“Congratulations, sir! A girl has arrived to grace your home.” The nurse congratulated Manik.
Only a moment ago, he was thinking whether he really wanted to risk his beautifully woven life for a new member in his family. Whether a baby was really worth putting Nandini’s life at stake. Their life, their world was complete otherwise, as well.
The next moment, he was holding a small, delicate, breathing bundle of flesh, quivering in his arms. Manik held him through layers of cotton sheets. Yet, he could feel the softness of her skin. Her face was so tiny, so vulnerable, so tender. So were her hands and the pink skin of her neck and wrists, wrinkled like silk.
His first instinct was to protect her. Almost instinctively, he drew his arms towards his chest and kept the baby cocooned within his arms, tucked to his chest.
It was incredible. How could a human be so small? Or had he never seen a small baby before? So small as less than an hour old? Are they all so small? Or was this particularly teeny tiny?
The doctor followed the nurse and stood facing Manik. She had a smile of satisfaction on her face. “Congratulations, Manik.”
Manik was distracted. He raised his eyes from the baby and as if an infinitesimal spell was broken, bringing him back to the present. He was worried for Nandu, all over again. No matter how much she asked him not to worry, he couldn’t help it.
“Doctor, how is Nandini? I hope she is fine!”
“Yes. Thankfully, everything went well. She is fine. We’ll bring her out in some time. By the way, did you meet your baby?”
Manik had a helpless smile on his face. He was trying to hold the baby as safely as he could. A constant fear of dropping her gripped him. Finally, he nodded, “Yeah! I did… but honestly, I don’t know what to do with it.”
The doctor chuckled, “It’s ‘her’ Manik… not ‘it’…and you don’t have to know what to do with ‘her’… parenthood is instinctive. Trust your instincts. Rest, she’ll tell you what she wants.”
Manik sheepishly grinned and shook his head, apologetically, “I’ll try not to worry…”
“Great! Congratulations once again. The nurse brought the baby to let you meet her. We are now taking her to the nursery for a complete check up and recording of parameters, etc. She will be back to your room with Nandini. You can wait in the room, until then.”
Manik agreed, nodding with a smile, and handed over the baby safely back to the nurse. The nurse took the baby to the nursery and Manik thrust his hands in the pockets of his denim jeans, watching them go as they entered the pediatric wing.
He strolled his way back to the room, wondering if it would have been better if his mom or Renu di were around him to take care of these things ‘instinctively.’
He had always tried to avoid any such moment of responsibility or difficult interactions. Mom, Renu di, or Nandini were always there to relieve him. It was weird that when faced with the most unprecedented moment of his life, he had none of them by his side.
And boy!! What a meeting it was! Tougher than the professional interviews he had attended ever, and aced with panache. Never had he found himself so tongue-tied when meeting someone new.
He couldn’t stop smiling when he returned to the room. The little baby’s face didn’t leave his mind, even for a second.
Already, he was craving to hold her in his arms. Also, he couldn’t wait to tease Nandini that he was the first one to hold their baby.
Nandini had to be kept in the observation room for some time. The baby was given to her for the first feed and then kept separately to let her take rest.
After almost three hours, Nandini was brought back to the room where Manik had been waiting.
She managed a small smile when her eyes rested on him. Immediately, he reached for her hand and clutched it warmly in his own. Carefully, sitting beside her, he caressed her hair, taking them away from her face.
“Are you fine?” He asked.
“Absolutely!” She sighed and whispered.
“God, I was so so scared.” He clutched her hand tighter.
She winced in pain. A small tear rested on the edge of her lower eyelid. She opened her mouth to speak something but she couldn’t. Her throat was choked with a vague painful blob on an inside. Her mouth was dried. Unable to respond to him, she closed her eyes. More tears flew down her cheeks.
Manik was worried to see her crying so much. He had never seen her losing her stability or sanity. It was his domain to freak out at every little thing. Nandini had been his pillar of strength. And now, watching her losing her strength, was unsettling for him, more than her.
“Sshh! Don’t cry. Everything is fine now. We’ve made through the toughest phase. It will only heal from now.”
Nandini nodded to agree to him. But she could speak nothing. She felt so overwhelmed and lost.
The nurse brought the baby from the nursery and lay her beside Nandini on her bed. Nandini threw a glance sideways to look at the divine figure nestled close to her.
“Oh my God! She is so so so cute!” Manik sighed, adoringly looking at her.
Nandini wiped her tears. And said, “Take her away.”
“What happened?” He asked, not expecting this response from her.
“I don’t think I am ready for this. I almost gave up, a few hours ago, in the OT.”
“Come on, Nandu, you don’t mean it, right?” He adoringly ran the back of his hands on her cheek.
“I mean it, Manik. I feel that I am going to hurt her. She’ll be trapped below me when I turn to my side while sleeping. She is so small.”
“All babies are small.” He spoke like a learned man, suddenly grown up and responsible. Switching sides with Nandini.
“And all mothers are mature too. I’m not mature enough to be a mother. I’ll be the worst mother ever.”