It is a quiet Fall morning, the mists still clinging on to the trees, the air cool and crisp, and the birds winding down for their morning nap. It is a perfect morning to reminisce on the last couple of weeks, on my dance with sickness and health, suffering and freedom.
What began as a cold for our daughter Anjali (fondly we call her Gudiya, meaning Doll) now 13 months old, became an infection of some kind with fever and a rash. Initially, misdiagnosed as ear infection, and then found to be a peri-orbital type infection, she was treated with antibiotics, and seemed on the rocky road to recovery. That was until she had an allergic reaction to the drugs and had to be switched to a third set of antibiotics. Thankfully, they worked. She started to regain her strength and started eating properly again. The antibiotics still meant diarrhea, diaper rash, and discomfort, especially in taking the meds.
I was the epitome of graceful, patient, steady and loving Mom. That lasted for exactly 3 days. And then I was just plain tired, anxious, whining Mom, caught in between trying to be loving and present, and trying to escape far far away. There is something so helpless about seeing a baby in pain and knowing there is nothing you can do that just tugs at your heart, that is the most difficult thing I have ever had to face.
One morning, I gave her the antibiotics, and she cried non-stop for half hour. At the end of it, I started sobbing myself. I felt terrible – here she was, a baby crying because she was in discomfort and the medicine sucked and her tummy probably hurt. And here I was, an adult crying, because I felt helpless. I felt like such a loser. But it gave me perspective.
This was a difficult situtation to be in. Could I be kind? Could I be compassionate as much to myself, and Abhi, as to Anjali? That perfect Mom that I had in my head, who is forever loving and patient and cheerful in the midst of sickness and who doesn’t ever complain or need time out…was probably a myth. Maybe all Moms are like me. Imperfect and wanting to do the best, and sometimes just caught in the pull between giving others and giving themselves.
A turning point came at about 5.30 on a Saturday evening. I had been home all day with gudiya now for nearly a week. Abhi had been there whenever he could, equally worried and waking early each morning to tend to Gudiya. But when she was sick, Mama was the most wanted. I was exhausted and depleted and near the end of my rope. I had the good sense to ask Abhi if I could go for a walk. When I finally made it out of the door, I was mad that it had taken as long as it did, and it was nearly dark and it had started drizzling. It didn’t matter. I pulled up my hoodie and started walking. I wanted to keep on walking, my thoughts plummeting me, the drama in my head louder than the rain outside, saying over and over again, ‘I wish…I wish… I wish…’ I kept coming back to my breath, to my feet, I kept sending loving-kindness to my family and practicing gratitude. Finally, the storm inside quieted. I opened my hoodie – and in that moment, I could hear the breeze, the trees, the rain and the silence. I could feel the cool air on my face, the rhythm of my walking, the trees that stood rooted, a testament to my suffering. In that moment was my freedom. The kind that comes from listening and being with your own discomfort so that you can be there for others. That half hour brought me the peace I had so missed.
Thank Goddess Anjali is feeling better. The course of antibiotics is over. She walked outside our home last evening, so excited that she could walk outside. She pointed to the doggie and said bow bow. She waved her arms ecstatically. She smiled. And she looked well.
May all beings be free from suffering.
With love, Shuba.