We set out, Saathi and I leaving pieces of ourselves behind as we turned the corner of our home. The garage doors rolled down behind us hiding Ammu, Pattu and my Amma from view. I held back tears as we set out on a new journey. The car ride to the hospital was silent and punctuated with normalcy. We stopped to fill gas and check tire pressure before we made it a good 15 mins behind schedule.
Parking the car, unloading the trunk of the 5 different bags I had packed, the moment felt poignant and loaded with things unsaid. Rolling the cabin bag, I followed Saathi as he made his way to the registration desk. In a track suit and a tee that barely managed to cover my swollen belly, I filled out forms and answered questions before we were assigned a room. 245. I rolled the number over in my head for any special significance. It’s funny what the mind remembers afterwards.
Stashing away our bags, I changed into the hospital gown and felt strangely awkward as I waited for the nurse. Saathi fussed around me and paced the room as any expectant dad would. An hour later, I was ensconced in bed with an IV drip line ready on one arm and a pressure cuff billowing up every 30 mins. Monitors tracked the fetal heart rate and my uterine contractions which were minor and not periodic. Medication was placed to ripen my cervix and we began the waiting game. I slept fitfully with the aid of ambien and morning rolled around with no changes whatsoever. No contractions. No strange pains. Nothing.
The nurses clucked around like mother hens, adjusting, measuring and filing away numbers for the doctor to analyse. Around 8:30 the head nurse walked in to check if we would be open to considering a planned c-section. The doctor felt I was not a good candidate for a planned induction. I asked questions and got less than satisfactory answers. I asked to speak to the doctor who reiterated what the nurse had said. She pointed out what was not happening and justified her recommendation leaving the choice open to us.
The doors closed behind us and Saathi and I mulled over the options staring us in the face. A possibility of protracted labor, distressed baby and an emergency section, a planned c-section or a chance at a normal delivery which looked rather slim. Taking a deep breath, we agreed baby came first and decided to go ahead with a planned section.
Things moved rather rapidly after that. IVs were hooked. The anesthesiologist stopped by to interview me. A nurse scrubbed the operation site and cleaned and prepped. The doctor stopped by with paperwork.
Less than an hour later, I lay spread-eagled on an operating bench, my arms stretched out under warming pads, heart and vital signs monitors attached to my torso and oxygen lines running under my nostrils. My body felt lifeless from chest down. A curtain came down covering the rest of me from view and I held on to Saathi’s hand and warmth as the doctor and the team of nurses cut away through layers of tissue and blood to bring my daughter into the world.
I felt incredible pressure on my chest even as I inhaled the oxygen deeply before I heard a cry. Saathi was hauled away to cut the cord and I lay feeling bile rise inside my mouth. Gesturing that I needed to throw up, I found a bowl held near my mouth and I heaved.
Moments later, the nurse and Saathi brought over my daughter for me to lay my eyes on for the first time. Slick from body fluids, the first thing I registered was her hair. Jet black and plastered over her head. She was whisked away before I felt tears roll down my eyes. I gave in and let them slide wetting my ears and disappearing into rivulets into the cap that covered my head.
The next couple of hours weave in an out of memory. I remember being shifted from the bench to a bed and being rolled away. The overhead lights along the corridor appearing and disappearing as I was rolled into my room. I remember more nurses hovering around and giving me instructions. After what seemed eons, a cleaned up baby and Saathi appeared and I finally got to hold my daughter. I remember remarking how beautiful she was.
At some point, I think I tried to feed her. The rest of the day and night is a painkiller induced blur. At some point the following day feeling returned to the rest of me and we switched to what was now a feeding dependent schedule. I remember feeling ravenous but being permitted only clear fluids. I remember my family and Ammu and Pattu visiting but details are sketchy.
By day two, I was moving around and feeling claustrophobic in the postpartum room. We spoke to the pediatrician and my obstetrician and obtained consents to leave a day early. It was sunny when I walked out of the hospital in a bright pink skirt and a navy blue top. Saathi carefully adjusted the car seat in the base and off we went.
To a new life on a beautiful spring day.