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"When a new mum crawls into bed, ready to end the day in soft, shallow breaths,
She carries with her a baggage of carefree existence as before, in little chapters and pages.
She has a thousand nudges from every inch of her body, urging her to fall asleep.
But sometimes, in a rare event, maybe on account of caffeine, she forgets the time, she forgets to close the blinds to a tiring day, she's numb to all her physical aches.
And she watches her baby. And the time - it just flies her to dawn in one long, unending gaze."
For the millionth time, I crane my head to the side to look at the clock. I can’t believe it! It’s 4:58 am. It’s what you call the break of dawn, my only references to which come from literature and art and maybe an international flight long ago (even then I could only, very drowsily, capture it in a blur before pulling the shutter down to go back to sleep.) I have been up since 1:33 am, when a little life-form breathing softly next to me, self-activated her wailing siren. That abominable noise was reproduced from her tiny, almost invisible, throat cavity that vibrated faster than the speed of sound when she went into her sobbing spasms. The first time I heard it in my sleep, I thought, “Oh God, shut that thing up, whoever is the incompetent mommy!” Only to happy realization that that honourable badge now belongs to me.
Over time, I tried to see that sound more as my alarm clock that could go off at any time during the day, and no matter when, it seemed to rouse me from a state of slumber. But instead of the usual route of slamming the snooze button shut, I was invited for a decoding brain-game to make sense of the cacophony, to use my manipulation skills, to engage in a slow rocking dance, to make equally strange sounds inspired from Animal Planet but in reverse tempo, and finally, to unbutton my shirt. The first few days of it, I realized that I moved annoyingly slow from denial ("But that’s not possible. I just fed her!") to remedial action ("Just whip the damn thing out of your shirt, will you?"). Sometimes, I felt like one of those pretty swiss cows weaning cute little baby calves, frozen in an infomercial about the wholesome goodness of milk. And then I thanked God that I didn't have multiple little mouths latching on to me. Ouchie!
Every woman I met in that glorious time had some wise words to say about lactation. Oh yes. It was not flattering how the upper anatomy of my body had suddenly gained so much spotlight. I mean, sure it has had its share of unwanted attention but probably not from my own gender and definitely not more than now — now that it was holding milk. The interest in it was of noble proportions. Everything I consumed was directly related to how much it’ll refill my baby’s sippy cups. I was a walking human pacifier and I don’t mean just for my baby. My breasts seemed to have drunken all the old wifey tales wisdom and had gone a tad too far with their emergency preparedness. They were ready to fire at the wail of any baby in audible vicinity. Yea, I learned that the hard way in a crowded cafe. In a crisp white linen shirt.
Of course, breastfeeding is only natural. I didn't mind waking every other night at erratic hours to feed my baby. It didn't mean much to me. But every now and then, like that one night, after my baby finished devouring her post-midnight snack and was pretty much drifting away to her happy dreams of milk bottles, nipples and cute pink bunny bibs, I found more meaning to our one-one time. The world around was asleep, well except for probably another mum somewhere waking up groggy-eyed to address an eardrum-saving emergency. (Sorry party people and new couples. At that moment, you didn’t count.)
I stared at her face. I have looked at her face a million times before. In the first week, I looked at her in awe and dread, lest she broke into an uninvited tragic opera yet again. As I grew familiar with her, I looked at her to trace her lineage in her face — her grandparents, her aunt, her mum, her dad — they were all there in little scraps of flesh and bone. Her eyes are shut tight but they open every now and then, like they want reaffirmation that the world ( entailing her mother for the moment) is not falling apart. Through the night, her mouth wrinkles up in a sardonic smile, a sour frown, an achingly sad long face, an open-hearted wide grin… Little tufts of curly locks blow across her forehead. I brush my cheek against hers and her scent is enrapturing. I feel a bit sad that I have made no efforts to smell good for her — that she gets the smell of milk, sweat and curry in reciprocation. I tell myself, “Yea, yea enough with the psycho sniffing. Sleep now or spend tomorrow cranky and hormonal.”
I look at her face and I look at the time. It’s sunrise now. I get up to open the curtains ever so slightly, to usher in the sun and to seize it in her sweet face. That moment — it felt like it needed to be on a photo frame somewhere, maybe for a vulnerable place and time when you’re looking for love and you don’t exactly know where to find it.
It’s been nearly four years since that night when I started writing this post. It was left abandoned in a nondescript pile of drafts. But today, when I stumbled upon it, it was as if I had found that feeling of unadulterated love that I felt for her that night, one that has only grown leaps and bounds with every passing day. Ironically, it’s 1:18 am in my clock. My four-year old girl sleeps a sound sleep (with light snoring) next to me. Occasionally, her little hands slyly check if I'm still there by her side and have not left the room to watch TV.
It was as if that strange, hypnotic night — it never really ended.