Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Letter To My Daughters On Their First Birthday

My little girls turn ONE today! On this special day, I am sharing with you some photos from their birthday party and my thoughts on the year gone by.

There are few occasions more monumental in a child’s life than his/her first birthday. It is not only a once-in-a-lifetime affair but also a huge milestone. For many babies, a first birthday is the first time they will get to sample cake and the resulting pictures brings so much joy to look back on. Although no one remembers their first birthday, it marks a special time for family and friends to gather together to celebrate this new little person in their lives. Agreed, a baby's first birthday is really for the parents and their loved ones. It marks a day of celebration for making it through a year of ups and downs, challenges and personal growth. Essentially it is a day to celebrate a year of parenthood.






The journey of transformation from newborn to infant and then to toddler is not an easy one for either parent - mothers in particular. I had heard that grappling with motherhood makes you stronger but I never fully understood the magnitude of that statement until I got to experience it myself. This past year (two years actually) has taught me more than the entire rest of my life put together. I was surprised by how I coped with my high-risk pregnancy and protracted delivery, I struggled with breastfeeding so much that I didn't think it would last three months but here I am having reached my one year target and I never imagined that I could look after my girls without assistance but turns out I was wrong yet again! I now know that nothing is impossible and the only thing that prevents you from doing anything is the nagging voice of self-doubt in your head. I have emerged a stronger and more patient individual and I have only my girls to thank for that.

Me and my husband wanted to celebrate our daughters first birthday in India. We wanted to share the special day with our parents, siblings, closest family members and friends. I love birthday parties having several fond memories of my own. Flipping through pages of bygone birthday albums gives me joy even to this day! As a couple, we feel like our girls 1st, 5th, 10th, 16th and 18th birthdays should be made memorable.








On a Sunday evening, the party was held at a recreational club in Bangalore. The theme of the party was "Two Little Strawberries Turn One" (since my babies looked just like a pair of strawberries when they were born). It turned out to be a wonderful evening with the girls interacting exuberantly with the guests, delicious food, fun games and activities for the kids and most importantly yummy cake! My daughters will not remember any of it but I am going to preserve the memories from this day and show it to them when they are older. The guests also left lovely and touching messages for them in the guest book which they can read in a couple of years. That is bound to make them feel special!












On the occasion of my girls first birthday, I thought I should write them a letter. I need to do this because motherhood has resulted in serious memory lapses ('Mumnesia' it's called apparently). Forget the little details (no pun intended), it terrifies me that I may not even remember the big ones! I want recollections of it all - the good, the bad & the ugly. I'll write them a letter every year until they are old enough to understand how much they mean to me (and hopefully by then my memory will have made a comeback!).


I
To my gorgeous girls,

You are ONE year old today! I can’t believe I just wrote that. One whole year!!! Really??? Excuse me while I pinch myself! 

It seems like yesterday when I was woke up extremely groggy as the effect of the general anaesthesia began to wear off following my C-section. I knew I was in hospital and I knew it was a momentous day. However, I was alone in a strange room and couldn’t see any familiar faces around me which added to my confusion. I spotted a nurse walking by and all I managed to stupidly blabber was - “I think I’m supposed to have a couple of babies. Where are they? Where am I?” The nurse looked at me kindly, patted my arm and said that I was in recovery and that you both were just fine. She assured me that I would be seeing you in a while. I felt relieved and mumbled a silent prayer. My girls were fine she had said. I had somehow made it through 20 hours of agonising unsuccessful labour (with a failed epidural) until my doctor could wait no longer and decided that it was time for surgery. The last thing I remembered was his compassionate voice telling me that he was going to put me to sleep and that everything would be alright. He had kept his word and all was well in my world. Somewhere I knew that your daddy was taking charge of things in his usual quiet efficient manner and your Ammamma (grandma) would be there waiting for me expectantly. I just closed my eyes and drifted off, a small contented smile on my lips. 

An hour or so later, I was shifted into a room where your daddy and ammamma were anxiously waiting for me. By then, I was feeling much more like myself and wanted to see the two of you more than anything. A nurse wheeled you in two separate baby carts shortly after I had settled down. I looked at the tiny rosy pink bundles in front of me in utter amazement. You seemed small and fragile weighing only 4.4lbs each but there was something about your appearance that was very reassuring. I gazed at your delicate little features, your pink skin, big round eyes, your long fingers and toes and the scanty fine black hair on your tiny heads and tried to see myself in you. But I didn’t think you looked like me at all. You looked more like your daddy to me. I didn’t care….it was love at first sight and I knew you were going to be my two most cherished gifts. 

We decided to name you ANVITHA and NAVITHA. Like two beautiful buds flowering on the same branch, you were going to be alike in how precious you were to us yet offer your own distinctive gifts of charm and personality. We wanted your names to reflect that. Your names sound similar and are anagrams of each other but they are uniquely different in meaning. 

So many of our family and friends came to the hospital to see you and brought with them thoughtful cards and gifts. We were there in the hospital for five days before the doctors allowed us to go home. You were born on a Monday and on an auspicious Friday, you entered your home for the very first time. I remember both of you looking out the window with great interest as we drove home from the hospital. It was your first real sighting of the world and you seemed to embrace it. 

After that, time moved forward in warp speed. I was so exhausted and sleep-deprived that I don’t even remember much of that first month (except that it was dreadful!). We went through some tumultuous times during the early part of the newborn phase which curbed my brain function even further. Those first few weeks, I was a total mess and didn’t know what the heck I was doing but believe me when I say that I tried. We had quite a few problems with nursing but that sorted itself out in time. You were reasonably good sleepers from the start. Me and daddy developed a feeding/sleeping/bath-time routine which was a lifesaver. We used to keep you two up till late at night (since me and your daddy are such night owls) and because of that, you only woke up once in the middle of the night for a feeding. This went on for 3 months after which you started sleeping for 5-6 hour stretches. In hindsight, that was a blessing because I was able to get some proper shut-eye that was needed to stay sane! Your ammamma stayed with us until you were 2 months old. Ajja (grandpa) flew in and stayed for a week to spend time with you after you were born. After ammamma left, your Bangalore doddamma and ajja stayed to look after you for the next 3 months. By then, the 'first-time parent fog' had lifted slightly and I'd like to think we handled things much better thereon.

You visited your homeland India when you were five months old. By infant standards, I think you had a wonderful time there getting pampered by family and friends. You attended a barrage of social events and were cooperative for the most part. After our trip to India, I gained much more confidence to take you both out and wasn't as terrified anymore. 

After that came the challenge of looking after you by myself. Initially my plan revolved around basic survival but looking back, I think we did pretty well overall. We played together, giggled a lot, read stories, went for walks, visited the park, had fun splashing around in the tub, took silly photographs and videos and on weekends when daddy was around, went down to the pool (which you both loved!). Your daddy helped me out a great deal whenever he was home so it never felt stressful or overwhelming. I won't lie to you....at times the daily grind did get monotonous but I tried not to let it get to me. Both sets of your grandparents did visit us again in between but it was only for a short while. But by then we had gotten comfortably settled into a routine so it wasn't difficult to cope after they left. In no time, it was time for us to depart to India again to ring in your first birthday and celebrate one year of glorious life. Against all odds, we not only survived that first year but made it a memorable and happy one. 

My darling Anvi....you are a complete charmer! You are friendly, affectionate, cheerful, sensitive and laid-back. You bask in the attention you receive and being carried is something you are very fond of. You are a complete people-person and I foresee you being quite the social butterfly. You are captivated by music and love listening to stories. You are not mischievous by nature and are usually cautious in new situations. Between the two, you are better in the milk and food department so have been coaxed and begged considerably lesser! You have the most adorable and infectious smile which is one of your distinguishing features. 

My beloved Navi....you are a rambunctious little goofball! You are observant, inquisitive, adventurous, persistent and playful. I have no doubts that will grow up to be one smart cookie. You have outsmarted me on a number of occasions already! Quite the independent baby, you are happiest when left to your own devices - an intrepid explorer in the making. You frequently are up to mischief (and instigate your sister to do the same) but you are obedient when told not to do something (unlike your sister). You used to have a perpetual serious expression earlier but now I couldn't wipe the cheeky grin off your face even if I tried to (not that I ever would!). Your cheery dimpled smile brightens up my day.

When the two of you are together, it is the most glorious scene to behold. You play together, imitate each other, follow each other, chase each other around the house panting and chuckling, break out into spontaneous giggling fits (that we can't fathom), get visibly upset when the other gets scolded, fight for toys, yank each other's hair, butt heads and smack each other for no good reason but basically love to be around each other. I know for sure that you will go on to be the best of friends and this blessed realization warms the cockles of my heart.  

From an alarming 3.9lbs that you weighed when you got home (you lost considerable weight in the week after birth), you are now a respectable 18lbs and stand 73cm tall. You are still much smaller than other babies your age but that doesn’t bother me one bit. You both are healthy, active and you achieved all your first-year milestones at the same time/some even ahead of your peers. You just started walking which to me is the cutest sight in the world! Things you like to do are to clap, jump, wave, give hi-fives, throw the ball and shriek "Amma" in your adorable baby voices. I’m so grateful that apart from an isolated case of eczema and a recent nasty bout of diaper rash, neither of you fell ill this past year (touchwood!). Considering your early arrival and low-birth weight, it is more than I could have ever hoped for. 

Your favourite foods are grilled cheese sandwiches, buttered toast, rice cereal, pasta, flavoured yoghurt, eggs, beetroot, butternut squash, carrots, parsnip, apples, melons and pears. You are on the fence with rice + lentils + mixed veggies, bananas, peas, curd rice, idli (steamed rice cake) & dosa (rice crepe). You detest avocado, ragi (finger millet) and wheat-based cereals. We need to overcome some major food battles in the coming months but I am hopeful that we will cross that hurdle one step at a time.

I know that most mothers have goals, dreams and wishes for their children but mine is pretty basic. I just want the two of you to be happy, healthy and to live life to the fullest. Marks and degrees don't make you a successful person, your passion does. I will of course, do my best to raise you to be polite, compassionate, grateful, responsible and to stand up for yourself. If you grow up to reflect the positive values I instil in you, it will make me proud beyond measure. 

Know that you are loved, my sweet little angels. Your daddy can’t stop fussing over you and cuddling you incessantly. Your grandparents are besotted with you. They hold you in their arms, beaming with love and pride at the double wonder that you are. Your aunties, uncles and cousins adore you. Anyone who knows you and has had the opportunity to interact with you are amazed by how lively and friendly you are. 

As for me, I love you to the moon and back and then to infinity and beyond - times TWO! 

Happy birthday peanuts. May this be just the beginning of many wonderful years to come. 

Thank you for coming into my life. No matter what happens, I will always be there for you.

Hugs and kisses
Your Amma 



P.S. - Licking the wheels of your stroller, eating houseplants or biting your big toenail isn't funny. Please have mercy on your poor mother!

3 comments:

  1. Its one of the best 'letters' I have read 😊 Very beautiful. To sum up such an eventful year in a letter- amazing! Loved the P.S 😊

    ReplyDelete

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