Friday, August 22, 2014

What if...(newborn pictures, wishful thinking & a mother's memories)

(In Pic 1 & 2, Baby N is 10 days old. He was off the ventilator by this time but was in an oxygen tent because he still needed assistance with his breathing. Whenever I went down to be with him in the NICU, he was taken out of the tent, and I gave him whiffs of oxygen from a tube.)

Just yesterday, I was reading another blogger’s family update and looking at the happy pictures of his newborn. A fourth member, all tiny and wise, with almond eyes and tightly-curled fists. Dressed in a pastel-hued onesie, the newborn baby was at peace on the soft white sheets of his bed. Gauzy morning sunlight streamed through the window…just the right light conditions for a newborn photo shoot.

I looked at the photographs with part amazement and part wistfulness. I have a 13-month-old baby boy now, but I still don’t know what my own baby looked like when he was a day old, a few days old, a week old, a fortnight old.

(Pic 3. Baby N, 1 day old, on ventilator)

I don’t know how he would have looked without all those tubes and canulas snaking through him. I wouldn’t know how he would have looked without the pin pricks and splatters of dried blood on his translucent skin. I don’t know how he would look if he had been at peace, on the crisp sheets of a bed at home, in my arms, in a pastel-hued onesie.

And I’ll never ever know.

While I’m plenty grateful for having him with me today, for not having lost him to the dark shadow of death, I still wonder. The thought crosses my mind every time I see a newborn baby’s picture; every time I see a very new baby dressed in rompers and lolling around amidst a sea of crisp cotton sheets.

I wonder what our pictures of our baby would’ve been like. Would he look like a content little Buddha in a red onesie with a blue cartoon rhino? Would he have the hint of a smile playing on his rosebud lips? Would he have that wise, knowing look in his dark almond eyes? What would his fragile body look like, swathed in soft cotton clothes?

What would he look like if hadn’t needed a sedative? What would he look like if his eyes weren’t puffy, his skin punctured and blood splattered, his nose, mouth and limbs free of tubes? What would he look like if he hadn’t just been wearing a hospital-issue diaper, his heartbeat visible beneath his newborn skin? What would he look like if he’s never needed to go into the NICU; if he’d remained on my tummy, slowly making his way up for his very first meal?

I do know that life’s a buffet of treats and challenges, battles and celebrations, mundane and melodrama. It’s a smorgasbord of all this, and some more. I do know that each of us here has to brave storms of our own. I know all this, and accept it.

I also know that everything that happens to us, changes us bit by bit, molds us into someone else, helps us see the gold in the everyday.

Even when I accept all this, and know that Neel’s waltz with death was our storm, I as a mother, can’t help but wonder. I can’t help but think, “What if…”.

Note: This post is part of my Motherhood Memoir series. A selection of very personal posts that help me heal, one tiny baby step at a time.

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