My mother has always expressed her reservation about going abroad to help someone during delivery. Even if that someone happens to be her own children. While I respected her view, I couldn't help wondering why she was so averse to the idea. When other mothers seemed perfectly happy tending to their grandchildren and helping their daughters during the early months of the baby, why was my mother not keen on it at all? I suspect that her judgment on this issue was coloured by her dislike of her sisters-in-law (who did it all the time) and also with mild envy that she would never be called upon to do a service like they were. Well, little did she know!
Now, I knew from previous experience that childbirth is a time of great stress. I had my first son in India and it was an overwhelming experience. A combination of sleepless nights, turbulent hormones, physical and emotional exhaustion and the constant, stifling attention of family left me feeling utterly frustrated. I had had a perfectly normal pregnancy leading to a 'textbook' delivery. I had had a 4-hour labour (very rare in a first baby, apparently) and the baby was as normal as could be. And yet, all I ever heard was an exhaustive list of do's and don'ts that was designed to scare the toughest among us. Let alone a first-time mum. Not one smidgen of it was reassuring or calming. It was almost all bollocks in a well-meaning tone.
I knew from the outset that I had no chance of having it my way. Because I was up against the culture behemoth. The constant line I heard was that this was how things had always been done. After all, did they not raise us and countless other children this way? Frankly, what chances did I have against practices that went back hundreds of years (allegedly)? It reminded me of a story about a priest who used to go around a village performing ceremonies. An apprentice used to tag along with him in the hope of learning from the master. One day, when the priest had gone to a house to perform a ceremony, there happened to be a black cat in the house that kept running back and forth. The priest, being a superstitious bloke, ordered the cat to be tied to a pillar before he began performing the rituals. The apprentice made a note of it and years later, when he started practicing, refused to perform rituals unless there was a cat tied to a pillar!
When I had my baby, nearly everyone in the vicinity had an opinion on what was good and what certainly must be avoided. Don't go near this. Don't ever do that. Beware of this. God forbid should you ever do that. Yes, yes, I know they had my best interest at heart. But boy, was it relentless! To be fair, I tried to listen to every bit of advice that was thrown my way. Quite simply because it was hard to dodge them. And even harder to reason with. It was much easier to simply submit to it. But after about a month, I'd had enough. I hated the whole thing. And I swore to myself that if there was going to be another child, I would try and have it my way.
So this time, even before we'd picked up the phone to call India with news of the impending new arrival, the husband and I had made our minds up. We were going to manage things on our own. The fact that my mother's health wouldn't permit her to travel or to be of assistance to us made it an obvious decision. But how would the family react?
(to be continued...)