12 th September, 2008
One of the most incredible feelings you get as a new mother is when your baby after a sleep wakes up and cries, possibly feeling abandoned and you reach out and pick her up to comfort, telling her "its all right..Mama is here." My mother had said many a time when I teased her 'concerns' which the rebel in me often found interfering, irritating, nagging... "You will know when you become a mother." And now I know. I cannot say taking care of a baby is the most difficult of jobs on earth but without a doubt it is the most satisfying and amusing. Not too many jobs can stake claim on such fulfilling rewards. The toothless smiles, the innocent imploring eyes and above all the preference your baby gives you to all others. It is without a parallel. So what if you have to wake up groggy in the middle of the night to respond to her cry for comfort and hunger. When the pleading eyes beseech you to take care of her, your heart and innards melt in maternal love. My baby has started turning to her sides and is very garrulous despite not having a language to converse in. She even chuckles when you have held a funny face long enough.
The other night my baby was in no mood to sleep. She had slept well in the late evening and was bright and alert experimenting with all the noises she could possibly make with her mouth and the different decibels she could reach! She had already become proficient with swinging her hands at hanging toys that is whenever she wasn't trying to chew them off. I periodically counted them to ensure she hadn't gulped down a few! I had turned out the light as was the 'bed time' routine leaving only a night lamp on. This had been established to get the baby used to the idea that "it was night time now and a good idea to sleep." The night lamp helped me during middle of the night feeding. To be fair my little girl has always been sleeping more in the night and for longer durations. In the second month she started her norm of a 4 hour sleep before waking up for a feed. At times she slept for 5 and even 6 hours at a stretch. But in those days she hardly slept in the day time preferring to feed. But lately she had started sleeping more in the day and it takes longer for her to sleep in the night and when she does, she wakes up in 4 hours with the precision of a swiss watch. I never had to set an alarm to wake up and rouse her to feed.
Coming back to the other night, while feeding her I spotted this huge spider on the wall. It had thick octet legs and looked menacing. Normally we get to see thin legged spiders but for a change, this was big. The word tarantula kept flashing in my mind. The repository in the head sprung up the name from a dusty shelf along with the information that it was scary but entirely harmless. But some of the spiders were deadly causing fatal poisonous bites. And didn't one of them bite our friendly neighborhood hero changing his life for ever? But even a 'harmless' spider can cause a skin reaction or rashes. I continued feeding and the baby slowly drifted to sleep. I stirred to try and put her down gently without waking her up. Its usually not easy. And as I lifted her gently from my lap, I spotted a fleeting movement across the bed towards its edge. In the dim light I figured it was the spider. I could no longer see it on the wall. Shocked, I jumped off the bed with the baby. I now could make out the spider clearly. It seemed to be hovering on the hanging edge of the bed sheet. I was a little scared now especially because of the baby. I wasn't sure if I should put her down with the spider so close. But if I had to do something I needed my hands free. I gently put her on her little bed. I could still spot the spider which was motionless now perhaps sensing its exposure. I couldn't bring myself to let it go for I would never have been able to sleep in that condition. It isn't that I am afraid of spiders, but this one was pretty big and could cause trouble. Besides darkness of the night invariably exaggerates your emotions particularly fear. I realized that I had to squash it if I wanted to sleep but the idea was totally repulsive. I was gripped by a fear and disgust at the very thought but more for my baby's safety, I concluded I had to do it. So I grabbed a fat book and with a prayer of forgiveness slammed it on the spider still perched on the edge and the book fell down on to the floor. I was shaking. I saw another big book lying on the shelf and on an impulse placed it on the book already lying on the floor with the now dead spider. Although there was no way that a spider could wriggle out from under the first one. I imagined it all squashed up with its innards spewed out stuck on the book's glossy cover and it was a repulsive thought. I couldn't bring myself to lift the book and spy the evidence of my deed. As I was closely inspecting the area around ground zero, I was horrified to spot a dozen or two little baby spiders scampering about. Few along the wall and the floor skirting and many trying to climb the wall with tiny legs. The thought of all those baby spiders growing up into scary adults got me worried. So I grabbed a third book and ran it on the hapless babies. Most of them perished.. all those that I saw moving. Few must have got away.
"I killed the mother spider." I thought. I had seen a movie called Arachnophobia on television once, where this very dangerous spider with a fatal bite was killed just in time when they discover the secret hideout of its nest which if left undetected would have unleashed hundreds of the menacing spider into the neighborhood. Indian spiders are not known to be fatal. My baby meanwhile woke up in all the muffled commotion. I put her back to sleep and then snuggled in my bed covers with a creepy feeling of spiders running over me.
Sometime later in the night just as I was succumbing to a slippery sleep, a loud thud startled me out of my dreams. A quick glance at the clock told me it was just over an hour after the spider obliteration. I looked in the direction of the noise, towards the open loft. It was the mama cat that had given birth to a litter of kittens in our store room. It usually made its way in to the house through any one of the many ventilator openings and there was one near the loft. She had come to feed her kittens I presumed. I was too sleepy and refused to get up to open the bedroom door. But I felt remorse at the thought of the kittens waiting for their mama. I reluctantly got up and opened the door and after what seemed like ages the cat mustered some courage and jumped down from the loft and pattered out of the room. As I closed the door and made my way back to the bed, I heard distant peals of kitten 'meows' of joy followed by a long suckling silence. I drifted away to sleep once again. In the middle of the night I got up few times on the crying demands of my baby, fed her and slept. I was used to this routine. I had figured out that if you kept your eyes closed while you fed the baby in the night and remained in a self imposed state of subconsciousness, you had a better chance of going back to sleep than if you were wide eyed and alert. Two feeds later, the new day had dawned. but to catch up with my lost sleep I usually sleep late. Finally, late morning I removed myself from the comforts of the bed. The baby was sleeping with a look of satisfaction on her cherubic face. After washing up I proceeded to venture out for my first glass of milk in the morning. I could hear my mother singing in the kitchen while going about her chores. I saw the books lying on the floor and the adventures of the night resurfaced. The fear had passed away with the night and so had revulsion. Instead was remorse and pity for the now dead spider. I tentatively lifted the book half expecting the spider to spring out with a vengeance. There was no spider there. I had failed in my murderous attempt. The spider had escaped and now lay hidden somewhere in the room mourning her babies. Are spiders vengeful? Do they have a memory of elephants?