“And there it is,” said the doctor, adding a pregnant pause (pun intended), “your baby’s heartbeat.”
The pulsating sound filled the silent room as all three of us – the doctor, my husband Chinmay and I – stared at the monitor.
“Wow.” That was Chinmay, his voice visibly quivering. “That was amazing.”
Meanwhile, I waited for the flood of emotions that, according to the gazillion English movies I’ve watched, should be rushing through my body. But there was nothing there. Zilch.
I could feel their eyes on me so out of sheer pressure, I let out a “whoosh”, hoping it sounded like I was too overwhelmed to respond like a normal woman who would otherwise be crying and clutching the hand of her also-crying partner.
We were quiet in the car on the way back. I turned to him and asked, “You cried, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t cry, ok?” he snapped right back. “I just teared up.”
“But let’s not talk about me. Let’s talk about you.”
“What about me?” I asked guardedly.
“You know…” he said, “I didn’t even hear a sniffle from you.”
I blew up. “Fine! I didn’t feel a thing, okay? I know I’m supposed to bawl when I hear my baby’s heart beating. I’m going to be a terrible mother.”
Truth was, I had been feeling that way for a long time. After all, I never wanted to be a mum. My son Vivaan is what I call a “Oh my god, how did this happen” baby. I remember taking about five pregnancy tests before accepting that I was going to be a baby oven for the next nine months. I never cried for joy when I saw the two purple lines (10, in fact). I didn’t tear up when the sonogram showed the peanut-sized person growing inside me. I didn’t even smile when the baby kicked for the first time. In fact, it felt like something I had eaten had become alive and wanted to find a way out.
I finally admitted to myself: I had no maternal instincts, aside from stuffing my face like there was no tomorrow, over the next few months. Chinmay told me what countless others already had. “Relax, you’re going to be a great mum.”
Doubtful, I thought. What I didn’t know then was that the first few months after Vivaan’s birth would be equally “feeling-less”. I would be an automaton, perpetually sleepless, roused at godforsaken hours for the Milk-on-demand episodes, eating during waking hours and going back to sleep whenever I got a chance. Where did I have the time to be a mum who bonds with her baby?
When Vivaan turned five months old, though, things changed. I can still recall the day. I had just finished feeding him and as I put him down, he grabbed my finger and smiled, for the very first time. Something inside me stirred right then, and I felt like a mother for the first time. It was surreal.
But! Back to present day, for a moment. Chinmay and I were back home, watching a documentary about dogs on TV. He was smiling as dozens of puppies showed up, running helter skelter, falling over each other when he heard a sniffle. He saw me crying, as a child would.
“Puppies,” I sobbed, wiping my eyes.
To this day, I don’t know if it was anger or disgust (perhaps both) on my husband’s face as he said to me, “THIS? You cry for this? For god’s sake, it’s dogs! And you can’t spare a tear for your own baby?”
Yep, like I said. Bad mum.