Monday, January 31, 2011
Posted by Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar at Monday, January 31, 2011
The first few weeks after Rhea was born were intensely overwhelming for me.
Of course I knew how to hold a baby right. I’d had practice with my nephews, Aaron and Ryan. But there was much more to looking after a child than that. Cleaning poop, changing nappies, inducing a gentle burp, learning to understand whether the crying of a baby signifies hunger, a crisis in the lower region or just a desire to be held and comforted — they all seemed challenging at first.
The mothering instinct was there, but there was also Fear. Fear that I might do something wrong unknowingly, in my experience and over eagerness to do things right. In the early days, I would wake up many times during the night and switch on the light just for the comfort of seeing her little chest heave up and down.
I must acknowledge here the great help rendered by Raj’s parents in those early days. Babies typically have no concept of day or night. Nor do they have any understanding of other people as being individuals in their own right. They think the world revolves around them, and of course, they are right.
Rhea would wake up in the middle of the night and bawl loudly. “I can’t sleep,” she seemed to say, “and I don’t think my parents should either.” Once she awoke, we knew that it would be useless to long for sleep. The night was officially over. My in-laws would very graciously encourage me to sleep during the day while they held her and generally entertained her and cleaned her up. They only woke me up when Rhea’s crying seemed to indicate hunger.
There was one peculiarity that Rhea used to display in those early days. As a baby, she was an extremely light sleeper. The slightest of sounds, a phone ringing in the next room, someone talking below the window, a crow cawing on the branch of a tree outside, used to wake her up. When she was asleep, we used to almost tiptoe around and talk softly so as not to disturb her slumber. And sometimes she used to surprise us by taking the most deafening sounds in her stride.
One night in July (she was just three months old then), Raj and I woke up to the sound of roaring thunder. We quickly sat up, switched on the light and peeped into her cot, trembling inwardly lest she should wake up and cry again. We had just put her to bed with great difficulty and had been looking forward to some sleep ourselves.
To our surprise, she slept on undisturbed. We looked at each other, marveling over how the same child who took offence every time a little teaspoon fell to the floor two rooms away could forgive the thunder for raging on like this.
There were many such moments and they were all amusing. Gradually, I found my groove as a mother. The insecurities vanished then and I began to get the hang of mothering.
Certain bonuses helped me along. They included the feeling of calm I experienced when Rhea latched on just right, the sight of her sleeping, the fresh, newborn smell of her that was more than Johnson & Johnson, the sound of her burping. My baby taught me that a burp can be one of the most satisfying sounds you can ever hear.
It felt wonderful to have a little life that depended so completely on me. For me, as for Raj, despite the sleepless nights, the endless pee and poop sessions, life was definitely better than it had ever been.