In memory of a first & last Father’s Day

Unfortunately, that first & last were the same – the Father’s Day of 2016. On June 19th.

The little boy that made any sense to that Father’s day was just 17 days old. Attached to more tubes & wires his body could endure. His chest was closed just the previous day, 9 days after his open heart surgery.

His dad, a nervous, emotional, worried and tired bag of love, stood motionless looking at his son, wondering if he’ll be able to hold him for his second. That was probably the longest he looked at him without a blink. His wife captured that moment on her phone.

He, who had imagined his first Father’s Day to be different, to be slightly colorful, came out of the ICU, teary-eyed, told his wife – “I hope it’s not my last.” His wife vividly remembers that conversation. She knew too, that there’s a possibility that it could be his last. But both of them caught hold on to that one tiny bit of hope that was the only way forward. She didn’t want to give him any false promises. She just smiled. Maybe, held his hands.

When the day started with both of them acknowledging that it’s Father’s Day, with a happy yet worried smile, they didn’t know it could get this intense. A friend who did not have the courage to send him a note, sent her instead:

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She passed it on to him. He smiled & responded to that friend with the pic from that day of him looking at his son, standing by his bed – a pic that spoke of multitude emotions.

Later that day, in their hunger for the deserved acknowledgement, they reminded their son’s surgeon that it’s that special day. He’s a father too; he’ll know it.

A while later, when reality slowly started biting, she told him – I don’t think I’ll have my first Mother’s Day with him. And, you may not have your second.”  She was right!

 

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The last few hours of your child’s life

Not sure what’s worse – your child’s death or knowing that she/he has just a couple of more hours to live.

Ayden passed away on a Friday afternoon. The same morning, when his BP went down drastically low, it was kinda understood that he’s not going to make it. Doctors still did whatever they could. Around 9-10 am, his surgeon very hesitantly told us that he just has 1 or 2 hours left. I swallowed a big lump down my throat.

I didn’t try to think.

I took my mother, sister and a close friend inside the ICU to let them see him alive for one last time.

Eerie!

I called important family members, so they have time to take the next available flight/bus/train whatever.

Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 4.19.25 PMI started packing our things in the hospital room. Threw my lactation supplements in the bin. changed my clothes. Called a friend to come and be with me at the hospital. She reached in no time. Just sat outside ICU for sometime. Restless, walked aimlessly in the hospital corridors. Startled every time the ICU door opened.

Went to the coffeeshop downstairs with the friend. Sat there in silence for almost an hour trying to gulp down one sip of coffee. While sitting there, a friend messaged asking how Ayden was. I didn’t respond immediately. I didn’t want to tell her we’ve been told he’s gonna die. I thought, I’ll respond to her when that happens. She’s a close friend and had genuine concern for me. So I knew she must be waiting for a reply. So, after a bit I replied – He’s not gonna make it. Maybe just another 2-4 hrs. The doctors said 1-2 hrs and already 1 hr was over. But I told her 2-4 hrs just in that tiny hope of extending his life a wee bit more.

Another friend who’s been with me throughout was traveling that day, messaged me – I’m on my way to the airport now, but remember I’m always just a call or WhatsApp away.” I didn’t want to screw up her flight. So I just said thank you. She got to know of Ayden’s passing just a couple of minutes before she boarded the flight.

Now when I look back to those couple of hours, I don’t know what my emotions were. I don’t know what drove me to do the things that I did. I don’t know how I was pulling myself together. I don’t know how I had the courage to pack things, inform people, or sip that coffee. Revisiting every detail of that day gives the same chills as it is happening now, right in front you.

Every second is a live video in my mind – when I was told “It’s over”… the helpless look on the nurses’ face when they saw us coming in right after they unplugged the supports that wasn’t needed anymore… the anesthetist trying to hold back her tears… his lifeless body on that oversized bed, with a blue bedsheet & cute Donald duck prints…

I’m a mother who waited for her son’s death, knowing it will happen. I’m a mother who lived her son’s death even before it happened.

Some of us do have to catch the wrong flight home!

 

Happy birthday!

June 2 – My baby’s first birthday!

Wasn’t he born just 2 months ago? I’ve been getting butterflies in the tummy like I did for my 10th board exam.

I woke up earlier than usual today. Hugged Ayden tight, kissed him softly and said – Happy birthday baby. He wriggled & then attempted to cry. Nobody likes to be disturbed in sleep.

I was glad it was a public holiday, so I didn’t have to take an additional day off to accommodate all the arrangements for his birthday.

My phone kept buzzing throughout with birthday wishes pouring in from friends & family and even from his stemcell bank. I was overwhelmed. My sister made a collage of his pictures & sent it on our family WhatsApp group. That was sweet.

I took a screenshot of the time on my phone – 9:46 am, the exact time of his birth last year. Do all new moms do this – trying to document every single milestone, even the minute ones?

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I quickly whipped up a toast+omelette breakfast & had it quicker than the time Ayden took to mess up his porridge yesterday. I don’t blame him – porridge is the long lost brother of broccoli. Yeww!

When I went back to the room, I melted at the daddy & son cuddle scene. But, my motherly ego was jealous as well – Why is it that he always smiles & laughs when it comes to daddy & makes faces at me? Oh ya, I’m the one who gives him porridge!

By then it was already 11. We had told the Children’s Home that we’d be there by 12. Thankfully, getting Ayden ready is easy. He likes playing in the tub, so his bath gets done without any tantrums. I had already packed back-up clothes & diapers for him the previous day.

Even before he was born I had envisioned my baby’s first birthday to be an intimate one with family and for him. I wasn’t a great advocate of having a big party with the whole of family & friends & neighbors around. I have attended a lot of those parties & enjoyed them as well, but was disturbed with the fact that the babies often got cranky with the presence of a lot of unknown people. With absolutely no judgement on parents who throw big parties for their children’s birthdays, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of subjecting him to an atmosphere he most probably won’t like. So, the plan was to go to a Children’s Home, and let him spend some time with the kids there, distribute some chocolates & books or uniform or anything that makes sense to them. Cliche – I know, but I thought this would be much better than taking the stress of arranging a party, making it successful, and more importantly, Ayden wouldn’t know anything about the party – it wouldn’t be for him; it would be for our parental satisfaction. Playing with the kids at the Home might get him introduced to socializing & meeting new people who are like him.

I also wanted a cake smash for him, followed by a dinner with his grandparents & aunt & uncles.

We reached the Children’s Home on time. We spent a formal 15 minutes with the authorities. They wished Ayden. When he reached out for the secretary’s pen in his pocket, he stopped him with one hand & held his cheeks with the other and jokingly said – start with crayons and we’ll eventually move to pencils & pens. Ayden smiled. He smiles when he sees men with beard.

The Home had about 35-40 kids of different ages. Some, of his age too. They pulled each others’ possessions, cried, peed. The older kids made sure they didn’t get hurt. We didn’t take any pictures – didn’t want to.

We reached back home in time for his nap. He’s got his daddy’s genes – nothing comes between him & his afternoon naps. I opened the fridge to check the cake once again. The frosting is set. I always had this idea of having a baby friendly cake for his birthday. Hence, I made one at home – sweetened with bananas & dates, no artificial colors or flavors. I have no qualms of dressing up a boy in pink or a girl in blue. So, for the frosting color, I used natural beetroot juice & the result was a calming pink frost on that 100% baby friendly cake. I was proud & happy with the outcome.

Ayden’s grandparents arrived by evening. Some emotional exchange around he’s-a-big-boy-now ensured the intimacy of the gathering. As planned, we smashed the cake. I heard my mother-in-law advising to change his white clothes into something dark shaded, so it doesn’t get stained. Despite the OCD, I wasn’t keen on that – let him play, let him get messy! Plus, the pink frost on white clothes will look prettier & baby-ish.

He kept banging the cake laughing wide, & putting his cake covered hands into his mouth & everywhere else he had access. The camera & phones didn’t stop clicking. I’ve read that babies picking up food things & putting in their mouth on their own has an impact on their mental well-being & improves motor skills. I happily let him pick the cake crumbs from anywhere on the table, in whatever fashion he fancied. Ok, I lied; actually I didn’t read that anywhere – the self-declared scientist in me assumed so.

Post his second bath of the day, we headed out for dinner. I packed the porridge for the birthday boy. Sorry baby – I can’t take chance with your food & health.

Must be my mommy-eyes – I asked the waiter to remove the lit candles from the table even before we sat. I don’t trust the wriggly toddler. I felt bad that the dinner was more for us than for the boy himself. Out of guilt, I mashed a bit of plain rice, mixed it with the not-so-spicy daal and put it in his mouth. I don’t know if he liked it, but his fierce focus on the strand of noodle dangling down the bowl in front of him, unhappy with his failed attempt to access it, had him say “really mom, you only found the same old daal-rice to feed me on my first birthday, and not any of  those fancy looking things that you guys are gobbling on? Adults!!!”

We reached back home late in the night. I was exhausted, but content. I put him to bed, and lay down with him for a few minutes before getting ready for bed. He wants either of us to be with him until he’s in deep sleep; otherwise, he wakes up in no time. Everybody wants to feel safe & secure. I was committed to making him feel that way. Daddy, without even changing his clothes, stuck to his little boy & drifted to sleep holding him tight. This must be the n-th time that captured that image on my phone, like I am seeing it for the first time.

I spent another hour looking at that day’s pictures & traveling back in time to “it’s a boy” to vaccination sessions where I cried louder than him and the first mother’s day and the first vacation with him when he was 6 months old and faking sick leaves to just get that extra morning cuddle time with him and everything else to this day where I happily let motherhood take precedence over most of the other things in life that I thought was important.

I looked at that 1-fricking-year old tiny thing sleeping next to me, wrapped in his daddy’s protective arms. Oh my goodness – he’s so beautiful. I mean the baby, not daddy. I kissed him one last time for the day before I attempted to sleep.

***

None of these actually happened in real. It could have if life wasn’t cruel, but it didn’t. Ayden didn’t live long enough to smash his first birthday cake.

It was just how his mummy had imagined his first birthday to be, lying in the post-op room minutes after his birth!