A Birthday Letter To My Son

Dear Chintu,

I was reading an article on tinybuddha about how it is the little things that actually matter in life. All this while I knew that I wanted to write down something for your first birthday, maybe a letter, a blog post or just a journal entry, which I may show you some day to read, if you are interested. What I wasn’t sure of, was what exactly to write. But this article that I just read, made things clear for me.

Before you came into our lives, I had no idea that something so tiny can take the biggest place in my heart and my life. I knew everyone loves their child, but I didn’t know the magnanimity of the feeling. The feeling didn’t come instantly either, especially when under the influence of anesthesia, pricked by so many needles, cut open and stitched up.

It crept in without any prior intimation. When you, the tiny wrapped up person was placed next to me. When I first touched those tiny soft curled fingers. When I saw you rooting towards me when hungry. When I first felt your warmth. It was in those moments that the love crept in. As the days unfold and I see you growing up to be this independent person, my love for you grows along with it.

I thought the pregnancy days and the first year of raising you was tough. But truthfully, the past week has been the toughest. Having to leave you and come to work has been the toughest thing I’ve done in a long time. I can’t get enough of looking at your photos when at work. I call in every few hours to check on you. Thinking of seeing your gorgeous smile when I get back, wants to make me rush home right then.

You’ve turned one year old today and I cannot express how precious this day is, to me and your Appa. I think it would be apt to write about your MRI episode today, just so you know how precious you are.

I was a real worrier during your initial months. That’s quite natural for a first time mother I guess. You suffered from a lot of gas, which now I have come to know, is very common and a lot of babies suffer from it. But, back then I was constantly worried about what wrong was I doing, which might be causing you gas. I was worried or rather had convinced myself that you were in pain due it, though you were quite a happy baby at times other than the feeding ones.

During one such day, I gave you Ajwain (Carom seeds) water, according to the advice of the elders at home. Your tiny system wasn’t probably adjusted to it and you vomited a few hours later. When this happened once more, I panicked. The sleep deprived person that I was, it was hard for me to think anything clearly. I overreacted and decided that you need the doctor’s attention. I forced your Appa and Ajji and we went to the doctor. What happened later was something, I will never forget.

The doctor on checking you told that everything seemed fine and I needn’t worry about the vomiting. He casually checked you and mentioned that your head looks slightly bigger for your age. He measured it and it was 43 cm. He asked for the birth records, which said it was 34 cm at birth. The average growth rate for the head circumference is supposed to be 2.5 cm a month. You were less than 3 months old that day, which meant your head had grown at twice the rate than the average. I mentioned that big heads are sort of hereditary in our family and that I and my dad had big heads too. But he seemed concerned and broke the news that we needed to get an MRI done. It freaked me out like nothing else. I started crying. The doctor reassured me saying, it wasn’t to scare me. Just to ensure that we need an MRI, he referred us to a Pediatric Neurologist (quite a famous one). He said that, we can get a second opinion there.

We returned home with a heavy heart, clueless about what to do next. Life had changed all of a sudden. It had taken only a few moments. A sixth sense told me, we should meet the Pediatrician who saw you at birth and take a second opinion. We decided to meet the Neurologist, if he too suggests an MRI. We went there that evening. He said that an MRI will rule out things, but seeing a Neurologist may not be necessary. On hearing his opinion, going by what we had decided earlier, we booked an appointment with the Neurologist for the next day. A specialist will always know better, is what we thought. It seemed like the longest night. What we didn’t know was that the next day would be worse.

The visit to the Neurological Diagnostic Center the next day was terrifying. Seeing the differently abled children there, with various neurological disorders, broke my heart into a million pieces. Suddenly to our eyes, you changed from a happy playful baby to a baby who is ill. On meeting the doctor, he said you responded well to all gestures, but you had a big head, frontal bossing (a protruding forehead) and sun setting eyes. Yes, you had this ability to move your eye balls down, with your eyelids fully open. Till that day it hadn’t seemed odd to us. We thought it was just a thing you did to see the lights. He said these indicate a condition called Hydrocephalus. It occurs when one of the passages to the fluid in the brain is blocked. He said a small surgical procedure will correct it, if that’s the case. SURGERY of THE BRAIN!! He spoke like it was so simple! Of course it was to him, he is a doctor and sees such patients every day. Our life was shattered. Here, we held our smiling infant who was being diagnosed with stuff we didn’t even know existed. The doctor went on to say that we should get an MRI done in the lab downstairs and come to him with the report. The result would be known in two hours.

We walked downstairs and wept like there’s no tomorrow. Fortunately it turned out that there was no MRI facility downstairs and we had to go to their other center in Jayanagar. Your Appa was beyond shattered and was in no condition to take any decision. Better sense prevailed on me and I decided, we’ll get the MRI done at the place your Pediatrician had suggested and take the reports to him instead of the Neurologist. Your Pediatrician was the only person among the 3 who had spoken positively and said the MRI would only eliminate our doubts. With this decision we returned to Ajji’s home. Your father then left for home, to update your grandparents.

I can still picture that night when I close my eyes. How I held you tight in my arms, in the middle of the night and cried out loud and hoarse in front of your Ajji and Doddajji. “Why is God doing this to my baby? Is something wrong with him? Why should he suffer for some wrong doing that I may have done?” You, my tiny precious baby were looking at me with tiny blinking eyes, alarmed at my cries. Your Ajji was my sole strength. She was the only one who was so sure, everything was absolutely fine with you. She reassured me that everything would be just fine. I cried for a long time, in her arms and you in mine.

The morning strangely brought some positivity with it. Thankfully, I would say. Else handling your Appa would have been so tough. I had never seen your Appa like this in the past 5 years. He hardly spoke for 3 days. He couldn’t express his fears, lest I break down. He suffered silently. On that day, I reassured him, that things would be fine and my gut feeling tells me that my baby is perfectly fine. He had no strength to go into the MRI room with you. I said, I will.

You were given some medicine to put you to sleep. Seeing the tiny you being wrapped and pulled into that huge machine which made the loudest and the most jarring sounds, was horrible. The 20 min, seemed like 20 hours to me, as I stood there shivering due to the chill and fear. We returned home as we still had a few hours left for the reports to arrive.

That evening your Appa went to collect the reports, as we waited in the car. A huge wave of relief swept over me as I saw him walking back to the car with a smile on this face. We didn’t understand it, but were happy to read the words NORMAL in the result. We took the reports to your Pediatrician, who slowly went through it and smiled at us and said “He is absolutely fine and has no issues! He’s just a baby with a big head. He is going to be a Vishweshwariah.” He writes on the report – Normal, with no Hydrocephalus. He hadn’t even mentioned the term to us, even though he suspected it, unlike the Neurologist. I cried out of relief and thanked him from the bottom of my heart. I am indebted to him, for being the calm, composed and true professional that he was.

I want you to know, it was longest and the most horrible 3 days of my life. My heart goes out to those kids and parents for whom such situations would have ended on a negative note. I pray that they find the strength to deal with the situation and that their child is treated well and recovers soon.

It had taken us more than two years and a lot of doctor visits, before you decided to enter our lives. You mean everything to us! I cannot imagine a day without you now. I hope you grow up to be an empathetic, good human being. I wish you the very best in life. The point of writing this was just so you know that you are blessed and you’ve got past a horrid situation, even without your knowledge. Make most of this life! Happy First Birthday Chintu! I love you! ❤

Hugs & Kisses,

Writing this post brought back strong emotions and I couldn’t control myself. But through this post I want to also reach out to people who may be stuck in a similar situation. During those three days when we kept searching the web for answers on “sun setting sign of the eyes” and “Hydrocephalus”, there were only scary results that popped up, which increased our fears. There was only ONE positive article that we found. That is also one of the reasons I wanted to write about this, so someone in need may reach here some day and feel a little better.

If you are stuck in such a situation, please be calm and positive. Your case may be just like ours. The main signs to look for is whether your child is active, responsive, playful, meeting his milestones etc. Kids actually suffering from Hydrocephalus are unusually dull, have fixed sun setting eyes and are less responsive. We have kept a close watch on the increase of my son’s head circumference since the incident. He is still quite ahead of the average for his age group, but the rate of growth has gone down. His eyes are perfectly fine and one of his most adorable features.

Another thing that I learnt from this experience is that sometimes a simple Physician can look at your problem more objectively than a Specialist. A Specialist is so “into” looking at such cases that their diagnosis is oriented in that direction. Our specialist had no reason for giving out that many details and scaring us. He too could have suggested just an MRI and then made observations, rather than diagnosing wrongly. So stay calm and take a second/third opinion before jumping to conclusions.

I really wish that no person has to go through such a situation. Take care and stay safe!


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Prav says:

    A lovely post and very deep. Loved it!
    All the love for the Gunda 🙂

    1. Arch says:

      Thank you 🙂

  2. So glad your son was okay and healthy. That is so nerve wracking right? We had some similar small issues wrt kidney and had to get some scans done. The doctor scared us too but ultimately the baby was fine. As new parents, it is horrifying to hear words like “surgery”. For gas, give gripe water. It worked for us when he was gassy. Nothing in my life is now as important as my kid. How life changes as soon as they arrive right?

    1. Arch says:

      Absolutely! That’s what I keep thinking too, how life is so different now.

  3. Deboshree says:

    This is beautiful. Kudos to the letter writer. ❤

    1. Arch says:

      Thank you Debo 🙂

  4. Anu says:

    Happiest first birthday to my gujji maama! :-*
    Lovely, heartfelt post – I’m sure he will read it when grown up and draw strength from this!
    I remember the day very well – we were in Murudeshwara in front of the Lord witnessing his abhishekha and all I could think of was the little one! I’m so glad that the lord heard all our prayers and everything was fine! 🙂
    Wishing him a long, healthy, happy and contented life! May the smile light up his face always! 🙂

    1. Arch says:

      Thank you 🙂

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