Ari’s Birth Story

He accompanied me for 6 months to Wharton classes. He heard all the world class professors. Friends joked. “This one is Abhimanyu. He is going to learn everything there is to know about Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Finance”. He even walked with me on the graduation podium to collect the hard earned diploma.

He went on walks with me. I took him to the beach. So, he could hear the sounds of the beach even before he saw the beautiful waves.

He heard me sing and talk to him throughout the night. I winced throughout the last 3 months he was within me because his kicks were much more vigorous than his elder brother’s kicks.

Then, he was born. A Born Leo. It was a very normal delivery.

I was getting ready to leave the hospital and come back home to help Adi get started with his first day of school. 24 hours after he was born, everything started going downhill. His blood sugar dropped. There was “some” problem with his breathing. So, they started poking him (just 1 day old) to keep monitoring his blood level. It tore my heart. Then, they told me that he can’t go back home. I didn’t understand. What the heck did they mean by “He can’t go back home with you.”

He was mine. He was mine to keep. He was mine to raise. He was the one who was destined to stand beside my pyre and cry the loudest.

I didn’t understand what they meant by “He can’t go back home with you.” Then they told me. He had aspirated during his birth. He had to be moved to Lucille Packard Intensive Care. He had to be monitored. There was “risk” involved.

Every time I find myself in a stressful situation, a sudden calm takes over me. The brain takes control.

Suddenly, I was not in a rush to go back home. I used all the communication and persuasion tactics I had ever learnt. I told them “I am not leaving. Not without him.” They took me to the room where he had to be placed in an incubator. He had to be poked to put the IV in. They were gentle. They told me “Please mom, you delivered a baby. Your mind and body are tired. You won’t be able to see us poke him for the IV. Can we please accompany you outside this room?”.

In a calm tone, I responded. “I am not going anywhere. Through rain and shine, through sickness and health I am going to stand beside him. I will sing all his favorite songs that I have been singing for the last 9 months. I will hold his tiny fingers to calm him. Then you can poke him for the IV.” They obliged. I sang. They poked. There was not a peep from him.

For the next several hours, my eyes were stuck on the monitor that tabulated how good his oxygen levels were. Whenever I blinked, I felt guilty. I couldn’t rest. I shouldn’t. So, I watched the monitor like a hawk.

After many hours, Kumar convinced me to go back home and rest. That was the hardest ride ever. There was no tears. Only a very heavy heart as I got into the car and realized that the car seat was not holding him for the first car ride home with mom. I went back home and rested.

I took Adi to the first day of his school. I even humored Adi with the annual tradition of dipping his footsteps in rice flour and making him walk across the door step to make little Krishna steps for Krishna Jayanthi. Daddy and my dear friends Revati and Jagan provided incredible emotional support.

After a couple of days, the doctors gave the green signal. There was no infection. His lungs were clear. He could come back home. We brought him back home.

Then, for many months, Kumar and me would lie awake to ensure he was breathing normally.

Till today, the most precious thing in the world for me is to see his chest move up and down…rhythmically..slowly but steadily…as he falls asleep.

The little man grew up to be the one with the kind heart, shiny eyes and the naughty grin. He is most certainly the precious gift that God decided should stay with me.

He is mine. He is mine to keep. He is mine to raise. He is the one who is destined to stand beside my pyre and cry the loudest.

Ari is turning 5. Please shower your blessings on the naughty young fellow who holds my heart strings in his little fingers.

Footnote:
My heartfelt thanks to all of you who commented on this thread, called me or messaged me saying this story was touching and inspirational. Thank you also for confiding in me your “parent-child” experiences. Here is my 2 cents (for whatever it is worth). This story is inspiring and touching not because it is Ari’s or mine. It is very inspiring and touching because it is also YOUR story. It is the story of you staying awake and holding your child through out a sickness. It is the story of every parent and the special bond that they share with their child. It is the story of feeling a special bond with your spouse, your family, your community…because you realize we are all in this together. It is the story of feeling vulnerable and strong…all at once. It is the story of humanity’s struggle to protect its off-spring and send them forth to a brighter and happier world. It is the story of nature manifesting intelligence and kindness. We are the generation that is holding the baton to raise the “next” generation. I wish all of you good luck with your parenting. Stay Strong.

Togetherness in the Face of Adversity – Break due to the Brake

We made the mandatory annual summer trip to Yosemite.

Togetherness in the Face of Adversity - Break due to the Brake - 2 - Ambal Balakrishnan

 

It was extra special because the boys’ aunt Rema  (Kumar’s cousin) joined us. It was also the very first Yosemite trip for Rainbow and the very first time Ari hiked up to Vernal. The day was gorgeous. We had loads of fun.

Togetherness in the Face of Adversity - Break due to the Brake - 1 - Ambal Balakrishnan

On the way back from Yosemite, we drove back through a two lane highway that brings us down rapidly from 5000 feet to 0 feet. A car had fallen off one of the cliffs and the highway patrol started redirecting traffic to a lesser used and much  steeper detour path. We started taking the detour path and came down to a T-intersection.

Many people started waving at us. I yelled to Kumar to stop the van. We got out of the van and realized that our break pads were burning and letting out smoke (smelled yuck!). Same thing had happened to many other cars. We stopped and waited for the break pads to cool down.

Meanwhile, I went around and chatted with folks from El Salvador, Chicago, New York, Sacramento, Korea, China and of course the Bay Area.

And, guess what?! Everybody even humored me with some fun group pictures. Can you hear us yelling “brakes” in the pictures?

After 45 minutes or so, we tested our brakes and it worked. Unfortunately, some of my new found buddies brakes failed and they had to call a towing company. The family and I waved good bye, said a few of our favorite prayers and started driving again.

Can you spot the guy in the glasses and the orange color t-shirt? I thanked him and his family. He is the reason that I am alive to tell this story.

Please use low gear when driving on steep roads.

What is your behind the Wheel Story?

I am Adi’s personalized chauffeur.

What is your behind the Wheel Story - Ambal Balakrishnan

Dropping.
Waiting.
Pickup.
Conversing in the car.
Playing his favorite songs on the car stereo.
Taking him to the park.
Taking him to play dates.
Taking him to parties.
Taking him to classes.
Briefing him.
Debriefing with him.
All in the car.

If my Toyota Sienna had to tell its story, I am sure it will be an interesting and fun one….and a very long story.

What is your behind the wheel story?

Adi’s Birth Story

4 days had passed since he was born.

Kumar, Grandpa and I rushed to the hospital for the first week doctor check up.
We were running late….with a wailing baby in the car seat. Kumar pulled through to the clinic’s driveway to drop me off. I jumped off the car and rushed to the front desk.

The receptionist asked me “Who is the appointment for?”.

I responded “I have an 8.30am appointment for my son. His last name is spelt – K – U – M – A – R”.

As I said it, I realized it was the very first time I had said “MY SON”. Suddenly there was a new relationship with a new person. That new person…that was my son. MY SON. As, I said it, my heart became stronger and weaker all at once.

The last few years have been a wild ride with the boy who holds my heart strings in his hands.

Today, he is 11.

10 years ago he was 1. And, we were “one”.

He has a mind of his “own” now.
He and I don’t see eye-2-eye anymore.
He and I blow smoke off our shotguns every day.

Despite the “differences” his adolescence brings, we are still tied together at the hip. And, I hope that togetherness will last a lifetime.

Whether you are near or far, thank you for being in Adi’s life. Thank you for coaching him, sharing a laugh with him and wishing him well. Thank you for guiding me with your parenting tips.

Thank you for saying “Ambal, it is such a short time. Come on, hold it together, will you?”

2 Jasmine Flowers from My Backyard

I had some of the best middle school English teachers. They didn’t just teach me. They imparted love for the language and poetry. I also grew up with a great love for Tamil poetry.

I plucked these 2 fragrant jasmine flowers from the backyard. These flowers remind me of a beautiful poem from Poet Valli.

Here is part of the poem transliterated in English:

Kadavul thandha iru malargal kanmalarndha pon malargal
Onru paavai koondhalilae onru paadhai oaraththilae

Alaiyil midhandha malar kandu adhanmael karunai manam kondu
Thalaiyil iraivan soodikkondaan thaanae adhanai saerththukkondaan
Kuzhalil soodiya oru malarum koayil saerndha oru malarum
Irandum vaazhvil perumai perum idhayam engum amaidhi perum

Here is part of the poem in Tamil with English translation:

கடவுள் தந்த இரு மலர்கள் கண் மலர்ந்த பொண் மலர்கள்
ஒன்று பாவை கூந்தலிலே ஒன்று பாதை ஓரத்திலே
Two precious flowers given by God;
One fortunate enough to adorn a charming girl while other floated by placid water.
அலையில் மிதந்த மலர் கண்டு அதன்மேல் கருனை மனம் கொண்டு
தலையில் இறைவன் சூடிக்கொண்டான் தானே அதனை சேர்த்துக்கொண்டான்
Seeing the plight of the floating flower, the Creator with grace adorned Himself with that.
குழலில் சூடிய ஒரு மலரும் கோயில் சேர்ந்த ஒரு மலரும்
இரண்டும் வாழ்வில் பெருமை பெறும் இதயம் எங்கும் அமைதி பெறும்
Both the flowers get their glory by adorning;
So will the heart get filled with peace (for everyone)

English Translation was provided by my friend Daisy whose love for Tamil exceeds mine by many fold.