I don’t know about you but some of the best conversations I’ve had with my husband happened over the phone. It doesn’t really come as a surprise, given that we spend a lot of time apart in our 7.5 years together; after all, we were separated by more than 6000 miles in the early years of our courtship, and owing to M’s hectic work life now, time is once again a luxury that we cannot have.
We started our relationship with lots and lots of love letters sent via the good-old postman from London to Singapore, and from Singapore to London. Yes, we were the old-school sorta couple.
We also racked up sky-high phone bills and stayed up till the wee hours just so we could catch each other with the time difference. Yes, we were the insatiable sorta couple who couldn’t wait till the next time we checked our letter boxes.
We did very little of video calls on MSN. Yes, I was the shy girl who denied her boyfriend of the opportunity to see her face, who felt too embarrassed to smother him with tender words ‘face-to-face’ (read: my parents were probably lurking round the corner from the family PC and I really didn’t want them to know that their daughter was a lovesick puppy. HA!).
And so, we spent the very best times with each other on the phone in the early years (barring the letters which took forever to arrive).
When I was pregnant, we spent much of our time apart again; M had to return to London to finish off his medical degree, and we decided it was best for me to return to Singapore for the delivery. Those months are by far, THE toughest times of our lives. We were due to accomplish some of the biggest things we could ever embark on, and to do it without the other was…insane. I still can’t believe that we pulled through but I know exactly how we did it. We stayed up in the wee hours and talked whenever we could…only this time, we did it without racking up crazy bills, thanks to FaceTime.
Then, M returned to Singapore. Both of us felt relieved to be finally together in the same time zone, in the same place. This was short-lived, for 7 weeks later, we were thrown a curveball when our daughter arrived in the same week as when M started his new job as a doctor. Things were immensely stressful and complicated. They still are. We can hardly catch our breaths, let alone catch up with each other after an intense day of caregiving and saving lives. We see each other for less than half a week every Monday to Sunday. This has been going on for three months and we know it isn’t going to let up soon. So, what do we do?
We try our very best to talk. I could be in the loo as our daughter takes that rare nap (or damn, she could be in the middle of a wonder week and in that case, she is likely to be strapped onto me in the loo) or he could be sacrificing precious sleep during his crazy 32-hour weekly call at the hospital, but yes, we do what we can to call each other. As with the past 7.5 years, our conversations on the phone are always insightful, heartbreaking, loving….intense.
Just this weekend, I was feeling down in the dumps over the crap that is part and parcel of motherhood. Our daughter was extremely fussy and clingy for the past three days. She cried whenever I didn’t hold her. She fed poorly. She slept awful and I had only four hours of sleep in three days. She was going through her third mental leap and it was the worst one thus far. I was beyond shattered and feeling delusional about how this motherhood thing was going to work out in the next twenty years (cue EMO music). It didn’t help that I have been heavily criticised for not giving my daughter the care that others think I should be giving. It didn’t help that my daughter has often been swept away in others’ arms when she is all fine and dandy, and shoved back in my face the minute she screams murder; on top of that, I get blamed for her cries even if it wasn’t my fault, even if that’s what babies do, they cry. And I was upset because I was really looking forward to the recent weekend; early birthday celebrations were pencilled in and I CRAVED for time off to enjoy the company of family and friends, to grow older with my little girl in tow. I was close to cancelling the celebrations but I knew that if I rained on my parade, I will be worse off. I was also feeling shite because my ex-company suddenly called me up on Friday and offered me a job without me applying for one, and I knew I couldn’t go back to my career anytime soon because my daughter needs me now. I felt too much in too short a time. After lunch with my family on Sunday, I broke down in the car when M sent me back to my parents’ (he was starting his on-call and I usually head back to my parents’ when he’s not at home).
I couldn’t see myself pulling through this thankless, selfless thing that is motherhood. Because, maybe, I am selfish, and I want to be thanked, and I want to be acknowledged, and I want to be the one who steals love and affection, and shies away from the cries and angst of my daughter, without sifting through the crap.
M was speechless in the car as I cried in the backseat whilst looking after our baby girl, who was also wailing. He held me close in the lift and wiped my tears away before giving our daughter a kiss. He said a reluctant goodbye as we shut the door.
Then he called.
And every wound that stung so badly started healing inside me. He told me that he sees how hard it is for me to give up my career and freedom to be a mother. He told me that he sees how strong I have become ever since I became a mother. He told me that he doesn’t know how I do it but he is in awe at me for being a patient, loving mother to our daughter even when she is screaming in my ears and all I, or for that matter anyone, wanted to do was to muffle her screams in ways that loving mothers shouldn’t. He told me that he respects me for finding my will and staying strong in spite of criticism. He told me that he respects me even more for always being there for him, on top of caring for our daughter and dealing with negativity because it takes a selfless person to do all of that and more. He told me that he didn’t know why he didn’t tell me all that sooner, but he wanted to and he needed to.
I am glad. That someone finally sees how painful and rewarding motherhood is for me, that someone finally sees how it tears me up and yet, makes me complete, how it makes me stronger and weaker at the same time. And I am glad that this someone is my best friend.
One phone call from him was all it took to make me whole again.
Now that M is busy during his call at the hospital, there is nothing more that I want than to catch him at the right time, and call him just to say, ‘I love you’, even if my parents are lurking around the corner, eavesdropping on the lovesick puppy that is their daughter. Yes, even that.