We were at a store over the weekend when my nine year old stopped by the greeting card section and asked me not to follow her. She later told me that she was looking for some ideas to make a mother's day card for me. While there is a lot of debate if celebrations just one day of the year are adequate, I genuinely enjoy the love and attention my kids shower on me on this day. The handmade greeting cards, flowers or a home-baked cake... I love all of it. A decade ago becoming a mother or celebrating motherhood were both a distant possibility for me.
As I write this piece, memories of a friend's baby shower from a decade ago flood my mind. Amidst all the fun, laughter and the celebrations for the would-be mother, another friend had walked up to me, put a hand on my belly and asked, "Do we have some good news here are as well?"
Like many women, my diagnosis of PCOS came much later in life, thus making the chances of conception difficult if not grim.
I had pushed her hand away, gently. I was not expecting. It was one of those remarks that you hear when you have been married a certain number of years and are expected to begin a family. While those remarks are often made casually, it is largely ignored that such questions tend to invade someone else's private space. Most often, without knowing their story, their choices or the circumstances. A decision to have or not to have a child is a personal one.
Some may not want to have a child. Some may not be able to have a child. Some may have circumstances preventing them from having a child.
The evening before the baby shower, I was in my doctor's office, getting the last of my HCG shots. Like many women, my diagnosis of PCOS came much later in life, thus making the chances of conception difficult if not grim. It was a journey that my husband and I chose to keep private at that time.
In the years thereafter as I met more women and we opened up about our stories, I have learnt that it is not a rare journey. There have been many on this path but everyone has traversed it alone, to avoid becoming privy to societal judgments. While fertility issues are medical conditions that are as prevalent in the modern world as much as Type 2 diabetes, we baulk at talking about them.
More than a year later after that baby shower, I had my first child. The months before had been so consumed in PCOS treatment, HCG shots, the diagnosis of complete placenta previa and weekly ultrasounds that I had not had the time to imagine what motherhood would really feel like. But it came naturally, the moment we held the little bundle in our arms. We knew that we would somehow figure everything out. There would be mishaps and mistakes, little accidents here and there, but we would make it through. We marvelled at the tiny life we had created and were surprised at our capability to love someone more than we had ever imagined.
Motherhood was not meant to come easily to me—I knew this again at nine weeks pregnant with my second child.
But more than everything else, there was an overwhelming sense of gratitude that day because the day had not come easy. I have worn this gratitude on my sleeve every day for the last nine years. There are days I choke up a bit on a hand-written note, feel delighted in a wonderful conversation with my daughter, and then there are days when motherhood proves to be the most daunting task of the day. On such days, I often remind myself that the challenges today are insignificant compared to the blessing of her presence in our life.
Motherhood was not meant to come easily to me—I knew this again at nine weeks pregnant with my second child. I held on to my husband and limped my way to the hospital with a frozen left leg. The attending doctor insisted on a wheelchair. I agreed after some initial reluctance. An hour later the doctor walked in with the ultrasound results. DVT or deep vein thrombosis—the development of a blood clot in a deep vein (quite literally). If left untreated it can travel to the lungs, cause pulmonary embolism and could be fatal. It happens in one in 1000 pregnancies.
My husband listened in as my mind felt clouded. The second time around I'd thought I had already fought all my battles and I knew all my heartaches. But life never stops surprising you. I learnt that the battle this time around was fiercer than the ones before. Two injections of a blood thinner every day were prescribed. It had to be given in my belly for the next seven months, delicately. That is what was needed to keep my life and the life growing within me alive.
Motherhood has come in the most challenging ways to many women, sometimes even endangering their own lives. It is not always an easy and happy journey.
If not for my husband's sense of humour and assurances while giving me the shots every day, I would not have been able to make it till the end of those months.
"Do you think I am going to die?" I would ask him every day as he prepared the injection.
"No, this shot gives you another 12 hours easily," he would say. We laughed. But one shot was indeed equivalent to the next 12 hours of my life.
That pregnancy taught me to wake up and live life every day because you do not know what tomorrow holds for you. It taught me to laugh, and laugh out loud, when adversity is at the peak in your life.
Seven months later, we found ourselves running into the emergency room in the middle of the night, praying for nothing but to hear a heartbeat. When they plugged in the baby heartbeat monitor, it overshadowed the discussion of a placental abruption or a need for blood transfusion. That night I cheated death and also gave birth to a new life.
There are millions like me and there are millions of stories like mine, more difficult than mine. Motherhood has come in the most challenging ways to many women, sometimes even endangering their own lives. It is not always an easy and happy journey. Mother's Day for us is the celebration of the outcome of that long, treacherous and sometimes lonely journey, it's a celebration of the joyous experience that came at the end of a long road. It is a day to remember and celebrate those who stood by us, walked beside us, held our hands and gave us hope in our darkest days. For those who are traversing on this difficult path now, I hope my story is an assurance that at the end, it is all worth it.
When the kids surprise me this year with their cards and gifts, I will wear my sundress that's the colour of gratitude, giggle with them while bingeing on cake and wonder at the miracles of life.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms!