Senses Series Short Stories

It’s Never A Choice

“Mummaaaaa, today is Saturday! I don’t need my lunch box!” Kavitha heard her 7-year old daughter, Sravani, screaming at the top of her voice from the kitchen.

This was becoming a routine now to forget things but she just couldn’t deal with the pain and waiting anymore. She was lying down on the living room sofa for everyone to see her misery.

Sravani ran to her and gave her a kiss and hug before she left to the honking school bus.

Venkat was going to work from home for the next few weeks, until Sravani’s parents could come from the USA to take care of her. She was 39 weeks pregnant and was expected to deliver at any moment.

Her back pain was shooting up and she was wishing there was a way she didn’t have to feel anything anymore! Every move was torturous, Sravani had been an easy pregnancy but 8 years later Kavitha was older than she would have liked. Every day of this pregnancy had been tough to handle, she was popping as many pills as she was allowed only to numb the pain that radiated. She threw up what she ate, got nauseous at weird smells, she had pinpricks if she sat on her legs for too long and her migraine rushed to give her blinding headaches. She just needed it to stop.

As if wishing it were true, she felt wetness below her very pregnant stomach and knew it was time.

“Venkat! Hurry! We need to head to the hospital! I think my water just broke!”

Half delirious, half manic with pain, she was admitted to the hospital. Her doctor informed them that she was already into labour but that it would take at least another day for the baby to deliver.

It was a long wait and the pain caused Kavitha to pass out.

“Venkat! Venkat! Venkattttt!” Kavitha was screaming, but for some reason, she couldn’t hear anything. She didn’t feel the debilitating pain she had last experienced. Her eyes were open but there was a darkness that engulfed her, she couldn’t even hear a thing. It was almost like she herself was in a womb devoid of any disturbance!

She tried to get up, but she couldn’t feel a thing as if her world was taken away from her. Her mind was into an overdrive, she just didn’t understand what was happening to her. She didn’t want any memory of it, she just tried to close her eyes but the silence was eating her up. Where was her family, where was Sravani, she needed answers.

She woke up to see the same darkness engulf her again but she heard sounds, she could feel the soft bedsheet under her hands and she could hear crying, a loud cry acceptable only from an infant. And then she heard her husband mumbling sweet nothings, presumably at a baby.

“Venkat! Venkat! Is that our baby!?” you could sense the anxiety in her voice; it was cracking with emotion at the thought of her newborn baby.

“Kavitha! You woke up! Here hold our baby, it’s a boy Kavitha!! It’s a boy!!” Her heart filled up with emotion as she heard those words, she knew he would be as excited if it was another girl too. She wasn’t sure why she wasn’t able to see him, but it didn’t matter as she felt a bundle placed in her hands.

She was so overwhelmed at the bundle in her hands. She felt like she was in another world floating over her body watching herself feel her baby. She gingerly felt her fingers across the bundle and then as if an electric shock went through her body she felt the soft delicate skin of her baby. Yes, her baby boy, in her hands after the long painful 9 months.

She caressed his head, it was full of hair, she had known she was going to have a hairy baby! Sravani was so hairy at the time of her birth that the doctor joked about her giving birth to a baby bear. She lightly touched his face, hovered across his two tiny closed eyes and then to his tiny nose. It was a cute button nose, she knew it just like his sister, Sravani had. Wow, Sravani is going to be a big sister now. So many thoughts were passing through her head.

She then moved her fingers across his shoulders to his tiny arms and then to his tightly held fists. She tried to pry them open but he would have none of it. She struggled and then opened it to touch each finger, that’s the thumb, that’s the second finger and so she counted ten fingers and then moved down to his legs to count his ten toes. She bent down to smell him; there is a distinct baby smell to a baby which one will never know unless one has had a child.

She felt close to him, she knew he was their baby. Only if she could see him.

Kavitha woke up in a vacuum; there was a silence everywhere around her. She opened her eyes, she saw everything, the clean and fresh hospital room she was in, the door was open to the nurses’ station right opposite the room and she could see the nurses laughing over something, but she couldn’t hear them. She turned to see the baby crib a little far away, near the guest bed where she saw Venkat sleeping, she wanted it near her. She finally wanted to see how her baby boy looked like.

Her eyes darted to the beautiful bouquet of flowers beside her bed, it was such a pleasure to see those vivid colours. She plucked a rose from the bouquet and smelled the fragrance, it was such a blast to her senses! She saw the colourful balloons hanging at the crib, must be Sravani’s choice, she loved the colourful helium balloons and always got them on her Sunday trips to the park and hung them near her bed.

She picked up the phone lying down on the side table and switched it on to see it was 01:00 PM in the afternoon on a Tuesday, the 10th of October. “Venkat! Venkat!” She shouted again to wake her husband, so she could see the baby. Finally, she picked up her phone and gave him a call; she put it to her ear but heard nothing. Was it not working? But she could see him waking up as his shirt pocket started moving with the vibration from his phone. He woke up with a rush only to see it was Kavitha’s call and looked up to see her awake. He gave her a smile and texted her, “So glad, you woke up! Our baby is beautiful!”

He got to pick up the baby but his face immediately convoluted, he picked up the baby and gave it to Kavitha. The baby was crying, but she didn’t hear his screaming. Venkat went out and brought a nurse who was smiling but instantly knew what to do.

She came to Kavitha and undressed her to lead her baby to suckle her. The baby was hungry, he needed milk. Only if she heard him cry for it.

Today was special, the 11th of October, it was another day years ago in a similar setting when she was gifted with her first child, Sravani’s birthday! Kavitha woke up to the crying of her baby, this time she heard him cry and the joy of hearing your baby alive and crying is something only a new mother will know. Except of course when it doesn’t stop at all and then you wish it would stop somehow!

She heard Sravani’s excited laughter coming in the doorway and then she came in, a flurry of blue and white. She was still in the Frozen phase and had wanted a dress just like Elsa. “Mummaaa!!” she came in rushing and gave her a big hug.

“Happy Birthday puchku! Come here let me kiss you!” Kavitha grabbed her daughter in her arms, feeling her delicate arms around her neck. Sravani was growing up, she was no longer her cute and chubby toddler always running around. She felt the pangs of growing up but she was glad there was another baby she could nurture and she looked at her boy sleeping peacefully in his crib.

Sravani started narrating her stories from school, how she was coping without her mother to help her through things and how clumsy father was around the house. It was such a joy for Kavitha to hear her chirpy voice; she had really missed her daughter all these days. She wondered, did parents really have favourite children? How can one even choose or prefer one child over the other? Still, in her new mother bliss, she promised to love both her children equally.

“Let’s cut the cake mumma! We brought it here so you can eat it too!” Sravani started the motions of cutting up her favourite red velvet cake designed especially with Frozen movie characters. There was singing and clapping when Sravani cut the cake and fed the cake to her mother first. She was hoping the cake was good when as she chewed on the cake her face turned into anguish. This couldn’t be happening. Only if she could taste the cake.

It was time to go home; Venkat was completing the formalities to get discharged from the hospital. Kavitha’s parents had cut short their USA trip and come in early to take care of her and the baby. Sravani was in the room too eating her birthday cake from the previous day and enjoying it to the hilt. She truly loved that silly red velvet cake!

It was a huge celebration; everybody had assembled at their home to congratulate the family. Her best friends Ramya and Lalitha were there with their kids and so was her entire extended family. It was a blast, they ate, they laughed and they took turns at admiring the cute little addition to the family.

Kavitha put the boy to sleep in his brand new nursery and cranked up the AC to create a cool and comfortable temperature in the room. She had experienced this with Sravani too, who slept better in the AC. Spoilt brats she thought! She never had AC growing up in her house, but she felt extremely lucky that she could give her children everything they wanted, almost everything.

She cleared the plates and after an hour went to check up on her baby. She opened the door to a deadly scene no mother would ever want to see, flames roaring and engulfing the baby’s room! She saw that the AC switch seemed to have sparked and started a fire. The curtains had caught fire and there was smoke starting to fill up the room, it seemed like she was there just in the nick of time. She grabbed the baby, who had started to cry but was alive and kicking. Only if she could have smelled the smoke!

The doctor had said the baby was fine and it was good that they had brought him at the right time. Due to the smoke, the baby had a minor cough and uneasiness but it was nothing permanent. Kavitha thanked all the gods in the universe but she couldn’t bear to imagine what would have happened if she didn’t enter the room there.

As she sat in the Puja room, praying fervently to the gods to take care of her babies, she smelt the fragrant incense and the burning of the oil lamp in front of the gods. It was a Friday and she was especially praying to Goddess Durga to ward off any danger that was coming the way of her children. It was cruel, how she could smell it today when it didn’t mean a thing. She got up and went to see how the baby boy was doing.

She sat down on the sofa and held him in her arms, but she couldn’t feel the soft skin of her baby. Her baby couldn’t feel her warmth as he was cocooned in her arms, he kept crying, he needed his mother’s warmth to keep him safe.

Only if she could make him feel.

This was tearing her up, she looked back to the week’s events and felt misery. She didn’t understand what was happening to her or the world. She felt the unfairness of it all, why couldn’t her children experience everything, why did they suffer? Her mind was torn, she felt helpless as a mother, she wanted to protect them, nurture them, keep them from harm but she couldn’t. She was useless, useless without something or the other that always mattered.

She couldn’t choose, could she choose which since she could lose? Could she lose feeling her children’s touch, could she lose smelling fear for them, could she lose the taste of food that bound them to happy memories, could she lose the sound of their happy feet or could she lose the sight to watch them grow into beautiful and talented adults? She couldn’t afford to lose anything.

She let out a blood-curdling cry, her body was revolting at the thought of living like this, unable to experience joy or fulfil her responsibility towards her children. She was still screaming when she felt her body shake.

“Kavitha! Wake up!” It was Venkat shaking her awake. “Kavitha, calm down, you were having a nightmare!”

She looked down to see her huge baby bump still intact. The bell rang suddenly, while she could feel the sweat trickling down her back, still coming to her senses.

“Mummaaa! I am home!” her lovely daughter ran into the room and gave her a quick hug before heading to her room.

She was fazed; she wasn’t sure what had happened. Just then Venkat came in and sat beside her on the couch holding her hand, his reassuring strong hands giving her the warmth she needed then. He kissed her forehead and she felt his moist lips touch her forehead and felt almost electric like the first time he had kissed her almost a decade ago now!

“Venkat, I had a horrible dream. It felt so real. Every day of the week I couldn’t feel one of my senses, and not just me the entire world! Even you! It was so horrible!”

“Try to take deep breaths Kavitha, breath in, breath out. It was probably just one of those nightmares Dr Jyothsna had warned us about. It’s all those hormones and your maternal instincts are kicking in again to be protective towards your family. Don’t worry you are just worried about all of us!”

He smiled that toothy grin she had fallen for and as he wrapped his strong arms around her to comfort her, she felt safe. She didn’t complain about the pain again until she delivered a healthy baby boy!

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