Monday Feb 27, 2012. The day must have been beautiful but I was in too much pain to either notice or appreciate. It was the third day (Chandramandal) of Bantwal Teru. I messaged my manager that my maternity leave may be considered from that day. Ashwin got ready to go home to freshen up saying he’ll come at 11:00 or so. I nagged him not to waste time in front of the TV and to come back as soon as he possibly could because I wanted him near me at the time of delivery. Just as mom came with breakfast – chapathi, dal and coffee – Ashwin left.
The contractions were now coming in a pattern. As for breakfast, I could not eat even one half of the chapathi for in between I felt the urge to throw up. When I was back after doing the deed, mom was asking if I did not like the curry. Duh !! Seriously, my mom has the knack of annoying the hell out anyone.
I tried to sleep but it was impossible. It was too painful to sleep on the left side due to that constant pain and I could not sleep longer than 15 minutes on my right. By 10:00, the pain had gone up another notch; the contractions were coming in at 30 minute intervals. I was done bearing all the pain and wanted to go for C-section. Called up Ashwin to inform him about it. All he said was “Your wish”. Telling him yet again to come soon, I hung up the phone and buzzed the nurse. “Come on, it’s almost done. Why do you want to go for C-section after waiting this long… It’ll all be over before you know. C-section is so much more painful. The wounds take longer to heal….blah… blah… blah…” When I told her I just could not take it any longer she said that I was in the first stage of active contractions and this wasn’t even 10% of the actual pain. “You must be kidding me,” I wanted to say. But couldn’t. My look gave her the message and she just smiled and told me to take it easy. Yeah, right!!
Once she left I felt like throwing up yet again and this time I had enough time to help myself into the bathroom rather than the sink previously. Once back at my bed I kept tossing and turning for a while and getting angry… I mean I had the entire nine months to feel pukish and all… and my body decided to do it now? Now?? The pain was getting worse with every passing minute and I started talking things which I would not have even thought of in my sane mind. I would not like to repeat what I said, here or anywhere else. My mom kept saying, “Don’t cry, don’t cry” as if it would ease the pain. In the middle of all this drama, I had somehow brought myself to crouching position to ease the pain. You see, as I was crouching over the commode to puke, I had observed that the pain was lesser than otherwise. Just as I was getting comfortable in this position, the nurse came back for something. She was shocked seeing me and yelled for the other nurse for help. Helping me back to sleeping position she asked me if I had passed stool that morning. The answer was no. A few minutes later I was given enema. The enema episode lasted for half an hour maybe.
One more examination of my tummy and finally the wheelchair was brought and I was taken directly to the labor room. I was thinking, why am I being taken to the labor room rather than the operating theater. In the next moment I was asked to strip my clothes and an old hospital gown was put on me. I was helped onto the delivery bed/table (or whatever else you call it) and in the proper position, and the drips were adjusted. With every contraction I was pleading for epidural and Ashwin. The nurses turned a deaf ear for my pleas and only said other things to calm me down… breathe, relax, blah, blah… In a few seconds the doctor came and I started pleading with her to give me epidural and to ‘just take the baby out’. The internal examination this time felt like just a needle prick relative to the pain of contractions I was feeling. After the examination, she said, “I can’t do anything right now… because you have to be dilated at least 3 cms… Right now its only 1 cm dilated.”
I was so horrified. The dilation has to be about 10 cms for the baby to come out and it was only 1cm now…ONLY 1 cm!!! This isn’t happening to me.. this is all some sick joke you are all playing, I thought. But instead of saying that, I kept pleading, “Please give me epidural.. I can’t do it… I am going to die… Call Ashwin…” The nurses only adjusted the drips and showing me all the apparatus around the room told me it was epidural. The anesthesiologist was on the way and would be there any minute; they were not supposed to administer epidural even if they wanted to. I only had to wait. Until then I could use entonox to help me relax and with that the nurse thrust an oxygen mask on my nose/mouth. “Each time you feel the contraction, inhale through this, OK? It’ll help you relax”. After two or three contractions I was still not relaxed. “This is not working, there is nothing in this…I want epidural..” The nurse told me I was inhaling incorrectly, there should not be any sound when you inhale it seems. The next two contractions there was no sound while inhaling. But then I neither felt any relaxation. Entonox was just oxygen with a fancy name, I concluded. In between the contractions I was back to pleading for epidural and Ashwin. I realized suddenly that the doctor was not around… Where was the doctor? Why wasn’t she taking the baby out, I wanted to know. The nurse told me she would be there when it was time. I kept telling her it was time…how much longer did I need to be in pain after all? She performed the internal examination this time and said the dilation had only proceeded another half centimeter. I needed to wait until at least it had dilated another centimeter and then the doctor would come and do the delivery.
Somewhere in between I asked to use the toilet. They said I couldn’t use the toilet now. I was thinking, “When I did not feel like it, I was given enema and forced to, and now when I really wanted to, I am not allowed. What crazy logic is this?” “Its the baby, ok? The doctor is coming…”, someone said. Another started to monitor the baby’s heart rate. Yet another requested for hot water to be brought.
As I tried to count the minutes, I kept waiting for the whole-life-to-pass-in-front-of-my-eyes slideshow to begin. This must be how one feels when its time, I thought. Tried to remember my first memory ever, tried to remember some key moments in my life. All my efforts failed and the slideshow never came. I took this as a hint that I was going to live for a few more years yet. I could not die without seeing my baby, not after undergoing so much pain. If I were to die I might as well have died earlier without subjecting myself to so much agony. I tried consciously and with a lot of effort to think of something else…and I knew how much junk was accumulated in my brain. Such were the thoughts and memories that came to me. Brushing even these aside, I tried to think of all the positive things in my life…
All the BBC/Discovery documentaries on tribal life kept flashing before my eyes. Thank God I was born in a non-tribal family…
The birth scene from Apocalypto came to me and I was glad to have access to, and afford, medical facilities and experienced doctors. I was in safe hands.
I was glad to be born in this time and age of medical advancement….
I thought of the kids who become moms in their teenage for whatever reasons and I was glad I had the choice to have a baby when I was ready for it.
Friend1 had a normal delivery… If she could do it, so can I.
Friend2 had a normal delivery… If she could do it, so can I.
If friend3 could do it twice over, so can I, just this once.
If my grandmother could do it 11 times over in those days, so can I, in this age.
And I kept thinking such thoughts for God knows how long.
I don’t know how long I had been in the labor room. Somewhere in between I also felt like I was drifting in space… I was hovering above nicely… I could feel something soft in my hands…umm… someone’s hands, I realized…. Then suddenly I was asking myself why the hands I was squeezing was smooth and not hairy, and I was back into reality. Where was Ashwin, and where was the anesthesiologist, I’m dying, I’m dying… I must have said the last part aloud because a moment later I heard the doctor’s voice saying, “Shh.. brave girl, come on, come on…hey brave girl…” I was feeling anything but brave.
The anesthesiologist was coming, they said, but I heard voices faraway and bits like “ICU….emergency…. late…” I must have known that he wasn’t coming and kept asking for Ashwin without any luck. I was asked to put my legs up on the support on either side of the bed and the bright lights were turned on. The next moment I felt a tear, followed by a gush. I knew it was an assisted tear for I felt the hands there, not the coldness of the instruments, and I screamed.
Then I saw a man in white apron enter the room. I was so glad for I thought he was the anesthesiologist. But he wasn’t. As I got to know later he was the pediatrician.
“Ashwin… plz call Ashwin..” I was saying between each contraction which were now coming at 1 minute intervals maybe. “Why do you want him… I can deliver your baby and give in your hands by the time I can go and fetch him.. now, all you have to do is push… come on strong girl… push… its over… the more you relax, the less the pain.. come on now, brave girl push… push… push…”, said the doctor
“Push… push… push… push… push…”, the nurses too were chanting. There must have been three or four of them standing around me.
“I can’t, I am dying….”
“No you are not dying.. come on.. push push push….”
I don’t know if I shouted “aaaaaah” or “devaaaa” or simply grunted but I felt my baby coming out…
“I can see the head… come on.. push push push….. the head is out.. just one more time, come on strong girl… with all your strength now… push…”
Two more pushes and “ungyaee….ae…ae…ae…ungyaee…ae…ae….” The room was filled with the baby’s wails. It was 1:23 PM.
Simultaneously a face peeped in and said, “Oh! I’m too late!” It was the anesthesiologist. The doctor replied, “Yeah, she delivered with the help of Entonox itself…”.
“It’s a boy”, I was told and barely got a glimpse of my baby before he was taken away to be cleaned, weighed, etc. My eyes followed him as he was taken away. “Show me the baby, I want to forget the pain”, I thought. You see, everyone said they forgot the pain when they saw their respective babies. Although it was neither said, nor meant to be taken literally, in that moment, I did. I badly wanted it to be so too. He was placed a little away from me and I could see him happily kicking his legs. My tummy no longer had the “football” inside it, it was back to normal but with dark stretch marks all over it.
Just as I was sighing in relief, there was yet another shot of pain. I remembered that the placenta was yet to be delivered. It was painful too but not as much as the time when the baby came. On second thoughts, the coming of the baby wasn’t as painful as the contractions.
Meanwhile the baby was weighed, tested, etc. The pediatrician said a “Congratulations” before leaving. I don’t know if I replied to him or not.
Ashwin was finally called inside. I admit I was angry with him but at that moment I had neither the energy nor the interest to start an argument. Seeing all the bloody show he took a moment to gather himself before coming to stroke my hair and saying he was glad he did not come in earlier; he would have fainted it seems. But I was mad at him. He had promised and he knew how much it meant to me that he be there. He maintains that the nurses and the doctor told him not to come but I am sure they would have let him in if he had insisted. He did not and I am never forgiving him for not being in there with me when I wanted him the most. Moreover I would have liked him to be the one to cut the umbilical cord rather than a stranger.
The placenta was finally delivered and just as I was feeling relieved, I felt the prick of the needles. Ah, the stitches!! This lasted for a few minutes.
After what felt like eternity, the baby was brought to me. He really was the cutest thing ever and for the first time that day I felt the warm tears pricking my eyes and flowing down my cheeks. I was told he weighed 3.4 kgs but who cared. I was crying uncontrollably, all that shame and guilt of what I had said before was coming at me a thousand folds magnified. And along with that, the happiness and ecstasy of having my baby, the dreaminess and unreality of it all… as if it all happened to somebody else. And finally the relief, a sense of achievement for my biggest fear conquered, even if only for this once. I was holding a miracle, a miracle created by two people I loved the most in this world – Ashwin and I. I was holding our “boxer” who was as happy kicking his legs outside of me as he was inside.
The baby was held near me so that I could breastfeed him. Once he was done, he was taken upstairs to the room. A little while later even I was wheeled to our room and helped onto the bed. I was surprised to see that I still had enough energy to inform a few people through SMS. I was not hungry either, given that I had neither had my breakfast nor lunch. I could not sleep either. I kept looking at that little baby sleeping in the cradle beside me. I kept smiling like a goof looking at him. The reality of it all was yet to sink in. I was aware of the pain in some parts of my body still but it suddenly became so insignificant in front of the miracle we created. There was some kind of purity and beauty attached with the whole process. Bringing another being to life is truly very powerful and profound.
With childbirth out of the way, the hardest part is done and over with, I thought. I would know only later how wrong I was.