The year that was…

January 1, 2017 – exactly 6 months that Ayden left us. With every Happy New Year beep on my phone, with every highlights of 2016 on Facebook, I think of the cruelest year that gave me the scars – in my heart & on my tummy.

For every gratitude message I see around me for all the blessings of 2016, I cringe. How I wish the bygone year never existed!

A new year, time to cheer
But not without a tear

Half a damn year today
that life left me midway

2016, how cruel were you
to let my heart bid adieu

I hate what you did there
In no way it is fair

I adored your first half
Didn’t give a minute to quaff

Counted days to the second
With all things nice & pleasant

How I cherished those scans
but, little did I know your plans

You promised me a coo;
Gave heartbreaks in lieu

The sharp ones from your sheath
Put my little one under the wreath

You took what was mine
that I nurtured for nine

I will not forgive
For the loss is massive

Thank the bygone year; they said
Sorry I can’t; it was a tough tread

To the year that is new,
Give me my right due

Promise only what is true
Gimme the colors, without a blue!

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All I want for Christmas…

Christmas!

The tree that we decorated at a friend’s place last week

We don’t really celebrate Christmas in our family. I really like Christmas season, but our religion doesn’t mandate it and hence my parents never made efforts to celebrate. But we did breathe Christmas every year.

I grew up in Kerala which has a huge Christian population. Our neighbor and my mom’s confidante, Mercy aunty used to invite us over for Christmas dinner. Susamma aunty & Lisa aunty & a few colleagues of my dad used to send homemade plum cakes – how I used to wait for them! My school had carol singing competitions & tree decoration. A santa would distribute gifts to all the students, along with a piece of cake. My college was run by missionaries; we used to have a gathering for message of the Christ by our college Principal. We always heard the midnight bell tolls from the church not so far.

Playing secret santa was something that I used to wait for every year – one with neighbor kids and one in school/college. I’ve sent Christmas cards to friends & family as a kid. I have received some. So, I had Christmas all around me during my growing up days.

Last year, my husband & I thought maybe we should have a Christmas tree at home. But we never invested time in it & it didn’t happen. You know, during last year Christmas pregnancy was priority than anything else. We had more cheer than any tree or star could give.

The Facebook TGA group that I’m a part of – parents have been uploading pictures of their little warriors who are celebrating their first Christmas this year. “My warrior’s first Christmas.” “My little boy all dressed up for his first Christmas.”

They all look adorable. I stared at some of their expressive eyes. I started thinking – Ayden’s first Christmas. I guess we would have bought a Christmas tree if he was here. I would have bought tiny santa costumes and dressed him up in that, taken a pic and shared with friends and family and maybe share the same on that TGA group. Maybe upload that pic on this blog. Wait, I wouldn’t have had this blog if he was here. Or maybe I would have – a parenting blog.

If only santa could come & leave the only present I’d ever want, in my empty crib!

Thinking of all the little ones who are not in our arms to celebrate their first Christmas! Thinking of their parents whose Christmas is not the same this year!

Merry Christmas!

The unsung lullabies

So, this happened today.

We have our secret santa game going on in our team at work. Santas have been actively giving fun tasks to everyone. This guy who is good at mimicry was asked to mimick all the managers in the team. This friend who was good at poetry was asked to recite a poem praising herself, and so on.

One of my teammates has a 1 year old son. She got a task to sing a lullaby to an audience of at least 10. Santa’s ask was to record it and send it to the team for whoever must have missed it.

She sang Surmayee akhiyon mein… The song is from an 80’s cult classic movie where the hero tries to put the childish heroine to sleep. Thousands of kids have slept to this song since the 80s.

She sang it beautifully. Lovely voice. I was the one recording it on the phone to be sent to the team. Lullaby, right? I sensed a lump in my throat as she was singing. This was the first time I was hearing one after May 2016. For the fear of drawing attention, I continued to stay there until she was done. I went back to my desk, humming this song and fighting the lump at the same time.

I opened YouTube and listened to this song on loop. I like the original version of this song better, which is in Tamil language. I like the sentiments and words choice in this better. I switched to the Tamil version after sometime.

To all the unsung lullabies that formed the lump, I’ll sleep to one tonight!

Getting back to work after Ayden

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After 3 months of Ayden’s passing away, I got back to work in October. Nervous to the core. With a major fear of attention, I avoided eye contact with most people.

Some came & hugged me. Thank you!

Some came and asked – How’s your baby doing now?

Some others asked – Oh you are back from maternity leave! Baby boy or girl?

I expected these. I was ready with my answers. Still, it was tough to respond. I had a socially accepted brave-momma mask on for the most part of it.

I felt awkward only when someone asked me these in the elevator with a few others in it – mostly acquaintances or strangers. Just to avoid any heads turning, I always responded, with a smile of course – Baby boy, and… I’ll ping you the rest. The tone was very low too, just enough for them to know that there’s something else coming their way.

I’d go back to my desk and wonder what to ping them, where to start. Thanks to the computer screens between us, it wasn’t difficult to explain.

Google has really friendly staff. Our kitchen staff knows everyone. Our head chef gave me a hug as he saw me at breakfast (his daughter was my husband’s student at college, so we knew each other on that front as well). During pregnancy, he had offered to make me special lunch if I found discomfort with any of the food that was already made. He would check on me how I was doing. He would occasionally advice me on eating that day’s palak paneer or the protein packed salad as they are all good for the growing baby. So, I knew the meaning of that hug.

At lunch, the sous chef came to me as I was picking up my brown rice & dal.

“So good to see you ma’am after so long”

“Thank you” I smiled

“So, baby boy or girl?” 

“Uhhh… Boy…” I picked myself back up and continued “but he passed away.”

He put his hand on his chest, moved one step back. I know, he wasn’t expecting that at all. I felt sorry that he had to face that.

“I’m very sorry to hear that. I don’t know what to say… I…”

Only I could break the awkwardness “He was born with a heart condition. Had an open heart surgery, but there were complications. We lost him when he was about a month old”

I had multiple other details going on in my head – premature, TGA, critical, arteries, aorta, emergency, ventilator, pacemaker, blood transfusion… I chose only what I thought would make sense for him.

Bumped into another acquaintance, who asked – hey… I haven’t seen you in so long. Where you on a rotation or something? (Rotation is what we call when we work with our offices in other locations for a long time of 3-6 months)

“I was on maternity leave” What? Did I just say that? Why? What was I thinking? I could have just said – I was on long leave or medical leave or leave for whatever other reasons… Really? Maternity leave? Now how do I fix this?

“Oh, I didn’t know you were pregnant”

Before he said congratulations, I jumped in “but that didn’t end well. My son passed away”

“Oh, I’m so sorry about that”

Again, why did I say maternity leave? He must be thinking that I’m an attention seeker. Now I definitely need to explain. So… born with heart disease, surgery, died… Explained in a sentence, I guess.

Week 1, I also saw a lot of newly pregnant women in office. It was kinda bittersweet. The thought of the little ones those moms-to-be would be dying to meet, was soothing. The thought that I was dying to meet mine, and well, he died, was heart-wrenching. Man, is the world taking revenge on me in the form of pregnant women around, for whatever little karma points I may have?

Oh, and there was one co-pregnant woman in my larger team who had a healthy baby girl in June, 2 weeks after Ayden was born. I read that birth announcement at the hospital. My eyes scanned for her. Then realized, she must still be on maternity leave. I was the one who cut-short my maternity leave and got back to work.

The how’s your baby now and boy or girl questions continued for more than a month. Occasionally, I still get that.

I don’t see some of those pregnant women anymore in office – must have gone on mat leave. Some are still around with the ready-to-pop belly.

The co-pregnant is done with her mat leaves and is joining back next week (I secretly checked her calendar just to know that)

It was actually difficult to get back to work. I didn’t remember half of the things. I was wondering what tools to open. I had forgotten the names of my counterparts in overseas offices. I was blank & was very reluctant to ask for help.

It still is difficult. For the most part, I try focusing. At times when I lose it, I quietly push myself to the restroom, or blog for a bit. I pick myself back up, pat on my back and convince self to work on that extremely boring analysis that my client has been pestering me for.

 

3 weddings & a funeral

The funeral was Ayden’s. The weddings were our cousins’.

In less that a month of Ayden’s passing, my husband’s cousin was getting married.

I decided I won’t attend the wedding. Reasons – 1) I was really not in a mood to celebrate anything, 2) I didn’t want to face extended family coming and telling me ‘time is the healer’ or ‘you’ll have a kid soon.’

But this cousin, whom I am decently close to, insisted that I attend her wedding, and she assured me that nobody will come and tell or ask me things that I didn’t want to hear. I knew, it’s not in her hands, but I still went for the wedding for her.

I regretted going.

It pulled me apart to see that everybody was celebrating without having to worry about how they’ll live the next day. They had come from different cities to be part of the wedding. I was there, smiling throughout, avoiding any eye contact wherever I sensed insensitivity at an arms length.

I still heard things that I never wanted to hear.

August 14th.

My cousin’s wedding. We are a big & close-knit family. A cousin is as important as your own sibling, in the broader sense. So, missing that wedding would be a big deal. I, of course, didn’t want to attend. I was dreading any call from my aunt insisting that I travel to my hometown to attend the wedding. I was making up excuses in my mind.

But thank goodness, sensitive people do exist. She called me up and invited for the wedding and added – I know you might not want to come. That’s ok. It’s difficult for me to answer a few people when they ask about what happened. So, I can imagine how difficult it will be for you to explain. So, feel free to skip the wedding, if you feel that way.

I was relieved.

December 3rd.

Another wedding in the family. Again, my cousin’s. By then I was back to work, so my excuse was ready – I don’t think I’ll get leaves around then because I’ve just joined back. Everybody bought that.

After the wedding, I called my cousin’s mom, my aunt. She said – everything went on perfectly well, except that you were not here. We all missed your presence. For all the weddings in the family, you are always the first one to initiate singing, dancing… We missed all that.

I’m supposed to say – I missed it too. But I avoided that part, because, honestly I didn’t miss any of that. I was happy sipping on my evening coffee in my pajamas when all the singing and dancing was happening in another part of the country.

No more weddings coming up anytime soon in the family. So, that’s a solace. But there are quite a lot of birth announcements coming up in the next few months. I’ll brace myself for that!

Please don’t force me to get over it

It was long drive with one of my relatives. He was dropping me at the airport. I’ve always liked him; he’s a nice man. It was almost an hour’s drive, so we had enough time to talk about a lot of things. We started off with regular things like travel, work, etc. Then slowly, he asked about Ayden. I was happy. I was happy that he remembered my son. I was happy to hear his name. I was happy to answer all his questions.

A few minutes later, I wanted him to stop talking. Reason – he wanted me to forget, he wanted me to move on, he wanted me to not think about it. I gave enough hints to say that it hurts, and I don’t want to talk about it now. He just wouldn’t get it. I wasn’t angry, but I was very disappointed. I was helpless. I was very hurt.

I was being polite and didn’t want to be rude. I thought he would understand, but I was wrong.

I was thinking of that conversation throughout my flight. This time I was angry. Why would he tell me how I should be? Am I wrong if I judge him for what he told me?

A similar conversation happened with a friend. She called me to pass on her condolences. She asked how I was doing. I said, I’m fine. I lied. She immediately responded – I’m glad you are fine. Anyway, what is the point of thinking about it all the time. Just forget it. I was very surprised & shocked to hear that. My already broken heart broke further into million other pieces, but I still didn’t respond. Then she added – take it as an experience. That’s it. This time, I couldn’t take it. I told her, politely enough – I will not forget it or him. I don’t want to forget.

Take it as an experience? Really? And, that that’s it was the icing on the cake. I was furious. Why didn’t I tell her that then? I have no answer.

Just because I smile, laugh or seem alright to you doesn’t mean I’m over it. I will never be.

In both the instances, I hid my anger. I was polite. Why? Because, you know, grief is personal and you are kinda expected to grieve in private. And, that’s a problem.

There’s so much stigma on grieving. The traditional accepted notion of grief is to cry. You cry as much as you want. But, it’s not accepted beyond a point. There’s an unwritten timeframe. You are expected to get over after that socially stipulated timeframe. If you still mourn, you are looked at as negative. You are someone who doesn’t want to be happy.

1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 10 years… I will still grieve. I will mourn my son. If that makes you uncomfortable, that still doesn’t give you the license to give me unsolicited advice on getting over or being happy.

Please don’t tell me how I should divert my mind. Please don’t tell me that I need to be happy. I don’t see anyone asking a terminally ill person to just snap out of the illness. Our grief is similar. We just can’t snap out of it.

I very well know that life has to go on. But after child loss, it goes on very differently. Please give us that chance to breath again. Please let us grieve or mourn in our own way. Please don’t ask us to forget. Please don’t force us to be happy. We’re happy in our own way. We’re happy thinking of our son. We’d be happier if you understood us a little bit and let us live the grief, because that’s the truth.

To that relative of mine who wanted me not to grieve – just for a second, just for one single second, think. Think of your little boy in that situation. I hate to tell you this, but there’s no other way I can make you remotely understand what I’m going through.

 

Acacia

Acacia passed away 3 days back, on Tuesday, 29th Nov. She was 54 days old.

I don’t know Acacia. I don’t know her parents. All I  know is she was a TGA kid too, like Ayden. Her dad had posted some queries on a Facebook TGA group when they found out about her TGA. I chatted up with him on a few related things.

On Wednesday, on my way back home from a vacation, I saw her dad’s Facebook announcement of her passing away. He added a pic too, of her sleeping on her hospital bed. She had a purple head band with big purple flower. A beautiful baby girl!

It was a 6 hrs layover at the Kolkata airport; trying to kill time. My heart sank when I saw the post. I wanted to cry. I moved away from my friends in the pretext of having to use the restroom. I cried in the restroom. I thought about her all day, the next day and today… I looked at her picture multiple times.

More so, I thought about her mom. Acacia was her first born too. Unfortunately, I actually know what she must be going through. I know she will be holding her tummy tight at every reality bite. I wish I could give her a hug, and tell her that it’s not easy.

Today, Dec 2, Ayden would have turned 6 months. I would have taken one more growth pic of him today with the same background as the last 5 months, as I had planned.

Thinking of Ayden, I think of Acacia, Mia & Kia – a few other neonates who joined him later. (I’ll write about Mia & Kia some day)

Hope they all give each other good company up there. RIP little angels!