… that a few hours before giving birth to my son I was picking up the father of the child-to-be from the railway station. I had already been told that for various medical reasons I was going to have a C-section ( no need to go into reasons in this post) and it was only a question of fixing a date so that the other adult could make it. And so we chose a Thursday since that was the earliest he could get a flight. A full ten days before my due date to avoid any further complications.
The morning of the delivery dawned hot and sweaty. And I went to the station to collect the other adult with my mother. My MIL had already arrived and was having kittens watching me run up and down the stairs at my size ( I had gained 17 kilos despite being the most active preggie woman in the country) and the thought of venturing out on the morning of a major, albeit routine surgery was more than she could handle. Although I think she was rather touched at the devotion to her beloved son.
We all set off to the hospital – the rest of the family in their Sunday best and me in a raggedy nightie since I was merely the person delivering. Ma prayed all the way and had been praying for the last 20 days. And I was growing more irritated by the minute. Statistics show more danger to mother and child in natural birth than C-section and she was behaving like I was not only doing something terribly pathbreaking and dangerous, but also betraying entire womankind by doing something so unnatural in the process.
I had not been allowed to eat as is usual with surgery and to top it all, I was not even allowed to drink water. The heat was increasing. My belly was getting to be more annoying by the minute and the baby was kicking with increased might and regularity as if he or she knew it was time to get out.
My little cousins J&K sweetly sat by me placing a wet spoon on my dry lips every few minutes and once in a while cheating and letting a few drops of water trickle in when the grown ups were not looking. Yes, those were the last few hours that I was still officially not a grown up. The room was full of anxious family and I was getting nervous and impatient. Mum was looking more miserable by the minute and looked like she would burst into tears any moment.
That is when someone pointed out that it was 05.05.05 and a Thursday or the 5th day of the week. The child would be very lucky.
Nurses and doctors floated in and out and various shots were given without explanation. I think I shocked the family and the MIL when I lost my temper and finally yelled at a nurse who just walked in and started rubbing my already sore wrist to inject yet something else. Unused to a mere patient questioning her uniformed self she almost dropped the syringe. I refused to let her give me the shot without telling me what it was that the doctor has asked her to give me. Losing control over everything I was clutching at straws to assert myself!
In the midst of the chaos a junior doctor walked in to calm my fears. And then pointed to the prone form of the OA stretched out on the bench beside my bed. What is wrong with him, she asked. “Oh, 9 months of pregnancy have exhausted him,” I replied caustically. I finally learned what they mean by beating a hasty retreat. I don’t think she was willing to continue facing me in that mood.
A couple of women went into labour while I was waiting for my turn (I had been scheduled for 12 noon) and because of fetal distress were rushed in for C-sections. Finally I was to be taken in at 4.30 pm. The hunger, thirst, impatience, exhaustion and excitement were taking their toll on me. The other adult in the mean time was trying to rig the number 5 business and ensure that the baby was delivered on the stroke of 5, with my numerologically obsessed father egging him on. I of course couldn’t care less by that time. Get the baby out, I begged anyone who gave me a moment.
At 5pm I went in and all hell broke loose. I had been promised general anesthesia by my gyn who had checked that I was fit enough for it, instead of a spinal. Why the insistence? Well, because the gyn herself has admitted that spinal anesthesia often left you with a backache for life.But doctors preferred it to general because general meant monitoring a lot more and needed to be much quicker. Basically the easy way out for them. Whatever.
By then I was almost hysterical and was refusing to let them give me the shot in my spine. Anyway its not easy to roll up like a prawn when you are the size of a whale so that they can give you the shot in the correct location.
I think the doctors met their match in me that evening. I wriggled my toes in impatience and my legs refused to cave in and go numb under anesthesia.
On the outside the other adult was trying to sneakily find ways to be with me because he had already been refused admission. He made some rude sounds about the “village” I belonged to and began to form his own underhanded scheme.
Many years ago I had heard of banking cord stem cells and I knew that I wanted to do it somehow. Fortunately by the time I got pregnant it had come to India – we were one of the first 50 parents or so to avail of it and were in august company like Raveena Tandon and Karishma Kapoor! The Life Cell head office was in Chennai and as luck would have it, we were posted there at that time. The other adult picked up a refrigerated and specially packed kit from them and flew it in for the delivery.
So this was his wild scheme. We had already informed my gyn about our desire to bank the cord blood but the rest of my little town and the little hospital had never heard of any such thing. The junior doctors had been given certain peremptory orders by my Gyn and they had no clue why they were doing certain things. The prepping for the operation was not beginning because of this confusion of course and my gyn who was late and still with the last C-sec, was not there to explain. Nobody bothered to check with me.
So there I was, huge beached whale lying on the table, the lights above me taking on scary proportions, chaos abounding and my toes still wriggling. The OT door burst open and I saw the OA sneakily trying to follow the gyn in. I also saw him being shooed out in an undignified manner. He had decided to come along on the pretext of teaching them what to do with the kit. I give him full marks for trying. And a zero for believing it would work. Most people in my little town were shocked at the thought that he would want to be with me even for a natural birth, let alone try so hard to hold my hand through an operation dripping blood.
The rest is a blur. They made me smell something and pass out because I wouldn’t shut up. Or stop wriggling my toes.
Now I wish I had done some sort of drugs in college because I believe you should try it all, but I was a funk and I didn’t. Anyway, the next half an hour passed in a psychedelic daze and I saw the most bright and amazing visions – like the visualisations in Windows Media Player!
And then I regained consciousness and could feel them pressing down hard on my chest. Lots of hands touching me and pressure from every side. And disjointed voices saying that the baby was stuck. His head was too big and they had to cut some more. I could feel hands moving around my insides and when I opened my eyes, all I saw was black – they had taped a piece of cloth over my eyes and tied my arms down so that I didn’t accidentally touch one of the doctors. The overdose of restraint coupled with what I could hear them saying made me panic and I started crying and thrashing around. I think. Before I knew it, they made me inhale and I was out like a light again.
And then, filmy style – I heard a baby wail. I keep replaying the thrill in my head. It was worth all this nonsense. And I unsuccessfully tried looking through my blindfold, and then passed out again. When I regained consciousness, I was all stitched up and good to go. And the baby was nowhere to be seen.
Desperately I looked around and asked the nurses if it was a girl or a boy. A boy they answered. I don’t think they had ever been faced with such a reaction before. Still quite doped out, I broke down and cried hysterically,”I don’t want him, please give me a girl, exchange him with any of those who want a boy.”
I wish I could describe the stunned silence. This is small town UP where a boy child is worshipped and a the birth of a girl child is mourned. In rage they pushed me out of the OT and left me lying there all hooked up and stitched up, on a trolley in the corridor.
I lay there wondering how long I would have to suffer for my sins! Fortunately my friend came by looking for me when they realised it had been an hour since the child had arrived and there was no sign of me. Wheeled to my room I was taken aback by the crowd. I rolled in like a diva and spoke in tongues. Yup. I was doped out of my head and spoke to everyone in all 7 or so different languages I knew. But I still didn’t want to see my baby.
And then my mother insisted that I stop acting childish and open my eyes and look at my son. Small, pink and white, with bright beady eyes looking up at me. I wish I could say I fell in love with him immediately. I didn’t. I felt nothing. Not even when a room full of people urged me to feed him. I glared at them to get lost while I gave this breastfeeding business a shot. It was not fun.
The rest of the time in hospital was not fun either. The contractions that pulled at my stitches when I fed him, the injections, the drip, the catheter, the pain when the anesthesia wore off, the inability to sit up and lead a normal life, the inability to have a cold shower in the hot, dry, north Indian summer, the inability to change his nappies or even carry him for two entire days. Even after his birth I was not allowed to march up and down from my first floor room with him in my arms. And oh, they didn’t let me bathe for the 9 days that the stitches were in and finally my mum had a bed carried into the toilet (ah the joys of old rambling homes) and then lay me down there and bathed me top half and bottom half, excluding the stitches because even she could see that I was sweating and miserable in the May heat.
Mum swore her natural birth was less painful and if she’d been given an epidural life would have been different. Barely any labour and absolutely no recovery time. All those who think C-Sections are a style statement - you have another think coming, and I take offence. Pregnancy is not easy. Neither is childbirth. And I don’t think you are in a position to diss something you have never tried and hopefully never will.
Sometimes I looked down at the C-section scar and wish I had fought the doctor for more than cosmetic reasons. But scared first time moms cannot be blamed for caving into pressure. Check out this mother’s traumatic experience and the trauma of another mother who expresses her trauma through art.
It doesn’t matter anymore though. I have the most adorable son and I love him to pieces. Literally. Sometimes I squeeze him really hard and hope that will make him stay this size forever.