Dear Little Creature #1,
I’ve finally come around to writing my letter to you.
I’ve been meaning to write some sentimental letter filled with motherly mush ever since you were born in 2011 but I didn’t really know what to say. What could I say to someone who was a stranger to me back then?
That was how I saw you then, you know? A stranger.
The first time I heard you cry in the operating room and then saw you all bloody and wrinkled and pink, I burst into tears. I don’t know why. They didn’t feel like tears of joy. If it’s any consolation, neither were they tears of despair.
The poor, funny, ugly little creature. I had expected you to be a little cuter. Maybe that’s what made me cry.
Who are you? I thought, when the nurse wheeled you to room-in with me like some freshly baked delicacy. You did look like food fresh out of the oven, wrapped burrito style in that thing called a swaddle set in that newborn baby bed that looked like a glass baking pan. I was expecting to feel that blissful love a mother is supposed to instantly feel about her newborn. But it wasn’t there. Not that I hated you. I just felt…
A couple of days into this motherhood thing and I was failing at it quite brilliantly. How do I even hold you? Can you believe a midwife had to come in to give me some tips? And I even had to practice! I held you and hugged you and carried you and it felt awkward and artificial, as if you did not fit in my arms.
I was supposed to talk to you, they said, to let you hear my voice. But what do I say? How do I talk to you? “Oi, baby, I’m your mother. Who are you? Can I get back to sleep?”
So I just stared at you blankly. Really, couldn’t you have at least made some effort to be a little cuter, a little cuddlier? Your limbs, they’re so skinny. Sometimes you stared back with those creepy beady little eyes as if you could actually see me.
Four days into this motherhood thing… we took you home…there was still none of that blissful feeling. My ineptitude was both frustrating and infuriating. And I still just wanted to get back to sleep.
Things could have been different between us had I been prepared for you. Of course I had all the years before you were born and all the nine months I had been carrying you inside me to prepare for motherhood but I was an arrogant little b* who thought that the legendary mother instinct will instantly and magically kick in and fuel me into motherhood and I’d rock it like Gwen Stefani.
Six days… seven days… ten… uh, nope.
You confused me. You gave me pain. You already used my body as an incubator for nine months. I wanted it back. I thought I’d get it back. But you wanted more, needed more. You invaded my life. You drained my energy. You claimed my body as your personal vending machine of nourishment. You took my time away from me and trapped me in your endless cycle of sleeping, crying, feeding, peeing, pooping…. sleeping, crying, feeding, peeing, pooping…
And then… and then… as you sucked me further into your cycle, there were hugs and kisses and coos and giggles and laughter and chubby thighs and chubby cheeks and winks and baby talks and imagination in between until one day, I realized that I had fallen hopelessly in love with you. I cannot say the exact moment when it happened. It just happened. What’s the point of my life? I can now say confidently that it’s you, of course.
Your hugs, my hugs… we fit perfectly. How could I have thought otherwise?
When I look back to our two plus years together, I would not change a thing… except maybe my whiny attitude.
Now you’d think I’d give up on having a second baby. But here I am again, with your 14-day-old baby brother, Rohan.
The second time around is different, people say. And it sure is, but not in the way I assumed.
The second pregnancy, people said, is likely to be more difficult. And mine did during the last few weeks of my term. My belly was a lot heavier and your little brother settled lower into my pelvic area two weeks before his due date so I had to go on medical leave lest I go into early labor.
Giving birth to your brother took about an hour. Doctor Sheila had a difficult time scooping him out from me in spite of the fact that I started going into labor the moment I laid on the operating table. My pelvic area was apparently too small for him and he found it more comfortable to burrow deeper into me right at the moment the tummy slashing happened. I was given anesthesia and epidural but I could still feel the squishing and the digging happening somewhere in the middle of my body (My God, were they disemboweling me?). It was not very pleasant. In my mind, it was the stuff that disturbing horror movies were made of.
With you, I felt no false contractions, no labor pains. With you, the birthing process took just about 30 minutes.
But the most significant difference between your and little Rohan’s birth, to my amazement, was my attitude towards him. I was expecting to feel the way I felt when I saw you for the first time, impassive. I didn’t cry when I saw him, but I wanted to be with him. He was all pink and wrinkly and yes, ugly, but in a beautiful way and I loved him instantly…
…because when I saw him, I also saw your face, I saw you and I was reminded of how much I love you and maybe for that reason, I fell in love with him instantly. Does that make sense?
I was brought to the recovery room after the operation and I know I was given some relaxant but I felt restless. All I could think about was your baby brother. It didn’t help that I could overhear the staff on duty gossiping about some weekend getaway of some other staff member who was having some affair with some person or two (I wanted to join in).
When both of us were finally wheeled into our room, instead of resting, we talked all night. Or rather, I talked to him all night. Like you, he stared at me with his beady eyes, which I didn’t find creepy at all. Maybe the nurses got my meds mixed up and gave me stimulants because on and on and on I went like crazy. I was at my chatty best.
Before you get the wrong idea, know that I did not write this letter to put you down or to compare or to even make anyone think that I love one brother more than the other.
You know what I talked about all day and all night at the hospital?
I told him how smart and funny and disarming you are, how much you make me laugh, how you never cease to amaze me each day, how you constantly suck me into your world of toddler wonders and imagination and creativity, how much you love dinosaurs and Disney Cars 1 and 2 and Katy Perry’s Roar MTV and toy eggs and how at such a young age, you know the names of some dinosaurs and all the names of the characters in Cars 1 and 2. I even made him listen to your voice from the videos of you in my phone.
(Don’t ruin my moment and indulge because I’d like to think that Rohan understood every word I said.)
I couldn’t wait to see you and I was excitedly anticipating you finally seeing your little brother as more than the mysterious “baby/dinosaur” (yes, you sometimes referred to him as a dinosaur) inside mommy’s belly.
When you finally did come to visit at the hospital, I had never felt so happy. “Yo-Han!” you said as you gazed at your baby brother. Your voice whenever you said his name is different, a little higher and a lot gentler than your regular voice. Your eyes lit up in wonder and happiness and at that moment, you to me were the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. You seemed to accept him and love him instantly, like I did.
I had to hold back the tears. That time, I am sure, they were tears of joy, of relief, and of course, of triumph. You are growing up to be a smart, loving young boy and I had something to do with that. My fears about how you were going to react to having a baby brother were unfounded. Sure, I expect that I will be dousing quite a number of squabbles and disputes and power struggles in the years to come, but for now, I will make do and savor your positive and beautiful reaction.
I feel a little bit more equipped to bring up Rohan because of my experiences with you.
Your babyhood was and your toddlerhood is a time of discovery, exploration, experimentation, and trial & error. Ours was not a love at first sight, but don’t think for a moment that it was your fault. You were a lovely boy. I just didn’t know what to do then… and maybe even now. It took me months to get to know you. They weren’t all that easy. You continue to drive me crazy, but I would not have it any other way.
With Rohan, I am sure I will continue to stumble and fumble with motherhood. He is an entirely different person, but this time around, I hope to make fewer mistakes because you have already shown me what to do.
Who are you? I continue to find out. I love finding out, and I can’t wait to see who you will be in the years to come.