The first time I saw my son was the second day after the surgery. There he was, a perfect replica of his father. I wanted to hold him but I was desperately fighting the urge, as I had no idea how to lift him from his cradle. Thankfully, my husband – I discovered to my utter joy – is a complete natural with babies, and he came to my rescue. In a few minutes, I was sitting up, holding my baby for the very first time.
For someone so small, he has a pair of strong lungs and a loud voice. The first time my son cried, he turned red. Both my husband and I panicked, while the on-duty paediatrician laughed at us and calmly explained that babies are born with a little more blood and tend to blush pink. In my son's case, it was reddish. Phew!
Then, I knew it had started. The constant worry and protectiveness for the little piece of myself that I was still getting to know. In a few days, we were to take our baby home and introduce him to our two wonderful dogs, Cherry and Tia. The extended family had been suggesting that we get rid of the pets, as it could be dangerous for the baby. Despite our anxiety of how the dogs will react, we were sure we didn't want to give them up.
When we got home, the dogs were curious about the little person we were hiding in the bedroom. We introduced them to Shaurya, our three-day-old son. My pets sniffed him for a few minutes and sat at the foot of his bed. In the following weeks, we noticed a growing affection between the little one and our furry friends.
It has been more than ten months and they have taken on the role of his playmates and protectors. They follow him around the house and nudge him up when he stumbles or falls. He calls to them in his goo-goo-gaa-gaa language and they appear instantly.
At the time, I was sleep-deprived. My days and nights seemed to merge. We would be awake until 3am some nights, trying to put the colicky baby to sleep. During this time, I realized that my son enjoyed stories that helped him drift off. Soon, make-believe ones – the Adventures of Little Shaurya – started to flow. I was heavily inspired by Enid Blyton's books. I read them out to him aloud every day for an hour.
Months flew by and when the time came for me to return to work, it was the hardest decision of my life. It was very difficult to think about leaving Shaurya in someone else's care. I knew I would be missing out on many memories – his first step, his first crawl, his first word, his first tooth. But it was equally difficult for me to give up my dreams. It seemed selfish and I was guilt-ridden.
DK has been a home to me, a place where I can be myself, design books that make me happy, and interact with like-minded friends and colleagues. Quitting would be like giving up a part of myself. I would never want my son to give up a part of himself. I would want him to take flight and chase his dreams. Then why would I choose anything different for myself?
On my first day back, my team welcomed me with flowers and cake. It was like I had never been away. The easy routine of design and chatter awaited, and I slid right back in. It's been seven months since I returned. Initially it was a struggle to balance designer Suzena and mother Suzena, but everything grew easier thanks to the constant support from my team and my family. Always by my side on the difficult days – when my son's caretaker doesn't show up, when he is sick, or if there is an issue at work.
Each day when I get home, Shaurya waits for me to scoop him up into my arms. I watch with fascination as he plays and crawls around the house. He grows each day into himself and there is always something new – a word, a giggle or a funny story.
I have been gifting him colourful, soft-cloth books and lovely DK pop-up books to encourage the same love for reading I have. His current favourite is the DK Pop-up Colours book. It's a joy to see his chubby fingers run over the bright colours, and his face light up for the surprise pop-ups.
Yes, I have missed out on some memories with my son, but I realize we make new ones everyday. Many happy 'firsts' are still to happen and I am looking forward to them both at DK and with my little one.