The first time it happened, she cried. She was hurt, disappointed, and heart-broken. She saw it happening but her heart refused to accept it. To her, it felt like a thousand needles were piercing her soul. She was bewildered, kept questioning herself on what did she do wrong? Over the next few days and weeks, she was plagued by self-doubt, confusion and hurt. Only his smiles and hugs kept her from falling apart. Such was the pain of rejection from the one she truly loved. Loved unconditionally. With heart and soul.
Time is the biggest healer. With time you move on. There are new beginnings, new memories to be created and cherished. All this is true. But what when the one who rejects you for someone else is your own child?
And that is the dilemma I was in. I clearly remember when the first time it happened.
We were holidaying in Goa. Our first together as a family. A ten-day long break in the fisherman village called Arambol. We had rented an apartment as we wanted access to a kitchen to prepare meals for Rey as opposed to feeding him from restaurants for ten days, which for him would’ve been over thirty meals.
We are travellers and we do a lot of exploration on foot. That is how we are raising Rehaan too. Back in October 2016, we had yet not experienced the joy of baby-wearing and were pretty much ignorant of its advantages. We had decided against bringing a stroller for this trip as we already had too much baggage for ten days (maybe a mistake if I look back now). We took turns carrying Rehaan, but it was soon clear that Daddy was the physically stronger one and hence doing most of the ferrying. I was happy to see them bond and spend quality time together. After all, I was the one who had been asking for a break and a holiday.
It was post this trip that I noticed the sudden changes. He was old enough to show his preference. Though he would be happy with me all day long and refuse to go to anyone else. He would shower his love, his attention, his smiles on me. But all that would change when the clock struck 9 every night. That’s when I was given the boot. I kept telling myself that children soon grow out of this phase and my baby too will. I wasn’t jealous, just heart-broken and felt unneeded. It hurt. I reasoned that it was because he had less time with his daddy as compared to me, and maybe he wanted to make the most of it.
Nine months of having him exclusively to me in my womb. Another ten months of feeling needed. That feeling that you’re the world for this little someone. That his day started with waking up to me and nights in my arms. And now all of a sudden, that changed. He wanted to be held by Daddy. Wanted to be fed by him. Wanted Daddy to play with him. Wanted Daddy.
I remember coming back after an assignment one day and hoping to get the same reaction as he usually gave his Daddy. With my heart thumping, I walked in. Half afraid, half excited to meet my baby who I had left alone for hours for the first time. Yes, he came running. Yes, he hugged me. Yes, he showered me with smiles. It is later that I realised how I had been holding my breath that evening. Such was the anxiety that ran through my blood, fuelled by the postpartum depression that had taken over my happiness in those months.
Rey is now a toddler. I miss my tiny squishy-ball. I miss holding him, cradling him to sleep, I miss his outstretched arms urging me to pick him up. I miss all this and more. And though he is a lot more relaxed now and not as clingy to his father (except for on vacations, maybe because he prefers a better view from up there), there are still those moments when he favours his father. And sometimes, I still feel sad not being the one he prefers. Not being the one he runs to.
I know that I will always be his mom. That no matter what, my love and affection for him will only grow with each passing day. That we will always have a deeper connection than anyone else can have with each other. I’ve been told it’s a phase. It will pass. I’ve looked it up and I know am not an isolated case. But it still breaks my heart into a million pieces everytime he turns the other way. When he plays favourites.
Mom heart. Mom life. Sigh.