The only reason to try having a child, if it happens, and all is well, is that first moment of contact.
The universe holds its breath and time and space and life and death and laughter and tears collide… Every ounce of your being is riveted. You see your mother as an infant, your father as a newborn. Your mind leaps back into histories that pre-date you by generations while simultaneously you remain rooted to your place in time. You are awe-struck and filled with superhumanity; the will to protect this bubble of perfection at all costs, the duty to sustain it, the sheer indefatigable daring to allow yourself to hope and dream for it.
This of course is all bloody genetic chicanery. Your hormones are charlatans. Your body is in the pay of Mother Nature and she is making sure you get the message. New baby = magnificent. You = inconsequential.
If they could bottle the new-baby hormones, now that would be a lifestyle drug.
Imagine the average post-partum mum. She’s been carrying junior around for nearly 10 months. That is what 40 weeks is. Somewhere around 36 weeks, she loses the will to look at her body. This is also the month she may put on a lot of weight, because of water retention and because she can’t move anymore without peeing herself because Juniorella has made a space-hopper of her bladder.
Somewhere around this time, she will also lose the ability to sit with her knees together. She will hold her back. She may not have slept in weeks.
Hollow eyed, she walks like John Wayne (‘a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do’ playing in her ears) into the hospital where everyone with a eyeball and a finger will have a look and chuckle at her initial groaning. ‘Pains?’ every nurse will ask. ‘Yes, you and your entire moustachioed ilk are, sister,’ you want to reply. But how much dignity do you have, your nethers up to the weather, wearing a hospital gown from the ubiquitous peek-an-arse range.
Then they will try to talk to you out of the drugs. ‘Wait…’ ‘It’s not so bad yet’. “Tell them to give me the epidural NOW!” you will hiss to your husband who is looking fainter and more fearful with every contraction. He bolts off. Comes back. Apparently the moustachioed nurses were scarier than you. So it’s Game On. Snarl. Scream. Threaten to walk off. I took lots of painkillers (not fashionable now, but yes, I don’t even like wearing high heels for fashion). For my third pregnancy they didn’t even work that well.
Finally someone will say, ‘wheel her into the theatre’. If you were in a better mood, you’d pipe in with a ‘yeah baby, it’s showtime’… And show time it is. Whether you’ve dramatically failed to dilate and need a c-section or you have to prepare to help someone drive the human equivalent of a Hummer through a bicycle lane, this is the moment.
I was super cool for baby 1. Relieved that it was to be a C-section, I was chatty, the doctors made slightly scandalized fun of my tattoo and very obvious tan lines, ‘you wore bkeenee recently eh?’ and when they brought me back into consciousness to witness my Baby A come into the world, I remember stroking her beautiful face and saying ‘well, hello there’.
Baby 2 was even easier. Small, neat, well behaved, the classic ‘three-push’ baby. Because the doctor had let it slip at a scan, I knew she was a girl, it was her and my little secret. She smiled on day one. I was in love for the second time.
It was surprise Baby 3 of course who broke the camel’s back. And bladder. And other unmentionables. After an incredibly loquacious labour while my sister prayed for the easy passing of my soul outside the theatre, the doctor pulled all four kilos of him out and chimed, “it’s a girl!” I was relieved. And then in Hindi, “oh my, how did he turn into a boy?” Whaaaa?
After fighting to have this baby, braving the sarcastic comments about ‘trying for a boy’, willing the baby to be a girl so I could ‘show them’ and also not have to worry about clothes or schools or learning how to clean under little boy-bits, I had a son. Shocking as it was, I held this infant, the size of a one month old, in my tired arms and stared and stared and stared. Who was this new person? A little man? What was I supposed to do with him?
And yet, there he was. And the universe did its thing of whirling me like a dancing dervish. Hawk-like, I watched his eyes, his mouth, the wisps of hair around his ears. He was the toast of the new kids on that block and soon gained a reputation in the nursery for being a big, loud pooper. The nurses gave him a nickname, ‘Gundappa’ and in that first twinge of pride, I knew again, like a fool, I was in love.
And I’ve stayed in love with all three. Believing in love at first sight. Or hormones.