Finding roots again

Hey! It’s been a while. And things things look quite different around here no? Well, it’s been an impulsive revamp. I have been in a bit of a funk lately, feeling a bit out of control and unmoored; thus the impetuous changes in other, trivial aspects my life (hair, blog, screensaver, laundry detergent, tea bag, loofah….you get the drift).

The genesis of this virtual space is rooted in the singular loneliness of a new parent, especially a mother (sorry, I cannot be gender impartial at times like now). I have spoken of this before. Of how lonesome, tiring, and generally hard it can be. Of how nobody really tells you that is how it is going to be. People always warn you about any impending exams, tests, professional choices, homes, automobiles, phones even; but the act of having children is never reviewed or warned about, at least not until you’ve had them. Once in the club, people commiserate, but they would never tell you these things before you enter the hallowed halls of motherhood/ parenthood. Damn all of you!

I started writing on here as a mother of a newborn. The first one. The early posts were outrageously mommy- centric. And as I grew into my role, I starting writing about other aspects/ topics. There were even some attempts at fluff pieces (make up, bags, shoes), as I’d like to call them, but I have realised that at the end of day, this is one aspect of my life that is all- consuming. Therefore, it is a manic- mum- life (the title has greater meaning- I shall maybe someday share them).

I thought maybe it is the early days that are the hardest. Helpless bundle of cells and organs that human babies are. But I’m here to report (from the trenches no less), that it doesn’t seem to get any easier. Listening to Michelle Obama talk about it (how she was her own person, doing her own things and chasing life, even while in a marriage- until she had her first child), I realised- the resentments and feeling of helplessness aren’t entirely my own. My homemaker mother feels them, my working- mom friends feel them, our grandmothers felt them. Your other half generally gets to flit in and out, and contribute when they wish, but you have the major burden of responsibility- barring any unusual circumstance.

I now wonder about these things, because amidst the chaos of having young children and trying to have a semblance of a professional life, I had to move in with my parents for a while. Two years, in fact. And now that those two years are up, reflecting on them puts into perspective another thing that I’d heard from the Obamas – Mrs. Obama asked her mother to move in with them to the White House the entire duration they were there. For the childrens’ sake. For some order among the chaos.

Moving back with one’s parents has its downsides no doubt. Being treated like a child sometimes, when you are thirty and used to living life your way isn’t easy. Especially when you consider living in an Indian household. But the complete and utter freedom I felt of having my mother with my children while I was off to work (a surgical fellowship can be as taxing as a Presidency!) for long- stretches of time is unexplainable. You have to live it to believe it. I travelled to attend workshops, conferences; stayed away for days. I missed my kids, so did they; but not for one moment was I concerned about their well- being or safety. My children had another person to be ‘their person’, apart from me. A person to run to when hurt or sick. The next best thing to their mother- or maybe even better (the selflessness of a grandmother trumps the duty- bound cares of a mother). It was in short, a miracle. Suddenly, at least for a while, I had found an island of calm. I could learn my craft, be a good mother, be a better surgeon, work on projects and things that were important to me prior to becoming a mum; and generally find myself again.

Like all things in life, that too had to come to an end of course. Shorn of the luxury, moving to a new city, looking for a another job and trying to get used to ‘ the new normal’ again has been gritty. I am often left thinking of the early days with my firstborn, the utter all- consuming nature of them. The children suddenly bereft of their ‘people’ seem to cling to me with a fervour that I haven’t seen since they were nine months old. Staying at home with them full time for the past couple of months has amplified it all. And yes, I have lost my people too. The upside of being treated like a child by your parent is the care and attention you receive. Someone actually puts food on the table for you, someone asks you if you want a cup of coffee, the laundry gets folded (magically) more often than not, people fuss over you when you are even slightly under the weather- unfathomable luxuries while being an adult and parent. It is a gift and a bane, for you start to lean on a crutch that is likely not permanent.

Anyhoo, all that’s done and dusted. And now we move on to new adventures. New lessons. New troubles. The city now is Thiruvananthapuram- the capital of God’s Own Country!

Let the parenting conundrums continue.

Till next time,

J.

Hello

Hella folks. Just popping in to say a quick hello. Thank you for the lovely congratulatory emails and wishes. It is comforting to know that some you folks actually consider me a friend even though we have never met or spoken in person. The internet can sometimes be a fantastic thing.

The new little one is well. We had a few bumps along the road with his health (just like my first- my blood isn’t very loving toward that of my children’s), but those matters seem to be behind us now.

The older little one doesn’t seem so little anymore. She literally grew up overnight. I kissed a sleeping baby before heading out the door with contractions timing 2 minutes apart. I met her again in the hospital a few hours later with a newborn in my arms, and whoa! The Lil One was a baby no more. She was a proper little girl with no remanents of babyhood in evidence. My Lil one was all grown up- wearing a top claiming she was the “Coolest big Sis in town” and pigtails that were severely askew (thanks to daddy!).

As far as mama news go, I’m in the throes of the all consuming initial days of motherhood. Endless nursing, burping and changing with no sleep in sight. Make no mistake, I’m not here to whinge or whine. Things are surprisingly chilled out and I’m trying my hardest to enjoy this calm before the storm. The storm being being call, theatres and clinics while pumping frantically and having sleepless nights at home. This is due in less than 30 days now. Let us not dwell on that for the moment..

The sleep deprivation is hard even though people around me think it should be easier for me as I’m used to staying up all night at work. But call nights at the noisy hospital where everybody around you is also awake is very different from the dimly lit bedroom consisting of the helpless but alert newborn and helpful but asleep spouse.

Still, I’m better prepared this time. I can even make it through the night with no help at all. Some nights, I just veg out on the sofa under the flickering lights of the television and nurse on demand and let the boob- master sleep on me. I catch a few winks here and there. I am even letting the husband off the hook more this time. He has no paternity leave and therefore I only wake him up when I border on insanity. Which happens every 4 days or so, due to the cumulative effects of lack of rest/ sleep.

Anyhoo, the plan is to chill and enjoy every moment of maternity leave and get on with things with minimal fuss and whinging. Yes, that is the plan.

Till next time.

J.

Ma Wednesday- Wish there were two of me!

I wake up every morning; to winter sunshine and to tiny legs sprawled on my face. I scoot gently along, little by little; millimeter by milliliter till I extricate myself out from the complicated tangle without disturbing the peacefully- sleeping, little human.

Getting out of bed at this point, would mean waking her up as well. She will not sleep a moment extra. When Mama is up, Zoe is up. So I remain in bed, a while longer.

As I sit up in bed and and try to find my phone in the mess that is my nightstand, the little one roves into the warmth that is her Mama and finds a cosy, little nook to sleep in.

So, with one hand on the little one; I check my messages, wander about on social media, reply to emails, drop in on WordPress, read the news, check my planner, check the patient appointments for the day and read up on any cases that are posted for the day.

Finally, when I can push it no longer; I get out of bed. The exact same moment, Mademoiselle Zoe flutters her little eyes open. She blinks twice and then on seeing me, breaks into the most spectacular smile. A smile which seems to say ” Aah! How fantastically, wonderful it is to see you Mama!”

She gets into play mode immediately. Alas, not with me. After I wake up, I am usually out of the door in less than one hour.

I have to make absolutely sure that she is not at the door when I leave. Otherwise, the crinkly, tear filled, crystal- clear eyes and quivering, jutted out lower lip will break my heart and shatter my resolve.

Aah! How I wish there were two of me!

One to chase my dreams. To conquer all in sight. To make a difference. To be a fantastic surgeon. A responsible, socially useful human being. One that contributes to society. To read. To travel. To live.

To be a role model to my daughter.

And another to stay back and catch the little one every time she tumbles, in her quest to master the art of walking. To sing with her, in that weird language of hers. To eat with her and create an epic mess every time food is served. To play with rubber duckies and bubbles and splash around in the bath. To gaze at the amazement writ large on her face when she spots a squirrel run up a branch on a tree outside her room.

To be a mother to my daughter, every single minute of every single day.

I never knew it would be this hard. Nobody ever talks about such things.

The insurmountable guilt. You can never overcome it, you can only learn to live with it.

We are told we can have it all. At least, that is what I was taught as a precocious, over- confident, ambitious girl. That the sky is the limit.

I was never told about the price of it all though. The sacrifices. The constant struggle. Within and outside.

The men sympathize but never actually understand. It ain’t their fault, they are programmed differently.

The single women think they get it, but they cannot comprehend the inner struggles.

And the scores of women who deal with it everyday, chose not to discuss it. Apparently, even talking about it is taboo. Apparently it makes us weak. Or whiny. Or inefficient. Or incapable of handling our own lives.

Our feminist, all- conquering predecessors have worked very hard for us apparently. They have fought for us and paved the way for us. So, we are told not to complain and to just get on with it. To conquer the world. To be great teachers, lawyers, doctors, managers, politicians, leaders, CEOs……

But we are torn. Split into two. Sometimes painfully, into two equally important, equally adamant halves. It rips us apart.

We function with our two, torn halves. We are both. We are one.

We trudge on.

Then things come to a breaking point…

Hence, ultimately we scale back on our dreams. We down- size them. We cut back on all the things that make us who we are. That we derive pleasure from. That define us.

We model ourselves and try and fit into this mould; the “good- mother- wife- daughter-career woman- do-it-all- superwoman” mould.

We second guess our every decision. Our every thought. And action.

We do the best we can. We work bloody, darned hard.

Like we have never before.

Yet, we fall short. In our own eyes. We fall short of our own lofty standards.

We run and run and run. But never catch up. With whatever it is we want to catch up to.

We may achieve great things at the work- place. But then we come home and feel like we don’t deserve the hard- earned success. The inner demons berate us for building our success on the ruins of our family.

So why not choose one over the other you ask?

It’s too late now folks. The only option is to trudge on.

Every evening, I come straight home. No coffee with friends. No extra- time in the library. No taking up extra- case load. No applying for the “hard- core- fancy- schmancy” fellowship.

I come home to the same spectacular smile. The same crinkly eyes.

I feel guilt tugging at the very core of me as the door opens and I see the angelic face. I have missed her every minute that I have been away, I realize.

And I wonder if I have missed anything important.

As I get out of the hospital garb and clean myself up, I can’t wait to pick her up into a giant hug. She waits patiently. With arms raised and pulsing bodily.

Finally, as I take her into my arms and inhale her sweet baby- scent and take it in as deep as I can; she coos into my ear and nuzzles into my hair. She missed me, I am sure of that; but I don’t sense any other feeling emanating from the little creature. No anger. No resentment. Nothing. Only pure joy from being re- united to a thing she loves.

Sigh!

How I wish there were two of me!

 

Till next time…

Dr J.