It is nearly fourteen years now. The 2nd of January 1998 seems like yesterday!
By 6.00 PM I was feeling distinctly uncomfortable. So my husband and I decided to go for a walk- or should I say, he did the walking while I did the running? My five foot nothing frame did not support legs long enough to match the strides of my beloved!
Around 10.30 PM, I was still awake, trying to catch up on Hercule Poirot’s latest exploits ( my mother in law completely disapproved of my reading about the Belgian detective while I was pregnant – she probably felt that I would have a child with an egg shaped head and an enormous mustache!). It was getting more uncomfortable by the minute.. I realized with a start that the amniotic fluid was probably slowly seeping out…!
Within minutes, we put together the evacuation plan into action- the packed suitcase was loaded into the car along with myself and my mother. Just as I was settling into the back seat- the husband came in with a bunch of old towels spreading them out on the seat- “ this is to protect the upholstery. You know we cannot afford to do it up once again” he said. I was ready to kick him!!! He cared more about the upholstery than his wife and about to be born baby!
We reached the hospital by 11.00 PM. It almost looked like a scene from a Mani Ratnam film- silence and darkness all around..! We made our way to the reception area at the hospital and told them that we were here to have our baby! The sleepy nurse looked at me curiously. I was certainly not in labour.. we had to fill in some forms and I soon found myself ushered into the labour ward. My doctor was not there but there was an extremely sweet lady who introduced herself to me as Dr. Prema. She told me that my doctor has asked her to examine me. In a very conversational tone, she did her job and then injected something into me to induce labour..!
Meanwhile, there was drama happening outside the labour ward. My mother was trying to locate my husband so that between them they could organize a room for me to be taken to once the delivery was over. What she probably did not know was that her son-in-law was never to be found away from his beloved car- I was in no position to enlighten her and in those pre cell phone days, there was no other way to look for a person except to physically go around searching for them!! Poor thing, I supposed she actually did that until she found him sitting inside the car in the dark hospital car park! “Why does your husband behave like a driver?” was the first thing she asked me once we were alone again after the delivery. Well, I had no answer except probably that he would have been happier married to an automobile!
Inside the labour ward, I found that I was the only patient. There were two nurses chatting in Malayalam and instructing me in English (with a strong Mallu accent) to lie down and breathe deeply! I glared at them and asked them how long this was going to take. “Oh.. ten to twelve hours easily” they said going back to their chatting and giggling! My baby was beginning to make her presence felt in every possible way by now. I was nauseous and I started throwing up! “What did you eat for dinner?” asked the duty doctor conversationally. “ Oh nothing much! Just some curd rice” I said conveniently forgetting about all the chocolate pies, sweets, payasam etc that I had consumed between 4.30PM to 7.30 PM!
The nursing staff made me lie down on a corner bed and thensuddenly realized that my doctor did not like her patients to be confined to that bed. So they made me get up and lie down on another bed. I was beginning to feel very annoyed..! I was also in considerable pain by now. I wanted my mother! “Oh, it is not allowed” said the matron looking at me sternly!
By about 2.00 AM, they wheeled in another patient- I will call her The Diva!! She was completely into high powered histrionics! She was screaming her guts out and cursing the nurses loudly. I wanted to applaud! She was doing everything that I was feeling inhibited about indulging in. I tried to start a conversation with her.. She ignored me.. and went back to her screaming and cursing..! “What is wrong with her?” I asked the matron. The matron was busy scolding The Diva. Actually the entire nursing staff was now gathered around her. I was beginning to feel a bit neglected! Another duty doctor came in and tried to do an internal examination! I told her to lay off! I was not some bag that people could insert their hands into and check whether the goodies were there!!! “Leave me alone” I said. “Please Madam, you need to cooperate” she pleaded! I glared at her stubbornly! She went away for a while and returned again with the matron for support. “What is this my child?” asked the matron! I noticed now that she was actually a nun! Okay, so what did I expect- this was a missionary hospital!
“Where are my husband and mother” I asked. “Your husband is in the room that has been allotted to you and your mother is sitting outside” they told me! And imagine- I was thinking he must have worn out his shoes pacing outside! In all probability he was bringing down the antique electrical fixtures in that room with his snores
It was nearly 5AM of the 2nd Jan now! The Diva continued with her theatrics! “Don’t push please… your doctor is on her way” said the matron to me . “Whaaat?” I have only seen movies where they tell the pregnant woman to push and just my luck that I should be given the exact opposite instruction!!! I was getting confused…! Suddenly, I saw a familiar face- yes it was indeed my doctor. Only, I was not able to recognize her clearly in that cap and apron. She tried to engage me in a conversation as she settled down near me…! I heard some sharp instructions” Watch it.. her BP is falling..!” “This way… don’t block my vision” was another sentence I heard. The Diva I guess was now feeling well and truly neglected. She let out a piercing scream. I was momentarily distracted. I suddenly heard a baby wailing!
Dr. Lakshmi was smiling at me and saying “ Meera look at your baby”. “My baby?” I asked in wonder. “Yes whose did you think it is ?” she asked with a smile. How could I tell her that I had thought that the Diva in the next bed had delivered.. But nearly five hours with me had enlightened the nursing staff about my thought processes. The matron said loudly “She must have thought that the patient in the next bed had delivered”! I had a glimpse of the 2.4 kg bundle that they brought to me. She reminded me of a baby monkey!
Why was a pediatrician there? “Oh nothing to worry. I just called him by way of precaution. The chord was pressing to the side of the baby’s head” reassured the doc!
Two hours more and I was being wheeled into a private room! “Where is the baby” I wanted to know. “In the observation room” said the nurse. “Why?” I asked. Were people beginning to avoid my questions I wondered. I was anyway too tiered to think. I was also ravenously hungry! Both my husband and mother had gone home for a while. I was with my father! “ You just lie down. I have something important to attend to” he said as he left the room.
My father, I think has seen too many Hindi and Tamil movies. He had by now convinced himself that the observation room was the place where the babies got exchanged…! So he stationed himself next to it his eyes fixed on that small bundle with the hand tag that said “Meera’s baby”!!! No power on earth would move him from there during the four days that she was there! He struck up conversations with the nurses in the baby ward and by the end of our time at the hospital, he was the most popular person among them! When we were about to be discharged, we had a line of his newly acquired nursing girlfriends coming in to say "Bye" to "Uncle"
The brought the baby every now and then for a feed. I was terrified to hold her lest I break some part of her!! She was all wobbly and kept squirming! But I must say that I was completely impressed with the way her father handled her. He held her with confidence and even walked up and down the steps holding her – something that even my mother was nervous about!
We discussed names – there were some simple easy to pronounce ones that my parents came up with. But ofcourse we wanted what we thought was the most unusual one- also probably the most complicated! We were sure that there was no one else who had a name like that – that is, until we left the hospital for home- we saw on our way three shops all of whom had the same name that we had decided to call our baby!!
An amateur astrologer in the hospital told us that our daughter had been born under a special star- people who were born under this star apparently had so much of money that it came out of every part of their being! I am beginning to see the truth of that today when we do our laundry- we find school uniform pockets filled with coins making jiggling noises inside the washing machine!
Fourteen years of parenting, and we have been through our share of happiness and worries.. We watched her every move and breathed easy every time she crossed a milestone! As she grew, so did we! We gained more in confidence and sometimes even doled out advice to parents of more junior kids …! But each stage brought with it its own set of worries. It is funny but I remember how we used to think that there would be no more worries when “this particular milestone’ was past.. It took us a decade to realize that…worries are part of parenting. We can allow it to bog us down or enjoy each stage in our daughter’s life as she grows.
Like all parents our hopes and dreams revolve around our child. The doubts whether we are doing the right thing keeps creeping into our heads! The world that she is growing up in is a more complicated one that the one we grew up in. We want her to be equipped to deal with the requirements of this world but we don’t want to weigh her down with the burdens of our expectations!
The process of giving birth is often written about so much in books. But what people forget to mention about is that this is probably the easiest part of being a parent. The difficult part is what follows…..