Did I really make this wailing ball of flesh?
He had been nine months in utero, and god knows, I was curious to see how he’d turned out. So when they placed him on my stomach, a little mewling ball of flesh, I recoiled. The blood, the blood. I am, to put it politely, a little squeamish about blood. It was a miracle I didn’t pass out from the sight of this little creature they said they’d pulled out of me, even though it bore little resemblance to a human right now, never mind that it gave credence to the man descended from the apes theory. And of course, there was the myopia. Mine not his.
“Where are my spectacles?” I squealed, realising that the first moments of mother child bonding were to be perennially marred by the fact that I couldn’t see him too clearly. And of course I wanted to see him clearly, I had a roster list of things to be tick marked off, five digits per limb, one nos male appendage, two eyes, two ears, one mouth and such.
“Where are my spectacles?” I squealed again. The anaesthetist looked at the gynaec who looked at the nurse who then looked at the ward boy who grunted and looked around in a fair amount of confusion before it dawned on the cabal that the spectacles in question had been handed across to the mater for safekeeping, and the mater was outside the operation theatre, and a minion was despatched to retrieve the spectacles from her, and my mater in keeping with her penchant for keeping everything safely, had deposited the spectacles in the shelf back in the hospital room we were in, which was at a considerable distance away from the operating theatre. Consequently, my first view of the offspring was that of a red blur that looked somewhat like a newborn kitten or puppy, although the primary impression, in retrospect, was that of a monkey. Maternal love did not well immediately in the maternal breast, I must confess.
They whisked him off to be cleaned up, weighed and tested and announced proudly to me that he’d got an AGPAR of nine and my competitive streak automatically reared its ugly head and asked what the top score in this test was, and damn it, if he couldn’t ace his AGPAR now what hopes did we have at the JEE some years down the line.
I should have kept those spectacles handy. Perhaps for the next offspring, I told myself.
Finally, I was wheeled out of the operation theatre, the needlework completed, attached to a drip, smiling from a combination of relief that this was finally done with and I could get back to walking around without a baseball in my stomach and wobbling uncertainly every time I approached a long, curving flight of stairs.
I then drifted into a chemically induced sleep, and when I emerged blinking into the cold fluorescent light of evening, the offspring was brought in to see me. Swaddled in regulation hospital swaddle cloth and an ugly frilly cap on his head. No no no, I thought to myself, my kid cannot wear ugly frilly cap, not when the troops are marching in to view him and pass judgement on who he looks like, talking of which, whom did he look like, me or the spouse. I stared at the little mewling ball of flesh kept gently next to me, the side of me that wasn’t attached by intravenous needle to drip. Just then, he scrunched up his face or the crumpled, wizened, red squashed thing that was his face then and opened his eyes to look at me. Grey eyes. I froze. I imagined the spouse dashing off paternity suits and shaking an irate fist at me. Such lovely grey eyes and thick curling lashes. The newly minted maternal heart, it completely melted into mush, the oxytocin I know now, that had kicked in, and how. I would fight tigers barehanded, climb down cliffs, throw myself in the path of a speeding car, and even do calculus again if I needed to, for this child.
The child in question gave me a scathing, startled look and began bawling at the top of his voice. And what a voice it was. I was sure people from three adjoining suburbs would despatch representatives to check the source of this nuisance and were writing out petitions in triplicate to the authorities to do something about it.
“Feed him,” said my mother, who had been hitherto fawning over him with beaming grand-parental pride, throwing him at me.
“Feed him,” repeated the hospital ayah who was standing around with no actual purpose except to look most amused at my complete incompetence in the situation. It was a line I would hear the most often in the next 365 days. It was also the moment that I realised that I would never look at my breasts in the same way ever again.
Whenever the offspring so much as emitted one bawl, he would be thrown back at me with the command, “Feed him.”
I had never ever held a newborn in my life and all the dolls they make you practise with in the pre-natal classes don’t come with amplifiers for voice boxes, making your hands go all jittery, and likely to drop the swaddled ball of flesh onto the floor, and all the horror stories they tell you about babies who’ve been dropped on the head flash in Font Size 200 in the mind’s eye.
A nurse was sent for and the doctor on duty as well, because well, you might as well have an appreciative audience while you try to figure out which part of you should curl up and die when you have to reveal in a public situation a breast that is suddenly gigantic with what the mater casually informs you is “the milk coming in,” which you assumed would be nice and pleasant and the cause of much maternal and offspring bonding and nothing like what it really is, which is two massive boulders on your chest which you assume you will need a couple of wheelbarrows under, if you plan on moving out of the hospital bed ever and navigating the earth again.
All those years you spent, errm, stuffing your foundation garments with socks and such like, are nothing on this. But alas, there is nothing, nothing remotely sexy about suddenly finding your chest morphed into a natural heritage rock formation site, and I’m not even getting into the reason my kind doctor offered me a tube of lanolin based ointment with stern instructions to apply it on my nipples at regular intervals. Suffice to know it involved cracks and bleeding and not in the manner made popular by the books which dealt with red rooms of pain.
It was scary, this being the source of nutrition for another human. Another, very demanding human, who raised hell if he wasn’t provided with his feed on the dot, every couple of hours, ensuring that the entire suburb knew that he was being deprived of his victuals by his cruel mother.
Finally, one night, when all was quiet and nothing moved, not even the mouse, I stared down, in the flickering light of the television set to mute as I watched stick thin figures on fashion television, resolving to get there soon, at a little ball of flesh gulping greedily from my chest. I created him. He is mine, I thought, never mind what Kahlil Gibran had to say on the issue, and I couldn’t have been more proud. The grey eyes, by the way, have morphed into a lovely deep brown, like his father’s and the boy is now, a reduction Xerox of the spouse, and has inherited from the Y chromosomal donor the temper sitting on the nose, as they say in the colloquial. The plans for DNA testing have been well dropped.
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