This day, ten months ago
2.15pm: First contractions at the office
2.30pm: Called hospital. They asked me to come by, with my hospital bag. I told them that the hospital bag was at home and I am in the office. Can my mom bring it? No, moms are not allowed in the delivery room
2.45pm: Called husband, who promised to chase his meeting away and come to the hospital should the need arise. Called Granma, appraised her of the situation. Told her not to come as there was no waiting place in the delivery room. Granma reminds me to take my lunch box and not forget it in office, as, if it is labor, I would not return to office for three months.
3.oo pm: Contractions getting stronger, informed colleague who offered to drive me down. Told colleague to keep her offer, as was afraid it was false pain and would go away in a few minutes
3.30pm: Pain shows no sign of going away, contractions getting more frequent, once in ten minutes. Tag colleague again to drop me at hospital
3.35pm: Husband calls. Can you pick me up, its raining and I cant walk to the hospital
3.45pm: At hospital, after picking husband enroute
3.50pm; Walk into emergency, ask them for directions to labor ward.Are you in labor? They ask. I think so. Attendant drops everything and grabs a wheel chair, helping me into it. I can walk, I say. No No No, sit down. Husband is so amused that he cant stop laughing.
4.00pm: At the emergency room. Getting strapped onto EEG machine. What is your pain level? between one and ten? Pretty low. Here comes another contraction. See the graph? It can go up from zero to hundred. How would you rate your pain level now? About seven? That graph just read forty nine. It can go up to hundred.Stay here and time your contractions. Nurse leaves the room.
Shortly after, or about ten hours, time became relative. I need to go to the washroom. It is awfully painful. Husband kneels beside me. Kithu, he says, with all the seriousness in the world, If you want an epidural, i wont say no.
I was still saying that i dont want an epidural. Husband changed his mind faster than me, he was the one who was anti epidural to begin with.
People kept walking in. A very nicely dressed girl came in to tell me about epidurals. I was in great distress, she saw. Give her some entonox.
Husband was focused on the graph in the EEG machine. Everytime, even before I felt it, the graph picked up the contraction. There is a pain coming, he would say excitedly.
Geroff, I know there is a pain coming. I have senses, dont I?
The epidural girl came back again. Do you want epidurals? They are this and that and blah blah blah... I was so distressed by now that I cut her off before she could finish. i know what epidurals are. Didnt I do hours of research on pain relief? Didnt I read that book on painless childbirth that Sudha aunty lent me? Even though it was scientific and dry and had no pictures?
I dont want an epidural. Not yet. Not until I cant bear the pain anymore. Not until husband reads off the chart and sees it going off the 100 scale. I want to walk, to feel confortable. But I was not allowed to. The baby will fall off and hit head first on the floor.
Do you want pethidine, another nurse asked. Ok. I said. Pethidine was ok, it just made you sleepy.
The contractions came again. They went up to 51. Ouch. It was painful. But now I am feeling sleepy. Can I doze off, But no, there is another contraction coming along.
Where is that gas mask? That helps. Gasp, Gasp Gasp. Where is husband's hand? Pity, i cut my nails before coming in.
Take off your jewellery, says the nurse. Husband gets the jewellery purse. Off goes the watch, the bangles, the earrings.. but wait, the earring is stuck. i cant pull it off. can you help me? Husband tries, tugs... Now the ear hurts along with the tummy. Gotcha, manages to get one earring off. Now to the other earring. This one's stuck fast. Husband tries to pull it off.
Stop. Dont bother. Its too painful (I had only one earring on my ear till I left hospital)
It is 5pm. How long will it take? Another couple of hours at least. Granma is trying frantically to call. i cant take the call, it too painful. Tell husband to tell her to not come, as it will still take a couple of hours. Husband calls Bunica, who says good luck, and settles down, thinking that news of the baby will come in the next morning.
Around 5.15 I am already too far along. nurses are congratulating themselves and me for deciding against an epidural. What if the baby fell asleep on the way out? Husband calls granma and asks her to come. Granma grabs a taxi and waits outside the delivery room.
Around 5.45 pm, everything is going smoothly according to everyone except me, who is still taking great gasping breaths of entonox.
Nurses are tring frantically to page the doctor, who is stuck in peak hour and rainy traffic. Dont push, they say. Hold on, let the doctor come. No way. Anjali has a mind of her own, and she exhibited it right from before she was born. A backup doctor came in, announcing that in case my doctor could not reach, she was there to take over. Oh Oh.
6.10pm. Doctor finally comes along. Everybody, husband, doctor, a couple of nurses and an attendant gathers around. Push, they say. Push, Push Push, And I push. And at 6.23pm, she is out. Granma, who went to sit downstairs for a spell, is called back. Bunica is called, and is extremely surprised that the news of the baby arrived well, hours before it was expected. Patel uncle is called, who is astonished since only six hours ago he spoke to me, and I was just going out for lunch, perfectly happy and pain free. Doctor is holding up Anjali and she looks at me with big black eyes. She was all eyes, even then, I tell you.
6.30pm, All is fine, and a baby, looking less like the cherub and more like a frog, is put in my arms. Who is this alien, i ask myself, that is staring at me? We look at her, husband and I, between us, for a couple of minutes before she is taken away for cleaning and weighing (she scored 9 on the aphar test, something that husband tells so proudly). She cried only twice, once when she was born and another time when she had her blood taken for testing.
My blood had to be taken too for testing. And Husband was horrified. There is so much of it around. Why dont they just scoop some off the bed?
I suppose that the doctors thought it would be unhygenic, so they took some blood from my arms anyway.
Then the doctors leave for a while and we have her to ourselves, there in the delivery room. They come back after about an hour, during which granpa has arrived from the office with chocolates for the nurses and for all of us, except me, I was on a strict diet of convalescent food that included some super wierd porridge, that lakshmi aunty, who came by later with a bevy of kids, brought along. The porridge was tasteless and had absolutely no salt, but thats all I had to eat, after a long bout of labor. It wasnt even hot.
Then they all went and husband and i were alone, with a kid that was tiny, with paper thin fingers whom we had no idea how to carry. The nurses came in atleast 10 times during that night. to help me to move around, to help with carrying the baby, with breastfeeding and everything.
later, at around 2am, husband slept in the hospital couch, and I was trying to sleep, but it was impossible, with a baby in the cradle next to me. I pushed up my chair and leaned over to look. Her eyes were open and she was looking alert. I dont know if she saw me, I guess I was too far away, but she sure looked at me. and there we were, the only two awake souls in the room, looking at each other and coming to terms with more than 50 years together, to understand, appreciate, learn and grow with each other.
And that was ten months ago.