Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong. The same can be said of Andrea Newton, a young mother, aged 24, who is single-handedly bringing up her son Isaiah, 2.5 years. She shares with M&B her touching story of initial struggles, finding joys and pursuing dreams…
Words & Shoot co-ordination Poornima Nair
Cover shot Akshay Kulkarni
Visuals: Shibani Narang
Hair & make-up for cover: Recinda Martis,
for inside feature: Amrin Mukhi
Cover shoot location: Mocha Mojo, Bandra, Mumbai,
Inside feature location: The Orchid Ecotel Hotel, Vile Parle, Mumbai
I work with Andrea in the same office. She’s stylish, a good looker with a carefree attitude. On most days, she keeps to herself but she’s friendly and I always sensed that she was good at heart. While we were shooting for her cover, we interacted a little more and I learnt that my first impression of her was not way off the mark at all. The tattoos around her neck, arms and ankle; the flower clip holding up her hair with a flourish, the prominent nose-ring and hip clothes, enhance her strong-willed and independent personality. But the sensitive woman within reveals herself while bonding with her precious son Isaiah. Those are the priceless moments in the life of Andrea Newton.
“I had morning sickness during the first trimester. But after that initial discomfort, I really enjoyed my pregnancy. I loved watching my belly grow and trying on maternity clothes!”
“I met my ex-husband ‘R’ who is now deceased, when I had been to Dubai just after finishing college in Mumbai. My parents live there and I took up a job with a magazine. We met through common friends. At that time, R was 24 years old, working with an event management company. We dated six months before getting married. I was just out of college and very naive. He painted a happy picture, so I went along. He was the first person I knew in Dubai and we were always hanging out together. It seemed like a good decision at the time,” says Andrea sotto voce.
She continues in the same tone, “We then moved to Bengaluru, where I found a job with another music magazine. Four months later, I found out that I was expecting. It was around Christmas time in 2007. I was ecstatic about starting a family as I was lonely in a new city. Besides my work, I had nothing going for me. I thought the baby would be a perfect addition to our family. Initially, R was also very excited but as the pregnancy progressed, he realised the financial responsibilities that came with the situation and started feeling pressurised. We started quarrelling and it was mostly about his needs versus my needs,” she sighs.
In spite of their differences, Andrea recalls her pregnancy as being a terrific one. “I had morning sickness during the first trimester. But after that initial discomfort, I really enjoyed it. I loved watching my belly grow and trying on maternity clothes. Towards the end, I became a couch potato. In my first month, I was 52 kilos but by the last week of pregnancy, I had turned 73 kilos!” she confesses. With a reflective pause, Andrea shares her D-day experience: “It was August 16, 2008, at 10 pm when I went into labour. I remember there was a lunar eclipse that day. The doctors were asking me to push during contractions but I wasn’t listening to them. The pain felt weird. I was terrified and when the contractions came, I simply screamed.” The next day at three am, Isiah was born.
Andrea speaks about the aftermath when she went into a zombie-like state. “During the entire day, I hardly slept for more than two hours! Luckily at that time, my mum-in-law was staying with me. I would keep two feeds ready in the bottle for Iso, and go off to sleep so she could feed him.” While the birth of her child gave birth to her maternal instincts, her relationship with ‘R’ wasn’t shaping up. “He was excited at Iso’s birth but because our relationship had turned sour, he couldn’t really establish a fatherly bond with Iso. There was too much conflict of interest. Two months after Iso was born, I left home because our fights were getting out of hand. I didn’t want to be in that situation anymore,” she recalls. With her infant in tow, Andrea moved to Mumbai first and then to Jhansi with her grandparents. “I had no job, no money and I had nowhere else to go,” she shrugs.
While her struggles with her new life continued, her husband approached her for a patch-up. “He came to Jhansi and convinced me that we should give our marriage another shot. In the end, I relented. We decided to start a new life. We moved to Delhi and, for a while, things seemed to be better. Our fights weren’t that frequent. But soon we realised that we had grown apart because we were two different people. In 2009, we mutually separated. It was a good decision because Iso was growing and it wouldn’t be good for him to see his parents fighting all the time. I couldn’t function as a person. I felt I would rather be alone than in a marriage that wasn’t working,” she says, with no trace of bitterness.
Her sheer determination alone could have brought her this far but Andrea also gives credit to her family and her friends, who stood by her through thick and thin. “My parents have been in Dubai and I haven’t seen them for a year now and I hadn’t seen them prior to 2007. They were concerned but I couldn’t actually communicate to them what was happening through the phone or via e-mail. They were supportive throughout as they knew what was happening. I left because I didn’t want my son growing up in that environment. I could not be in a relationship where my husband didn’t respect me and I didn’t want my son growing up not learning to respect women,” she asserts.
An old college mate of Andrea’s got in touch with her during that period. “She was getting married and when she heard my side of the story, she decided to help me. She put me up with her parents in Delhi and they were a big help. Before my 23rd birthday, she took me to Dharamsala on holiday. I loved the place and decided to stay back. I was at peace. I did some freelance writing for about three months. But then I wasn’t making enough money and I realised that Iso would need to go to school, so I shifted back to Mumbai before he turned one. I had a good network of friends in Mumbai as I had studied here. A lot of them helped me pull through during the rough period,” she narrates.
“He’s always been a peaceful baby. After seven months, he slept through the night. He rarely fell sick. He’s never been cranky…”
In some time, Andrea was able to grow more independent. “I found a studio apartment in Malad and got a good babysitter for Iso. I got a job as a real estate marketing manager. I had to wear formal
clothes and meet corporates. I worked like that for a month and soon realised it wasn’t for me. I quit that job as soon as I landed my current job with Next Gen Publishing’s Ideal Home & Garden magazine. Once I started working here, it opened up new alleys creatively. I have more time to design clothes, something that interests me. After a while, I moved to another Mumbai suburb – Bandra. I like it here and it is convenient for me to travel. Most of my friends stay in Bandra so there’s always someone I can call in case I need help,” says the young mum, who is now well placed.
Andrea’s parents, however, would like her to move back to Dubai. “They want me to come back but I am in two minds. I have started designing clothes and it will take time to make my foundation. But if I stick to it, I know it will happen. Dubai is a nice place to holiday in but I couldn’t live there. I like the energy of Mumbai city. Sometimes, it does get stressful but on most days, it’s nice,” she muses.
Another reason is because she values her independence way too much. She explains, “I enjoy being independent and making my own decisions. I feel I might not be able to do that when I live with my parents. They will be telling me how to raise Iso and so on. Financially, it is hard for me to live in this city, but I can live by my rules and raise Iso the way I want. I like what I’m doing now but eventually, I would like to have my own design studio and workshop where I can make my own clothes and sell them. That would be my ideal way to make money,” she admits.
Andrea is all praise for her little son. He’s always been a peaceful baby. After seven months, he slept through the night. He rarely fell sick. He’s never been cranky. “Of late, I notice the temper tantrums, but then that’s what they say about the terrible twos,” she adds with a grin. She rattles off Iso’s schedule: “He spends time in a crèche with another baby while I’m at work. In the evenings, I take him to the promenade and play with him. He enjoys painting and he can sit for hours with crayons and paper. We eat breakfast and dinner together, watch a cartoon and then go off to bed. I spend one hour of quality time with him in the morning before taking him to the babysitter. In a couple of months, I’ll start him in playschool. I know I’ll have to make sacrifices on my part. Presently, I also do freelance work to supplement my work.” Andrea reveals her ex-husband passed away last year due to a cardiac arrest. “It was unexpected. I received a call from his friend informing me that he was no more. I still don’t know what exactly caused the attack,” she says. Does Iso miss his dad? She answers, “Iso has no recollection of his dad. He is too young to understand. I will tell him when he’s older.” And does Andrea feel like ever getting married again? “Eventually, if the right person came along, I would…” she sums up with a whole-hearted laugh. M&B