I sit on the step in the garage leading to the door. Ammu is on my lap, her cheek nuzzling mine. We do nosy rubs and sit, rocking back and forth. Pattu circles around on her bike within the garage watching us as we wait for the bus. The door behind me opens and Saathi stands with laddu on his arm. He watches, bemused at the sudden display of affection between Ammu and me. I let go of Ammu and beckon Pattu. Dutifully getting off her bike, she replaces Ammu on my lap. We sit hugging and nuzzling. I pull her ear lobes and she smiles at the intimacy. She smiles, eyes closed. A hint of shyness at being coddled like a baby. She is enjoying it I can tell. A moment later, the four of us walk towards the driveway at the sound of the arriving bus.
Waving at the silhouettes at the bus window, I turn back home. Laddu rests her head contentedly against my neck, her eyes taking everything around her in. As I walk inside, I glance at my reflection on the garage window. Tendrils of hair frame my face. A smile stretches from ear to ear. My stomach is spilling from my tee-shirt as I strain to hold Laddu on my weak arm. I stand to absorb the image and walk inside.
In the quiet afternoon hours, minutes before I sink into oblivion with the baby by my side, I remember the image from the morning. Another day, the unsightly bulge from my mid section would have bothered me. The way grey hair or unkempt nails do. Today however, I acknowledged what I saw but felt no shame. I wonder if it had something to do with having carried life within. Watching my stomach expand and nourish Laddu, I have a new-found respect for my body, for what it has been capable of. Instead of hiding under oversized clothes, pregnancy seems to have unfettered something within me. I reach instead for long, flowy skirts and tees that in a previous year would have been deemed too fitted.
I notice it in other subtle ways too. I feel free inside my head. Those niggling voices of self-doubt seem to have been quelled. I seem to have accepted what I cannot change. Embraced my body the way it is. Not the way I want it to be.