The happy story of motherhood invariably begins with one little discordant note. Amidst the congratulations from friends and family and the heady feeling of having reached a life-transforming milestone, one thing that invariably goes unmentioned to new mothers is that sleep will become the most precious thing in their lives, second only to the newborn squalling in their arms! Recently, I stumbled upon some old pages from my diary, written when my progeny was all of 40 days old.
From the Diary:
Motherhood. One little word with so very many nuances of color and meaning! I knew about the nappies, the feeding, the burping, the rocking-to-sleep thing. I didn’t know about the sheer sense of awe and wonder I would feel each time I looked at or held my little one. But all that awe threatens to disappear in a puff of smoke – this baby just won’t sleep! He seems to run on adrenaline. Even now as I write, my left hand is patting him, hoping he will shut his eyes (and I will shut mine too) but he seems fascinated by the wall-clock! J But the real battle of wills happens after dinner. The situation runs like this:
Mother (that’s me): Abhi, finish your feed and then sleep; don’t doze off now.
Abhi (if he could talk, this is what he might say): Huh? I am not too hungry…zzzz…or am I?…zzz…
Mother tickles Abhi’s ears in a vain attempt to get him to finish his feed. The doctor had advised her this was the best way to awaken a sleeping baby. Abhi obviously didn’t get the memo! She wonders how he manages to become drowsy at feeding times and valiantly resists sleep at other times.
Mother: One moment, let me hold you properly…
Abhi: Waaaanh! (mother quickly soothes him; he seems to finish his feed, all seems well)
Mother: Good boy! Now I will help you sit up and burp.
Abhi: Not the least bit interested! (Helpfully brings up some curdled milk instead. Mother quickly wipes him clean and starts worrying – is this normal? Does he need more feeding?)
Mother: Are you hungry?
Abhi responds by hiccuping, putting a stop to all further feeding plans.
Mother: O.K. Sleep-time. “Aye ghoom aye. Shona ghoomaye” (Bengali for “Come, sleep, come. The little darling sleeps.”)
Abhi opens his eyes wider and starts counting the squares of the mosquito-mesh at the window.
Mother: “Aamaar shone cheley. Please ghoomiye poro”. (“My darling boy, please go to sleep)
Abhi: Mom, there are 672 panels in this part of the mesh!
Mother: Aargh! What are you staring at? Shut your eyes, please!
Abhi: What a lovely little lampshade we have! Say, the curtains look a different colour at night. Interesting…
Mother is ready to collapse. She looks at the clock and decides there is no point in collapsing – the next feeding time is just minutes away! As a last-ditch effort, she decides to walk around with him, tired body notwithstanding. And he snoozes off. Victory! Mother wonders how a 40-day old infant can differentiate between the bed, the crib and her arms…Mother declares herself to be a student of “Bachelor of Child Care Management” taught by the University of Life and Experience!
Reflecting on the journey:
If anyone had told me that I would survive for months on end with barely four hours of sleep a day, I would have thought that to be impossible. And yet, motherhood seems to confer Superwoman-like powers on the humblest of us. Exhaustion battled with a supreme sense of hard-won patience. The latter won. Every time. The sheer force of unconditional love and an increasing sense of clarity about what the little one needed, were enough to deal with perpetual sleeplessness. The almost zombie-like days and nights segued into each other. And soon the infant grew to be a mischievous toddler, then a curious, inquisitive child, and is now, a strapping teen. Was I a patient person to begin with? Far from it! The first weeks and months of motherhood were therefore a “baptism by fire” for me. Over the years, there have been many, MANY more occasions for me to grow my “patience-muscle”. But this one was by far the sweetest and most definitive way to learn patience; truly claimed by the sheer persistence of a mother’s love.
Abhi and his mom – all round-eyed innocence!