And it is of special significance that my 990th post is about her 2nd birthday. Well, her birthday was on Sunday the 17th of March, but I'm only writing it now because it wasn't a very happy birthday for her. She fell badly sick and had to be hospitalized on oxygen for a lung infection. She's back home now and from her antics, feeling much better, but the doctors did warn us that premature babies with very low birth weight are susceptible to lung infections that regular babies are unaffected by, so we need to be careful.
Well, it's still two months before doctors will consider her as a two-year-old (they use the expected delivery date rather than the actual birth date for babies born before 37 weeks of gestation), so I'm still wondering if I should consider her a two-year-old yet or not. Two be or not two be? More importantly, have the terrible twos started, or do I have another two months?
As she grows, we might start seeing some of the things doctors had cautioned us about and it is a little scary. Of course, we rejoiced at every step, when she was taken off oxygen support, when she was taken out of the incubator, when the bleeding in her brain stopped, when the hole in her heart closed, when her hernia surgery was successful, when she finally came home after two very challenging months in the ICU... but we are aware that the difficulties might not be over and there may be other challenges along the road. Like her eating. Rather, the lack of. She is two and she pretty much survives on two small bottles of milk in a day. She weighs as much as a 9-month-old. Sometimes it gets exhausting. I have been offering her food multiple times a day for the last year and a half, and she has rejected it every single time. Sometimes I dream of the day when I will wake up and see her eating. Actually eating. Food.
During her recent hospitalisation, the doctors who saw her were quite taken aback at her size and one of them actually started asking us if she is okay in terms of developmental milestones. "Can she walk? Can she run? Can she speak at least 50 words?" I wanted to laugh. Honestly, one of the big reasons why I've still not joined the workforce back is to help her catch up on such things. (Doctors had said that her total rejection of solid food and lack of the chewing action is very likely to cause a delay in speech, and at one point they even referred us to a speech and language therapist.) So I had been working my ass off. I knew I couldn't do anything if she didn't want to eat, but this dragon mommy was not going to give up without a fight on the speech delay possibility. So I talked and I talked and I talked to her. All day long. I talked so much that I often gave myself a headache. I kid you not. And then I would make adrak ki chai for myself to get rid of the headache. And then I would talk some more. In the beginning, she just gave me "You crazy woman" looks, but soon she started responding. Very well.
So when the doctor asked me if she can say 50 words, I laughed. I nodded to assure him that she could. When we came back from the hospital, I had a fun idea. I sent an email to Viv's parents and my parents asking them to guess how many words are in Xena's vocabulary at the moment. The guesses ranged from 100-300 words. And then I sent them the answer with the list of words that I had been compiling for her 2nd birthday. The list only included words that she actively and voluntarily uses in conversation (I excluded words that she can repeat because she can repeat almost everything). And the magic number is 501, far off from all their guesses! 436 English words and 65 Hindi words. I feel like I can breathe a bit now. There may be another 28283764739292 challenges to expect in the future, but here's one down and nothing can stop me from celebrating. :)
As someone who has always been totally and hopelessly in love with her vocation, I can't help but compare my life now to when I was in the office. And sometimes I feel like I use principles from my working life to parent Xena. Well, at least some aspects of it. However, I have to admit that parenting is the hardest 'project' I have ever done. It is so random, so grey, so unpredictable, that at times you feel lost and can only find comfort in the fact that you did the best you could. It's hard to stay sane between the extreme feelings that having a kid brings about. The good stuff is really good (when your kid runs towards you to hug you, or when she falls asleep in your arms), but the bad stuff is really bad (when you are 7 months pregnant and you don't know if your kid and/or you will make it, or when you are rushing her to the hospital in the middle of the night).