“Ed! Ed!” Loud whispers in the dark.
It would normally have taken a louder call and possibly some shaking but her whispers woke me up. Whispers that cut short a dream I’ll never recall. Tightness from my freshly-plaited, day-old braids and wetness on my cheek from my sleepy drool are the first sensations I remember. She didn’t turn on the light.
“The baby is coming!” she said in another loud whisper.
That was enough to make me jump off the top of a double-decker bed that I usually used a small wooden ladder on the far right end to get on. I was careful not to wake my two-year-old nephew who was fast asleep in the bottom bunk. The rest of our conversation was carried out in the living room.
2.30 a.m. My brother-in-law was standing in the living-room, fully dressed, packed bag in hand. The baby was coming indeed. Could it be a false alarm? My foolish, possibly sleep-induced inquiry was met with an ice-melting side eye. Who was I to question the certainty of a mother? I am not anyone’s mother. All this was unsaid. Rather, said with ‘the look’. She was breathing hard.
“There’s milk and porridge in the fridge… Give him Weetabix or porridge… when he wakes up… He’ll tell you when he’s hungry or thirsty…” Her speech was laboured (no pun), punctuated by short puffs for air.
I was nodding frantically to her many instructions, many of which were probably forgotten as soon as I climbed back on that top bunk. After they left, I locked up, watched my nephew sleep for a few seconds then went back to sleep.
6.00 a.m. Her call woke me up. Baby already birthed. 3.5 kg. It sounded like something ticked off a to-do list, next to clean-out fridge and wash curtains. She was checking on us. Nephew #1 hadn’t been woken up by my phone’s loud ringer, thankfully.
We both slept till 8 a.m. and woke up to his daily morning rituals. Watching some competitive Japanese game-show on Sony Max while riding the tricycle while having porridge while rolling on the floor.
The rest of that day is somewhat a blur. I was a bit tired and sleepy as a result of interrupted sleep but I somehow still managed to feed him while running around, sing along with Barney and Friends, Bob the Builder and other favourite kiddie shows of the nephew, take part in a few games that involved grabbing things and shouting NOOO! (and when I didn’t say it, he would stop the game and tell me “Sema (say) NOOO!” Too cute.), read him stories, get peed on, and give him a bath after his afternoon nap. I may have dozed off once or twice in the midst of all these.
My brother-in-law had to do some running around and be with my sister so press repeat, with a few alterations, for the next day. All the while, I was thinking that I was really nailing the whole motherhood/mothering (which is the right noun?) thing. Ha! I was actually pretty tired by the end of the second day.
When my sister showed up with Nephew #2 on Sunday afternoon, after the oohing and ahhing at the tiny bundle of joy, touching his hair and smelling him (love that baby smell!), I think I took a step back. Wow. Two babies. I only had to run around after the two-year-old for a weekend and got to hand him back to his parents after that. Here they were raising two sons and managing to look cool while doing so.
I was initially visiting them for an overnight stay before my other nephew decided to make his world debut that weekend but ended up spending the entire weekend and going to work on Monday from their home. And here’s the kicker, my supermom sister had an exam on Monday morning after having her son on Saturday that she studied for and made it to (and probably aced too!).
I look forward to being a mother someday, despite the sacrifices and challenges involved. Until then, I am happy to hold (and smell), read stories about penguins and mice and roll on the floor with my nephews.
Mothers, I will repeat this trite statement. You probably hardly ever get the credit you deserve for the immense strength, courage and sacrifice it takes to birth and raise a child from day zero. To men that are present and supportive husbands and fathers, your noble tasks definitely mean a lot to your wives and children.