Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lull in a bumpy ride

August 16, 2009

Week 34 – day 1

It’s not yet ‘any day now’, but boredom and certain new perspectives have pushed me to this diary entry of sorts – my fourth in the nine months of pregnancy -- a time for assessment when my life seems to have come to a lull.

August 13 and 14 came and went; and so did Janmashtami celebrations for this year. Also has gone is my half-wish that the baby would be born on either of the days. Yes, that would have been asking for a rather fragile preemie, but for anyone who knows me even by half a measure, would understand my wish. And now that it has gone, I’m perhaps half-glad it didn’t happen. I was reading the papers on the morning of the 15th and came across an article about how the demand for elective births had risen by almost 50 per cent the two previous days. It made me feel rather silly knowing that I too was one of the thousands of wannabe Hindu ‘god-parents’– in the way of wanting my child to be born on the same day as the dark lord and imagining there was something divinely special about the kid. In any case, the number of gods and goddesses and their respective festivals is hardly a problem in this country, especially this time of the year, and I still have Ganeshotsav and Dussehra to look forward to in terms of divine birthing times. And the good thing about these two festivals is that their goodness lasts 10 whole days each. Baby, you got 20 ‘shubh’ days to choose from!

Now, it’s just countdown time with some other minor hopes and yet some more half wishes. I emphasise on the minor and the half here, because the fact that there’s little one can do to alter destiny, has been rubbed into my face very recently.

Swine flu – the fanciest new pandemic to hit the world – came to Pune sometime early last month and decided to make my beloved city its beloved city. As the number of H1N1 cases detected rose, so did the paranoia. But all hell broke loose with the first swine flu death. It began with calls from my parents – the carefully-concealed-concern-in-their-voices calls. In a week’s time, it began to sound like distress calls. ‘Have you bought a mask?’, ‘Are you wearing the mask?’, ‘Is Viren wearing a mask?’, ‘Dad’s really worried’, etc. By the time the news of the tenth swine flu death went around, my parents had hit the panic button. I was ordered to leave Pune at once; my unborn’s safety being the reason of course. So here I am, at my in-laws’ in Mumbai (where the threat is apparently lesser), in a virtual house arrest for the last 10 days, ‘quarantined’ with a lot of love. All my carefully laid-out plans to go on a maternity leave in the middle of September have gone out of the window. And from the looks of it, I’ll be forced to live here another week. Sigh.

Meanwhile, my pot (as Viren likes to call it) has been growing larger, the movements within squirmier, and my clumsiness greater. As the time for delivery comes closer, bouts of anxiety, abandon, impatience, wonder, fear and many such emotions become more frequent. There are good days and bad ones. The good ones are the one of acceptance and the bad ones of denial. Days when I can accept that my body cannot be altered before a certain time, that the pain of childbirth is something millions of women experience and survive, that Mumbai will be hot and sweaty no matter how much I wish otherwise, that it’s ok in my ‘condition’ to not be able to help my folks-in-law as much as I should be, I’m good. Days when I’m unable to accept the fatness of my face, the unfortunate reality of swine flu, the vulnerability of being a pregnant woman, the necessity of having to stay in a place that’s not home and the heat rash and swelling in my feet are bad.

Often, I try to repeat to myself mothers’ advice. ‘Enjoy your free time now, when you can. Once the baby comes, you won’t know night from day.’ So, I’ve been reading, sketching, chatting, watching TV, strolling, eating and sleeping. Basically, trying to make the most of this forced vacation. I spend a lot of time wondering also. Wondering how I’ll cope with this enormous responsibility of a new life being thrust upon me in a few weeks from now. Yes, I chose to be parent, but that choice means nothing now. Nothing, I imagine, can prepare one for assuming the mantle of parenthood. I also wonder about childbirth -- the big daddy of all pains. It’s no big deal, I say. If A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H can do it, I can do it too. I’ll be calm. I’ll not let humiliation take over all the other feelings that will be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. This is just my body. I can be objective about it. My brain is under my control. What starts, comes to an end too. And from there stems a beginning -- a brand new chapter, with a brand new person that will be our child. I wonder what destiny has planned for me. God, zara dekh lena.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

You say, therefore I am

Another day, another validation, another satisfaction. Zutshi uncle finally showed up at my place today. After months of requests from him and excuses from me, that dear old man, shaking hands and all, came to meet me. Yes, I feel guilty for having postponed my promised visit for months now; but the happiness I feel is greater than anything else. There is a tremendous feeling of smug-joy in the fact that someone cares enough to have made that effort for me. I am important. I am a somebody.

So, I’m addicted to validations. Putting this bit of self-realisation into words isn’t exactly empowering. And not half as cool as saying you’re addicted to say, caffeine or nicotine.

I need people to tell me I’m good to believe I’m good. And admitting this, sucks. It probably makes me a loser of the highest order in a world of the self-confident, self assured (if there really are any). The past few days have been just about that -- validations. Jeer as I may at the thought, I know that what others think of me is what I am.

Saturday, the 1st of August, 2009, had this realisation all lined-up.

I’d like to blame it on the hormones, but I know it had to do with my check-up that day. Of all emotional travails of my pregnancy through the last eight months, I probably had the worst one that morning. All through the weeks before, I kept thinking about how the doctor had said my weight had increased too much and how I needed to exercise. I was afraid the same would be said again and so I didn’t want to go. Even with all the online forums assuring me that weight gain is the highest in the last few weeks, the doctor’s verdict had hurt. I tell myself enough times in day that I’m ‘gross’ and needed no reiteration. I didn’t need to hear it again that morning.

Through a stream of seemingly unstoppable tears, I said that I didn’t want to be a fat monster anymore. Wailing, I said I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore, and that I was tired of being so ugly. Viren did what any helpless husband would do. He began with cooing, and when that didn’t work, he turned to cawing. I settled down after a bit and then we went to the doc’s. Mercifully enough, she said that my weight and baby’s was fine, and spared me from some more self-flagellation. Ah, validation! If the doc says I’m OK, it must mean I’m OK.

Next stop was the jeweller, where Viren was to buy me my birthday gift, like that long-promised toy. He dare not have refused after my breakdown. We picked two rings – goodies to make me look and hence feel good. Petty, but pretty. Material validation @ Rs. 9000…approximately. We added Rs. 465 to that for lunch at a nice place and some peace was finally bought as he dropped me to work.

Cut to 10.30 pm that night. After work, a friend gave me this adorable little baby basket he’d used for his child -- my first real baby possession. I and Viren thanked him before he took me home. My eyes nearly popped out when I stepped into the house to find that some friends were waiting there for me with a “Surprise” party for me! It was a moment of real honour and gratitude. I was more than overwhelmed at the sight of these friends who, in conspiracy with Viren, had arranged for this lovely occasion – a baby shower, complete with streamers, and pink and blue balloons. Wow! Nobody had ever done this for me and the surprise was even sweeter because I really and honestly hadn’t expected it. Food, drinks, chatter and loads of grinning on my part made for the rest of the evening. Thanks, guys. Thank you for making me feel that I am important. That I am a somebody.

Later that night I lay in bed, still smiling, thinking just how powerful validation is. I daresay we all need it. By the time my baby is old enough to understand what this story is all about, these friends may have gone far away on different life paths, but it will always be one of the ‘it’ moments of my life. Is the fact that someone else had the power to decide one of the best days of my life, bad? I think not.