Home Sociology Infant Observation: Creating Transformative Relationships
Forty days old—mother turns to grandmother for support
I received a message from Nikhil's mother asking me to come today as she was busy on Saturday. When I entered the house she was nowhere to be seen. In fact no one was in the living room save the grandmother. She soon left to go to their other flat to do some Diwali dry fruit packing. She called Alka who said that she was feeding the baby and to wait. I was not invited to the bedroom. A cricket match was on the television. A manservant was ironing some clothes. After a quarter of an hour Alka came out with the baby. She placed him on the usual sofa in the hall. I went and sat next to him. She stood explaining to me with great feeling that he wasn't feeling well all last week and how baffled she was that he had been continuously crying in the evenings. She told me that the previous evening had been particularly bad, as he was very cranky. Nikhil started crying. Initially she stood talking to me and except for an occasional silence he would burst forth crying. Then she took him in her arms and started pacifying him saying that his grandmother would soon come for him. With that his grandparents arrived and his grandmother took him in her arms.
His grandmother started talking to him to pacify him, continuously talking to him all the time she held him. From time to time she would say to me, "You know he is happy when he has someone to talk to", or "He understands so much at such a tender age." I answered appreciating what she was saying. He looked at his grandmother most of the time. His gaze would also follow his mother and grandfather if they were nearby. He would turn his head to follow them. The grandmother insisted that I finish my questions. I tried to explain that I didn't have any specific questions but she repeated her request and Alka kindly explained for me.
The baby was crying on and off throughout my stay. He was mostly with grandmother and his mother would occasionally call out to him. Once when his grandmother was talking to him, I smiled at the caring way she talked to him and was happy that with her care the baby had quietened down. I looked up and saw his mother also smiling. Her smile broadened into a more private smile. I did not know why he had been yelling so much all of a sudden. I felt that nobody was as concerned as I felt. His grandmother kept rocking him. A couple of times he vomited milk and both his mother and grandmother talked again about this habit being the same as his brother's. As they felt he was hungry his mother took him for another feed. While she was feeding him, his grandmother told me about her failing health and about how all her time at present was spent looking after the children. Akhil and Prakash returned from the children's drawing class. Akhil wished me a very enthusiastic "hello." I was very pleased. At the end of the session the mother gave me her mother's address as she was going there for Diwali.
We learn that Nikhil has been in a distressed state for over a week. The mother feels for her baby and is baffled as to why he is continuously crying. She is overwhelmed by these experiences of trying to pacify him and her inability to alleviate his distress. She is reassured that she can rely on the grandmother's willingness to help look after him. She detaches herself for a while from being with her baby and the grandmother is left trying to pacify him by rocking him. However at one point, the observer felt overwhelmed by the baby's despair, feeling that no one was as concerned as she was. After the baby vomited up milk several times, Alka responded by deciding that that he was hungry and took him for another feed. When she gives the observer her mother's address as she is going there for Diwali it seems that Alka has some hope that her own needs for nurturing may be addressed in the refuge of her mother's home.
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