My evenings, these days, begin with a small cup of chai with my amma. I don’t remember the last time or anytime, when I had these exclusive moments with her. We sip tea and talk sweet nothings, while my ten-week-old is on his own, sleeping or playing (these easy moments when he is entertaining himself won’t last too long, I have been warned!). It is the high point of my day.
Come sunset, I am reminded that another blessed day has gone by; another day closer to what a working mother calls the guilt-trip. Another night, I will spend catching sporadic sleep and dreading what ‘missing-milestones’ of your child’s life is going to feel like. I am also told, the feeling numbs over time. Tears will give way to rationalization (read mortgage and lifestyle pressure) and if mothers are only human, time should heal all the foreboding; or so, I have been told, but don’t believe it yet!
A little less than a year ago, our journey with ‘A’ began with an MMS of a positive pregnancy test. The impromptu vacation to the sunshine state had proven sunny indeed! Before I could ease into the acceptance of it all, I was hit with the infamous nausea that lasted a good four months. At eight weeks, I had the Rachel moment from F.R.I.E.N.D.S when I had trusted N’s eyes over mine to have noticed the teeny heart beat at our first appointment. At week 11, I had hit the “we-have-created-a-miracle” moment when I heard the heartbeat. Over a hangout session with BFFs, I had shown them the first ever ultrasound picture when my, now 24 inches tall son was about 2 cm. A deja vu of the ‘miracle’ moment came later when I felt the first jab or kick or roll at week 23 while watching ‘the dark knight rises’ on Imax!
All I wanted during the first weeks was to “show”; when after many clicks, week after week, of my side profile on a full length mirror, my BFF had remarked “Finally you have sent a picture that doesn’t look like a dinner belly, but a real bump!” It is rightly said that “you should be careful on what you wish for”, for after that, which was at week 18 or so, ‘I-am-showing’ turned out to be an understatement. Over the remaining part of the journey, I was often asked if I was carrying twins and more often told that I looked like I had swallowed a giant football.
During the last 10 weeks, the home stretch, I must have peed as many times as I must have in all my years on this earth before that put together! While I felt and looked ready to pop, I was still immensely active, up until the day before I went into labor; practicing yoga everyday like second nature and taking as many walks in a day as I could.
Precisely 48 hours before the predicted due date, I had the ‘my-water-broke’ moment. Barring the details, let me just say that it is nothing like what they show in the movies. With the to-be-grandparents we had headed hospital wards excited and anxious. I must have been high on adrenaline, for I recall I refused the wheel chair, once we were at the hospital lobby and walked the 10 min trip to the maternity ward while in labor!
From many weeks before I had my mind made up on a ‘natural-birth’ (sans any type of pain/non-pain medication) on my birth-plan-agenda, probably to the point I had become stubborn on it. In retrospect probably that wasn’t a sound idea! I was warned many times though, that all the determination would vanish the moment the first contraction hits.
My labor journey started wee hours on a Friday morning and lasted till 6:41 pm on Saturday; During which, six nurses changed shifts and come Saturday morning, a change in midwife as well. I experienced the worst of it from Friday evening to Saturday morning. The labor was extending more than we had expected. As I counted 1 to 8, sometimes holding on to N, for control over every periodic and aperiodic contraction, the peak at 4,5,6, I had little idea that my parents and in-laws were at their nerves ends and god knows how many prayers must have been rendered to see us through safe.
24 hours after the water-break and what seemed like the longest night of my life, we weren’t too sure my “no-medication” plan was working out. It took two nurses, a sensible midwife to convince me to go on Pitocin for making the contractions periodic and stronger for dilating faster than I was at the moment. 8 hours of Pitocin and the strongest of contractions and after, she told me, I was ready to push and fully dilated, FINALLY!
Now it was 34 hours since the beginning, all I wanted was for it to be over. It didn’t help that it had been over 24 hours since my last meal and ‘pushing’ wasn’t exactly going as smoothly as we thought. Too many thoughts were racing through my head – “I should have taken epidural when I had the chance?” “Why do women go through this more than once? Why oh why?” “Why do single women do this to themselves? What would I do without N’s hand to squeeze?”
Only thing that kept me going was my baby’s heartbeat. He was undeterred through the entire odyssey, and if he was staying strong, so would I. Another two hours, and only half a hairy black head out and later I was ready to faint voluntarily. “No shame in asking for help. Won’t make you any less strong as a person” said a voice in my head. And that’s exactly how A came out with forceps intervention, bawling through a sea of tears, plopped on me.
I tear up every time I remember how the scene played out. A, lain on me, rubbed my nose with his flailing hands as he wailed; N was crying as he cut the cord and the rest of the evening breezed like a dream. Somewhere, I cried a river to appa over phone, fed my baby boy, reveled in the post-pain medication, pictures were clicked, and messages read and responded. Baby A had arrived and I was his proud amma.
And as for the question I asked myself a zillion times “Why do women want to go through this at all?” …. I didn’t get an answer right away, but I am learning the answer a little each day as a mother.