“Mohan, I am pregnant,” Mamatha said just as a plane took off from the tarmac. I was in the STD booth of Bangalore airport sometime during the first week of April 1991 having just returned from New Delhi. It took half a minute for the noise of the take off to recede and gave me amole time to recover from my shock. I watched travellers frantically run for their flights, baggage in hand.
Mamatha was pregnant with our second child. Our first child, Yogita, had been born blind and with arrested cognitive development.
The news of another child brought a strange sensation of both fear and delight in me at the same time. My mouth went dry, and I rolled my tongue over my parched lips.Will this child be healthy and normal? Will Mamatha undergo threatened abortion again? In the first trimester of her pregnancy with Yogita, Mamatha had undergone immense physical distress due to some unexpected bleeding with a threat of abortion looming large. What if this child also had ….
Really?” I said, hiding my apprehension and sounding excited.
“Yes,” Mamatha said.
“Wow, fantastic. How is Turry?” I asked.”She is doing great. She is as happy as ever.” Turry was our nickname for Yogita.
“I am coming straight away. Manju is here already” I said and hung up. I sighed, picked up my briefcase and left brushing against the guy waiting holding on to the door handle.
I suddenly wanted to be with Yogita and hug her tightly, as if we were betraying her. I thought of her incredibly beautiful face. “
Yogita was almost two. Since her birth, our lives had been a challenging trail. Thirty years ago disability scared people and children with disabilities were shunned.With society still holding contrived views about children with disabilities, we had to figure out the best way to parent Yogita on our own. Even at two, Yogita could not speak a single word. The unfamiliarity of dealing with Yogita by my extended family and society only added to our misery.
For me, watching and parenting Yogita was overwhelming and self-pitying. In contrast, Mamatha had weathered it all like Superwoman often emboldening me.
We had taken Yogita to quite a few specialists in the US. They had tested her for chromosome abnormality and ruled out any genetic defect.Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital confidently told us that Yogita’s case was one of a random developmental error. The chance that subsequent children would be born with the same disabilities was close to zero. Still, we were both anxious throughout the rest of Mamatha’s pregnancy.
“Mohan, what if the second child has issues too?”Mamatha asked me even before I could express my happiness and congratulate her.
“Come on, Mamatha”, I said carefully putting on a brave facade to cover my worry that I had in my heart. “Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital categorically declared that Yogita’s case was a random developmental error and not congenital. Why are you getting worked up?”
“But Mayo Clinic said there is a 12% chance,” she said, referring to the Mayo Clinic’s conclusion.
“The doctors at the Mayo Clinic were just being defensive to avoid any lawsuits,” I comforted her.
Throughout her second pregnancy, Mamatha kept up her courage internally resolving her extreme psychological conflict all by herself. No one, young or old, knew how to react or what to say to her. A few asked me privately if Mamatha knew what she was doing.
It was comforting to see the courage with which Mamatha was dealing with her doubts making sure that she never entertained negative thoughts. As if somewhere inside she knew that Mother Nature is fair, tough and tender. That it is always with the procreating mother and makes sure that babies remain protected against negative effects.
One day during her second trimester returned from work one evening to find Mamatha sitting on the bed sobbing.
“What’s wrong, Mamatha?”
She stroked Yogita’s hair and watched her sleeping blissfully.
“Your aunt had come home,” she said.
“And?” I asked with a raised voice.
“She asked me if anyone from my family had problems similar to Yogita.”
“She can go to hell,” I said enraged at the society’s tendency to “blame it on the girl and her famoly”attitude.
“Did you ask her if there was anyone in my family that has a problem?. She shook her head and wiped her tears.
“How will Turry react, Mona, will she resent or welcome the new baby?” Mamatha asked me.
“I am sure she will love the company. But we should never impose the second child to look after Yogita. We must make Yogita completely independent,” I said.
The numerous normal ultrasound pictures of her foetus did a lot of good in enhancing Mamatha’s courage. Dr.Rajeswar, the radiologist, comforted Mamatha when he noted that “the eye sockets are very clearly visible and well-developed, and I am very confident that the baby’s eye formation is perfectly shaping up. It is a very healthy baby.” It was very reassuring to Mamatha, and she became more relaxed thanks to the hi-tech scanner.
“Isn’t that wonderful, Mona, that the baby has normal eye sockets and is healthy?” Mamatha asked me as she held Yogita on her lap.
“Aren’t you grateful that the eye sockets have developed so well and the baby is healthy at six months?
“Yes. Thank God,” I said wishing at least a part of her courage to rub on to me.
Our day of reckoning finally arrived on November 8, 1991. Around 9 pm, I was fidgeting and pacing in front of the labour ward at Aditya hospital. At last, when the nurse came out and told me it was a girl, I asked desperately, “Are her eyes OK, nurse?” She nodded her head, routinely avoiding looking at my face. I was petrified. Suddenly, irrational thoughts filled my head. What does it mean that the nurse is not looking at me? Is she diplomatic? Is she lying? I rushed into the labour ward.
Both Mamatha and I could make out the instant we looked at the newborn baby that she could see. My God, what a contrast between eyes that can see and eyes that can’t. Even on day one, Rachita’s (we named the newborn Rachita) eyes were open and full of life. Yogita had hardly opened her eyes during the first few days of her life whereas Rachita had taken the world in from day one. Her sparkling large eyes were like sunshine to our starving souls. Mamatha and I exchanged glances and whispered to each other, “She can see.” “Isn’t it is so obvious?”
We just kept looking at her eyes. They were so lively and responsive even when she was a week old. A surge of pity would envelop our minds for Yogita but would soon pass away with relief at Rachita’s normalcy. Rachita was indeed the sunshine in our lives while Yogita was the full moon of our souls. Both were gifts from the same God. Rachita walked at eleven months and started to speak at fifteen months while Yogita saw with her fingers and expressed with her tender cooing.
Right since the day Rachita was born, Yogita listened to Rachita’s cooing sounds with rapt attention. As days went by, Yogita became more and more curious about Rachita’s variety of noises and would listen to Rachita’s blabbering with her mouth wide open. I often wondered what went on in Yogita’s mind.
“Mohan, come here and see this,” Mamatha called to me, laughing, as I was strumming my guitar on the ramp at the main entrance. Yogita lay on the mat, sucking away at Rachita’s feeding bottle after having snatched it away from her. Rachita, who was toppled over on her tummy, watched Yogita merrily sucking away at her bottle. I burst out laughing, too.
Rachita turned two and she played with Yogita by holding Yogita’s fingers and take her for short walks and feed her favourite goodies. Yogita developed an immense liking to Rachita and with her constant presence, Yogita’s sleeping habits started to normalize. As she grew older, Rachita would take Yogita and walk her through restaurants and family functions protectively. The innocence of little children is so pristine, and that is probably one of the reasons why we in India consider babies and small children manifestations of divinity.
Mamatha went ahead and gave birth to another child, a boy when Yogita was 7 years. Rachita is 28 and happily married, Rahul is 24.
There is a beautiful poem by Corrie Ten Boom that sums up God’s tests in my life and goes like this;
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colours
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside…….
,,,,,The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skilful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern, He has planned
He knows He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to him.
In the end life happens. It holds no prejudices like human beings. Yogita may be gone but I am sure the place where is right now is a much better and safer place, for she is in the Weaver’s hands.