day, she was laughing and seemed to be in a very playful mood. I was puzzled by this sudden change and thought she would go back to her cranky self soon. But she gave us all a pleasant surprise by remaining the same the next day and the day after. The biggest surprise of all was that from the day she came home, she started sleeping on her own in her crib. In fact from the time we got home, I never had to hold her in my arms while she slept and worry about when I would get to put her on the bed.
Amma left on a weekend so that Hari could be there with me when she left. That was the first time the three of us were together without anyone else around. The weekend went by without any trouble. But I still needed to see how things would be from Monday when I would be all alone with her all day. I will always cherish that Monday because that was the day I claimed my life back. I finished whatever work I had around home, took care of Vedu perfectly, played with her every time she was awake and still felt as refreshed as I could be by the end of the day. That one day gave me back my lost confidence that I would be able to handle things well and not end up a failure in my own eyes.
Today when I look back, I know that Vedu was not the one who changed, I was. She progressed gradually from a confused newborn to a playful baby like every other kid, even if it took her a lot more of struggle along the way. Her battle with sleep is still on to some extent. It takes a very long time for her to fall asleep even when she is really tired. I don’t really see her in deep, restful sleep all that often either. And it is not always that she finishes her naps and wakes up absolutely fresh. But she does not make too much fuss about it anymore and tries to play as long as she can instead of crying all day long.
My transition though has not just been from a confused new mother to a mother more confident of herself. I have a changed a lot as a person. I was a person who could never handle uncertainties. I could never do without a concrete plan, not just for the short term, but also for the long run. Even a minor deviation from the plan I had in mind for anything at all used to freak me out big time and I would not rest until I got things back to fit my original plan. But I had forgotten that a baby comes with a whole lot of uncertainties. It was not fair of me to expect her to adjust according to my plans when she was struggling to cope with her new life and a totally new world. I still make plans, like what work I need to do on a particular day so that I don’t have too many things piled up on any day. But I make sure that I tweak those plans to fit around her routine so that alongside finishing my work, I get to spend enough and more quality time with Hari and her.
There are days which are easy; there are days when I earnestly wish Hari would come home early and take her over. I still have to sit through the night with a cold pack on my breast to reduce the intense pain of breast engorgement every now and then. And once in a while, there would be days when we are left with no option other than stand by and watch when she cries to sleep, even though it breaks our heart. Even with all that I must say that I now live the life I was dreaming of from the time we decided to have her – taking care of my baby while keeping myself and my needs intact.
Now when I wake up every morning I have so many things to look forward to. The sunshine smile when she opens her eyes from sleep and sees us. The way she jumps to me as if she has been waiting to be in my arms forever. The naughty twinkle in her eyes when she is done with her feed, but still stays on my breast just for fun. The expectant look on her face when she is rolled over, ready to play, looking for me with her puppy eyes wide open. The highly animated baby talk with elaborate gestures and expressions which can go and on, that reminds me of the way I talk when I am excited. The hyperactive restlessness that she has most definitely inherited from me. The way she throws her head back during her tantrums, and how she forgets to cry for a minute in between when something catches her attention, only to start again from where she stopped the moment she remembers she has been crying. The way she tugs at her ears in frustration when she is cranky. The “never say die attitude” with which she tries and tries until she achieves what she wants. The innocent jealousy that she displays when Hari takes his eyes off her to talk to me when she is in the middle of a “conversation” with him. Even the “poop on the way” face she makes and the sweetly disgusting habit of making a mess by stuffing her mouth with anything she can find around her. Ahh! You get my point, don’t you? The list can go on and on because I treasure everything about her.
In the true sense of the word, I became a mother only after I came back home. I used to hand babies back to their mothers when they got irritable. I am that mother now. I used to frown thinking how mothers do the icky job of diaper change and cleaning up poop. I am that mother now. I used to marvel at the ability of mothers to sacrifice their sleep for their babies. I am that mother now. I used to wonder how mothers have a life of their own with a tiny human being attached to them all the time. I am that mother now. It is now that I know what “joy of motherhood” means.
I know it is not going to be a cakewalk. As they say, “this is just the beginning”. Every day is a new challenge, especially with a baby who keeps changing her routine by the week. But I don’t mind. I guess I should thank her for teaching me how to deal with failure. Even if it takes all my energy and patience to go on, I will still do it happily and not have it any other way. I no longer doubt our decision to bring her into our world. I no longer think of her as an intruder who destroyed our peace of mind. She is now a part of us; she truly belongs here with us. Without her, there will never be “us” again.