This post is not for you, and you, and you. It’s scary and quite depressing.
It is about child birth, so if you are the squeamish type, please close this window and go paint a rainbow or think about mangoes and long afternoon naps. Plus this post is super long. Even longer than it takes my baby to swallow one morsel. That’s like five eternities. So plant that butt right there.
So, picture this: you are trudging along with your fat pregnant body. Trying to find clothes you fit into and shoes that may be able to house those squidgy balloons that are now where your feet used to be. You don’t walk, you waddle. And you don’t want to go anywhere, except maybe the ice-cream shop. But you have to go for those last few crucial doctors’ visits, and for those ultrasounds. You want this baby OUT already! The world is waiting, literally, so SCRAM. You turn up expectantly at each ultrasound to hear the news that the baby has descended and you have to go into labor asap, just to discover that the baby is currently in Hawaii with the lei around his neck. In other words, the umbilical cord around his neck. You look down at your swollen belly with a puzzled frown and go, ‘Really? Wow, gee thanks. The heartburn and flatulence wasn’t a fun enough twosome, you want to step up the game further? Get your fat butt out here…. It needs a whipping’
SO you go back home with your tail between your legs with NO idea when the baby will come. The next ultrasound tells you something absolutely new and novel to worry about or makes you a semi-gynecologist/obstetrician overnight. I swear if I had a nickel for each time I googled a pregnancy symptoms, I’d be on my way to sunny Mexico with the loot cackling all the way. Hello WedMD! Those 5 millions hits you are so proud of? 4 million are MINE. So the next ultrasound the doc was like… ‘Hmm… short femur length..’ Now I know horseshit about this stuff, but hello Google and you are a permanent resident of Agonyville. Apparently stats are a bitch, they tell you that short femur length correlates to DS babies. Wow. I did a nosedive into a very depressing place for a bit. Both my sister and I read up almost every study there was on short femur length. If you have ever known a family with a DS baby you may know that that kind of a challenge requires superhuman strength. Yes, life deals a hand and these are pretty words but it would be very presumptuous of me to even try and translate that challenge in words. It’s just not possible.
So, it was prayer upon prayer for me. The baby was full-grown and the last ultrasound, where I was actually hoping the cord had somehow behaved itself and unwrapped from baby’s neck, brought another harsh surprise. It was now TWICE around his neck. The doctor left it to me. She laid all the cards on the table. Full-size baby, cord twice around neck, anything can happen during natural child birth… Whaddooyousaylady? Gave her a cocky grin and she goes, ‘look I’m not gonna get a medal to deliver your baby naturally, so tell me.’ I said I’ll think about it.
Then, the next visit we realized the baby wasn’t getting any smaller, our doctor said, ‘Give me a date’. SAY WHAT?? C-section it was. She made the call. Or did I?
And that was that. We chose 14th March. Cuz I went all Julius Caesar on husband and said ‘Beware the Ides of March’. The 13th of March was the longest day and night of my life. So very long. Painted water color animals to get framed for baby’s room. I don’t know why I did that. It was like it was something in my system and I had to get it out. Painting mommy and baby elephants and dolphins. Is that what nesting is about?
Went home and did not sleep a WINK all night. Kept lying awake. I knew after the hundreds and millions of stories I had read about new mommy sleep deprivation that I would have no sleep after baby. Ever. But the anxiety. Oh my God the anxiety was through the roof. It was unbearable. The next morning as we drove to the hospital in our oh-my-god-we’re-gonna-be-parents silence, it started drizzling. And it really brought a smile to our faces. We checked into our room. Then I went for a heartbeat measuring type thing and went back to room. Husband was busy checking out TV as there was to be a cricket match that day. Maybe it was his way of trying to calm me, or maybe himself.
It has been exactly a year but I distinctly recall this one thing – as they pulled the gurney into the room, I was like – ‘HOLY SHIT. This is actually happening. This is it. This is real. I am gonna lie down on this and they will WHEEL me into an OT and cut me up. What if I die? Oh my God I’m so scared of dying. I have so much to do in life. I can’t die.’ I remember being nauseous from the lack of sleep. I remember the bright lights poking my eyes. And while we were waiting for the elevator there was a painting on the wall and I tried to figure out whether it was a calligraphic painting or something else. I remember thinking why on earth they are wheeling me into the OT when I am perfectly capable of walking, and how this was way scarier and hence not good for a patient. A lot of people use the word ‘surreal’ very loosely, so I try and avoid it. But look here, this moment… it was, really.
And I have to admit. It was easy as apple pie (never understood that expression). But Oh God it was so simple. The epidural kicked in. The Gas Man was a dream. Didn’t even feel a prick. They cut me up and pulled the baby out and I didn’t feel anyyyyyything. Yes a C-section is blah blaaaaahhhhh. But I DON’T CARE what all you hippy mommas gonna say. And you nay-sayers. BOOOOOOOO right back at you. I will choose a C-section a million times out of a million. My baby comes out without trauma for mommy and baby and his head in shape. And yes it was the sweeeetest sound in the word. My baby’s cranky voice. MY BABY.
Yes, my baby.
They showed me his face and immediately took him for cleaning and off he went to nursery for further assessment. I wasn’t all that happy cuz I wanted to keep him on my chest and also try for colostrum. I chose National Medical Center as a hospital cuz of my gyne-obstet, Dr Zeenat Eva who is a great doctor. But sadly she practices at such a crappy establishment. Read on to find out why I say that.
I was stitched up and left to lie around in a Recovery Room right outside the OT. There was nothing ‘Recovery Room-esque’ about the place. Anyway, then I was shifted to the room, I remember being very happy about wanting to see my healthy, happy, NORMAL baby (Praise the Lord) and making out of the OT alive. Then came the family and the sense of pride and the love. Oh my God the love from my mom. And for my mom. How differently I felt for her, I think I even thanked her. She had done THIS four times! Whoa! I also recall my father in law being very very happy, he stroked my hair and kissed my forehead and I realized then what I had done was a big deal. Giving birth is a huge deal. Giving your folks and folks-in-law a little baby to love is no mean feat.
The next two days baby and mommy did OK. They were waiting for me to take my first dump in order to discharge us. I had been warned by doctor, nurses and friends that that is kind of a huge deal and as scared as I was that my stitches would tear open, they didn’t and it wasn’t earth-shatteringly difficult (sorry, TMI). And we went home. Guests visited and we did the sanitize-thy-hands routine.
The next morning, my three-day-old baby woke up with a temperature of 100 degrees and that was that. I freaked out. I was a mother for two days and I had already failed at the job. So then we made our way to a small medical center where the inept staff made things worse at exacty 10am. This random guy who hardly looked like a doctor took the baby’s temperature and gave us a Panadol syrup where the label said ‘for children 2 years and older’. When we pointed that out he looked very puzzled. That was the least confidence-inspiring doctor I had ever met. Needless to say, we paid up and RAN from there. Went straight to NMC (hospital he was delivered in) where he already had his on-birth vaccination and other records plus a Default Pediatrician. I had bundled him up so much that in the ER his fever read 102 degrees. They took him straight to the nursery/NICU, where the staff called the Default Pediatrician who gave instruction ON THE PHONE to start antibiotics. Whoa. Lets back up for a second. Yes, this hospital had a tiny room which served as a nursery as well as a NICU. Imagine. All the precious new born babies come here for initial inspection AS WELL AS babies with loads of infections. They are all packed in there like sardines. And yes this Default Pediatrician hooked him up onto antibiotics without first talking to us directly and taking a proper history (to ask if we had overheated the baby which I had) and ON THE PHONE. Imagine our shock and horror. Imagine those tiny, two-day-old hands, jabbed with needles and canulas bigger than the cute little hands. Imagine the corner cradle of a dingy nursery where the baby is under blue-lights for jaundice covered with a cloth so that no light escapes. Imagine his eyes being covered with a cardboard patch, away from his mother and maternal warmth and love.
Now each one of us goes through many tough times in our lives. There are periods that are very dark. Where we go through emotional pain that feels physically painful. To become a mother, to feel such a plethora of emotions all at once – pride, love, gratitude, confusion, worry. And then to live in the fear that that may be snatched from you. That because of some mistake that you made, or maybe not, the most precious thing in the world will be snatched from you and all you can do is pray. I am not undermining the power of prayer; it is why I am still alive and mentally well. But don’t tell a mom that her precious new-born is hooked to antibiotics in the corner of a shoddy nursery in a not-so-amazing hospital and then tell her he also has jaundice. And you can see him only once every two hours and no you won’t get a room in the hospital cuz you have been discharged a day ago. That coupled with postpartum hormones, pain in stitches, bleeding, not successfully breastfeeding had this mum crying her eyes out 24 hours a day. I felt like a criminal at having to leave him at the hospital and go home to sleep. We visited another reputable hospital with a new NICU unit where there were rooms for mum and baby together and we tried to have him moved there. But they said they have to take in more serious patients than jaundice. I remember waiting in the waiting area of that hospital NICU and feeling INTENSE hunger. I was three days postpartum and had cried my eyes out and hardly eaten. And there was a family waiting there with me with some cupcakes with them. For the first time in my entire life I asked random strangers whether I could have one. Before asking them I ran through the inappropriateness of it in my head and honestly I almost didn’t ask. But seriously the ravenous fire in me was so bloody insane I would have snatched those damn cupcakes and ran off with them had they declined.
One of the primary reasons I have started this blog is that I want to document this. Life is full of the good and the bad. And where one should and must recount the good, it is essential to recount the bad as well as the VERY bad. When you feel and relive those moments that brought you here it’s not perverse or masochistic. That is life. A lot of good can come out of it. You are more grateful for what you have. A healthy baby. And also you have a sense of pride and accomplishment at being able to get out of that alive and well. That YOU lived that, however tearfully, you and your husband made it out of that dark patch alive. And you remember that after every misfortune or really truly horrible time, there is a lot of good that comes through. And even if there is no good, there is hope that things will get better.
I am certain that there are mothers out there right now living in the same fear I did. And feeling helpless at not being able to do much besides pray. Some are in a much worse place than others. Some receive bad news at the end of it and there are scars that even time does not heal. I cannot comment on that. This is a shout-out to all those mums who are waiting and praying for better news and who receive it. You came out of that fear, that helplessness, and you came out fit and healthy and happy with your perfect baby. It is these moments that make you you.
You have truly lived.