Thank you, everyone, for being a part of this story. It took me a while to get back to this, I apologise, Please join me to give a shout-out to Medha Shri. Medha, thank you for being a part of Os.me. It’s a very warm and loving place.
Continuing with the story Little Mama (the previous part, here):
The story is presented with my painting, ‘The Birth’, which depicts the elements of fire, water, and earth at birth.
Four weeks went by and then one day, as I was having a full day at the clinic with diversity built in every minute of the day. I love the diversity that my work offers, it amazes me how universality exists in this diversity. Interestingly, birth is a very scary event and motherhood a privilege in every culture! I think I have worked with women from most of the countries in the world.
Lilly was my first appointment of the day, a very young first-time mom in her early teens. She was like this beautiful white lily bobbing around with the gentle breeze, totally oblivious of the innocent fragrance that she exuded around her. “Hi Lilly, how are you,” I asked. “Not good,” she said as tears welled up in her big eyes. “What happened,” I asked. “I brought a goldfish for the centerpiece on my coffee table. As I have my baby shower this Saturday. This morning, when I went to add fish food, I noticed the goldfish had died,” she replied. “Oh! I am sorry to hear that,” I said feeling relieved that she and the baby were well.
Next was a stay-at-home dad, who brought his baby to the appointment. “Mum has to go back to work, someone’s got to pay the bills,” he said explaining, “I am the caregiver, ask me what you want!” He went on adjusting the receiving blanket on his shoulder. As the baby’s sleepy head rested on his shoulder. Then he calmly sat in front of me and fed the baby humming a gentle tune, in between answering my questions. He smartly undressed the baby for the examination. It was such a beautiful and refreshing experience to see the gender role switch. I got to see the fatherly love, just as tender and strong as the mommy love.
As I glanced through my schedule, hoping that my mamas would show up on time and my babies would behave. I noticed Stacy was my next appointment, weeks had gone by so fast.
“Ola, Senorita! Como estas (Hello, miss! How are you)?”
“Bien (Good)!” She gave me the biggest smile and said to me, “Look, Navjot, I am eating healthy, I have a veggie juice here. I am starting to be a good parent.”
“Good for you,” I said.
She stood up from her chair, with her school bag hanging on her shoulders and a glass of juice in her hand and started following me.
“How is it going at home?”
“Nothing’s changed, they are still trying to convince me to give my baby up for adoption. My denial prompts them to make me even more uncomfortable so that I give up. But I have made up my mind.
Last week, they locked me out in the scorching heat, because we had unannounced visitors, my Dad’s distant cousin and his wife. They did not want them to know about my pregnancy as their daughter had graduated and now had a plump position in a big firm. I had to sit out in the backyard for a couple hours. Do you know, Navjot, what burnt me? Not the scorching heat of the sun, but my family’s behaviuor! ”
“How do you feel about the treatment at home?”
“Miserable, but I can understand their anger!”
“Has the baby’s father and his family changed their opinion?”
After she left, I was still thinking about her. Her little body starting to show the baby bump and her clumsy attempts at coming across as a mature parent to defy the judgements passed on her. Her innocent young eyes exuding pain and yearning for acceptance.
“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” So the parents were conditioned to believe that the friend’s daughter who had a plump job is going to be more successful and thus will be happier in life than their daughter.
Let us, as a community, break these shackles that bind us to a conditioned existence that takes away from our experiences and makes life miserable for our community members.
Days went by, there was no change in her social situation. Meanwhile, she developed diabetes and high blood pressure, then the baby had some cardiac issues on the ultrasound.
At one of my appointments, I asked her, “How are your sugars now?”
“Still not under control, but I have not been monitoring them.”
“Do you understand how dangerous this could be?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And have you made changes to your diet as advised?”
“I wish I could!”
“So what is holding you back?”
“I have to eat whatever my family cooks.”
“Do they know, that it is not good for you?”
“They don’t care, they just don’t want this baby and they want the baby to die.”
“Do they understand that they might hurt you in the process?”
“Yes, they do. Their hatred for the baby is stronger than their love for me.”
Dear Divine, grant every parent the wisdom to empower their children, to walk their own path without an added burden of their own unfulfilled dreams and desires.
I said to her with a heavy heart, “This appears to be abusive, would you consider moving out.”
“Eventually I will.”
It was heart-wrenching for me to see her in pain. Her innocent face imploring for some warmth and care.
Sometimes parents may find some decisions their children make unacceptable. The anger associated with their disappointment is understandable. However, nothing justifies abusive behaviour powered by anger and disappointment.
A few weeks later, Stacy did not show up for her appointment, so I called her. She told me, “I had the baby yesterday, he came preterm”.
“Ok, I will stop by and see you at the hospital tomorrow.” I went in to see her baby the next day. The baby was preterm and diagnosed with a congenital cardiac disorder, but was doing well.
In a couple days, I did a home visit on her. Her mother was home and got the door with a flat face. On this visit, I noticed that the baby had not gained any weight. I asked her about feeding the baby. I found she had been under-feeding the baby.
As I reviewed this with her, her mother rushed into the room and rudely intercepted the conversation. The baby is getting more than enough milk. I know how much to feed a baby. I said to her that I disagree and that the baby needs to be fed better otherwise the baby will not thrive. I will come in to check on the baby again tomorrow and please feed the baby on the schedule. So saying, I left.
While I was contemplating a call to the CAS (Children’s aid society), the next day I called Stacy to go visit her. She told me she had moved out to the shelter, after I left. Considering the hostile environment at home, CAS moved her to the shelter.
I saw her a few months later at a parenting class, down the aisle from my office. She yelled out to me, “Navjot, come meet my baby!” I ran down the aisle, to see them quickly before my next client. Her baby was now six months and she was now a big mama. She was now a mature little woman and very happy with her son, still no acceptance from either family. Her beautiful big eyes no longer had innocence in them but a hardened look of pain and maturity.
After a while, I had to run to the dietician’s office opposite their class. I peeked through the door, I saw the baby sitting on Stacy’s extended legs, mother holding the baby’s hands and singing the chorus with others. Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream…
I find that sometimes parental obsession with making their children successful is so strong that the focus is on that goal that defines success. A fallout of this approach is the loss of a loving and trusting relationship that has the potential to exercise influence on children and their decisions.
I believe, if the parents had acknowledged her feelings about abortion and shown some respect and understanding for her feelings; instead of blaming her for choosing the wrong path and just building pressure for getting rid of the baby, they would have been successful in being heard by her; and Stacy would have acknowledged their concerns and conceded to their perspective.
All our relationships are subject to social conditioning and expectations stemming from that making them very fragile. Maybe this fragility inspires the promises that we make to each other in relationships. “We will be there for each other always through good times and bad times…”