Please note: This is Ep.25
Please go here for Ep.24
(As everything I write is true, names have been changed to protect identities.)
Daisy the Frickin’ Cow
I’m crying on the garage floor, practically hugging the tyre of my husband’s car, begging him not to leave me, not to get in the car and go to work.
I can hear my in-laws shouting at each other inside the house. “Do something. Get her inside!” my father-in-law pleads. “We have to go to work!”
“I can’t!” I hear my mother-in-law retort. “What am I supposed to do with her. All she wants to do is go to her mother!”
Leaving me in a heap of tears alone on the garage floor, I watch Maanav’s car back out and drive off. The automatic door whirrs down on my darkness again. It’s quiet now. Where did everyone go? In a daze, I pick myself up and find my way back to the other side of the sizable house, to my sleeping baby, blissfully unaware of his teenage mother’s torment.
It had been barely a couple of years since I had tried to take my own life and received no proper mental health support from doctors or my family. So, it was to no amazement that adjusting to new ‘wifeyhood’ and motherhood hadn’t been plain sailing. I went from a working-class household of abusive language, violence and neglect by my father to living independently as a precocious teenager with no rules and no one to answer to, smoking cigarettes and weed and drinking, to now the daughter-in-law of one of the wealthiest and most respected Jain-Indian families in England.
Although they bought me clothes, cars, trips abroad and anything I needed, and gave me no budget limit to redecorate the entire top floor of the house where Maanav and I slept, I still felt like an outsider. Like I didn’t belong. The way they lived their lives, the way they were as a family, was so different from anything I knew.
None of us were given much of a grace period as I was already pregnant and sick every day when I moved into their home, so rather than me taking care of them and getting to know each other, they were taking care of me from the outset. Although I did my best around the house, and they loved my cooking, I wasn’t able to do it as regularly as I’d hoped. I felt more like a permanent patient in their home than a family member. My mother-in-law, bless her, worked tirelessly to take care of me before and after Jai was born. But everyone has their tipping point and it wasn’t her fault.
I’d also lost a lot of blood during the delivery. For some months following Jai’s birth, I was ghostly pale, severely anaemic. The doctors wanted to give me a blood transfusion. They said I needed it; my body was in a state of desperation. But it was decided against. My iron supplements were upped and my father-in-law suggested I drink Guinness to boost my haemoglobin. I didn’t, of course; I was still trying to feed my new baby… And that wasn’t going quite according to plan either.
Because, when he was born, when the first day’s excitement was over and everyone had gone home from the hospital, when it had finally been time to spend some much-anticipated bonding and cuddling time alone with my baby and feed him for the first time… my baby wasn’t there.
My first night was spent alone. No Jai in my belly to talk to. No Jai in my arms. I had only a polaroid photo of my newborn, which they’d snapped and handed to me when they’d taken him, all of a sudden, to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Alone now, in a sterile, empty hospital room, with nothing but a drab polaroid photo with the date scribbled at the bottom to look at felt eerie and my body felt vacant. I didn’t like it. I missed him so much. I cried myself to sleep with Jai’s photo in my hands. Was my baby going to come back?
It turned out, Jai was a little jaundiced (quite common amongst South Asian babies) and had to spend his first few days away from me under a UV light in intensive care.
There, they had already, without my knowledge or consent, begun to feed him by the bottle. Exhausted from the labour, I slept the entire night. Nobody came to wake me to feed him. And on the second day, when they finally did bring him to me, he wouldn’t latch on.
I’d read all the baby books, Maanav and I had attended all the prenatal classes and I knew I wanted to give my baby the best start in life; I was adamant about breastfeeding him. But Jai simply didn’t want to take it. It seemed, once he’d had the comfort and ease of the bottle on the first day, he wanted it and only it. The breast must have been too much hard work for him and for very little sustenance at that. My milk hadn’t come in yet.
I spoke to a nurse about it. She promptly disappeared from my room to return moments later, rolling in an aggressive-looking machine on wheels: a supposed breast pump. My eyes widened. I was being introduced to Daisy. Yes, as in Daisy the Cow. And, I felt just like a cow being milked. Not a happy one either. More like the ones that are milked by frightening, painful-looking machines. And Daisy here looked like she’d been retrieved from a museum of the Industrial Revolution. The nurse hooked me up, switched her on and went off on her rounds. The noise Daisy made was deafening. The sucking noises clamoured at my eardrums as if I were sitting in some kind of manufacturing plant. And it hurt.
After around 15 minutes of excruciating pain and noise, Daisy had left me swollen and bruised. Another nurse who popped in to take my vitals saw my pained face and was alarmed. She switched the pump off and helped me out of it. I panicked as the nurses argued amongst themselves (thinking I was out of earshot) that I shouldn’t have been attached to the machine for so long; it was only supposed to be one minute to begin with. The nurse who’d hooked me up to Daisy in the first place apologised, but the damage was done.
Still, I wasn’t going to give up. I tried everything, even after we’d gotten home from the hospital, for weeks, I was adamant that I could successfully feed Jai. I took advice from everyone. I tried every trick and gadget available, but he was only content with a bottle. When I finally got a severe case of mastitis and infection set in with freezing chills and a high fever, I had to take antibiotics and I knew it was game over. At least I could say, I’d tried my absolute best.
I didn’t know Daisy the Cow was the least of my troubles. The baby blues had taken hold and the final thread of myself that I held on to, collapsed. But no one, least of all myself, seemed to realise I needed professional help. No one offered it. Not even when I was crying on the garage floor, trying to hug a car tyre.
Please go here for Ep. 26