First of all, thanks to all of you for your wishes both before and after my delivery. Thanks Poppin’s mom – sweet of you to have given the “Breaking news” to everyone.
As I sit back and think about the tense drive to the hospital and the intense moments leading up to the birth of our baby girl, the feeling is that of an out of body experience. My due date was June 20.07. I was hoping that I would deliver a few days earlier rather than later like it happened for my son for whom I had to be induced since he went past the due date. Also, my sister was due to arrive on June 17 and had planned to stay for a week. I was hoping to maximize the time we would have with my sister after the second baby arrived. This time it was all about practicality. I was most worried about how my son would manage my being away at the hospital for two days never having stayed away from me for more than 2-3 hrs. On Friday night I had indications that labor might start over the weekend (mucus plug). So I called my sister in the morning and told her to come on Saturday night instead of Sunday night as she had planned.
June 17 morning:
I went for a long walk after feeding kutti boy (my 22m old son) his breakfast. It was a long walk considering I was due any time although I just walked down the road along with my sister. I was really hoping to kick start natural labor. I had been feeling some mild contractions during the night. But they were sporadic, some close, some far apart. I had my lunch around 12.30 pm and went upstairs around 1.00pm to make my son go for his afternoon nap. But before that I called the hospital and the doctor on call called me back. I told her that my contractions were about 10 to 12 minutes apart and lasted about 30 to 45 seconds. She asked me if my water broke or was leaking for which I replied no. She asked me about my first delivery – I told her I delivered three hours after I had been induced. That got her concerned and she paused for a bit and told me “I would hate for you to come here all the way and go back. So I would say let’s wait for an hour and see if your contractions start getting more frequent. If they get any closer than 10min, call me and we will have you come over to the hospital”. I told her to make sure that the anesthesiologist was ready to give me the epidural. I always swore that I would never deliver without the epidural since I could not imagine withstanding so much pain. I decided to make my son start his afternoon nap so that I could leave for the hospital while he was napping knowing my contractions would probably start getting more frequent by then. He was wired awake that day and even at 1.30 pm he was playing with me and goofing around. I finally told him sternly that he had to close his eyes and start sleeping. Finally around 1.45pm, he fell asleep. I came downstairs and saw that the hospital bag was ready to be loaded and my husband was ready to leave any time. I could see the tension in my mother’s face. I had told my sister to stay on with my mother and help her when my son woke up from his nap. All of a sudden the pain became intense. Contractions became more and more frequent. Three minutes apart now. I suddenly found myself in tears from the pain. I controlled myself and told my husband to call the labor and delivery unit and tell them that we were coming right away. The answering service asked to talk to me (the patient!) and I could barely answer their questions. I gave the phone to my husband and told him to inform them that we were just coming and we had no time to wait for the doctor to call me back. I could feel the intensity of the labor pains and I felt the pressure of an imminent water break.
Just like a thriller movie there was a twist when I was about to leave. My nephew said that he would drive me and my husband (B) to the hospital instead of having B drive me to the hospital. We were about to get into his car when he said “Oh man, I don’t want to take chance but I am low on fuel”. I was in agony by then not as much in pain but from the anxiety that we were running out of time. Immediately B transferred the bags into his car and I was groaning with pain by then. In a concerned tone I asked my sister who is a pediatrician, “Do you think I will deliver in the car?!!”. She comforted me feebly saying, “No, don’t worry, keep breathing, you will get there”. But she was lying. She was concerned too. Suddenly she exclaimed “You know what, let’s just call the ambulance”. I was too nervous by then to even wait for one second while making phone calls etc. I just screamed to every one “Let’s just GO!!”. My mother insisted that I take my sister along and that she would manage my son by herself. I asked her if she was sure and she just told me to leave and not worry about my son. My sister wanted to get her hand bag just incase she had to drive back but I yelled “Let’s JUST GO!”. She jumped into the car and we left.
June.17.07 – around 2.20pm.
We were driving to the hospital – a twenty min ride from our place. Traffic was smooth since it was a Sunday afternoon. I sat at the back with my sister holding my hand. B was driving as calmly as he could under the circumstances. Those twenty minutes were one of the most intense moments in my life I think. They were in part a thriller and in part a comedy in retrospect. Only in retrospect one can laugh about it. When I was experiencing it I was pale with pain and anxiety written all over my face. I could feel the pressure of the baby pushing its way down and I was worried sick that I would not make it to the hospital in time. I have this habit of reciting “Ram Ram Ram” when I am in pain or when I am afraid. It is more of a meditative prayer than a religious one. So naturally I started reciting loudly “Ram Ram Ram” in a sing song tone and my sister would hold my hand and ask me to breathe slowly in and out. Between contractions I would have a thirty second break from pain and those few seconds I was in some strangely euphoric state. I felt as if I was entering deep sleep in the midst of that pain. As we neared the highway exit for the hospital the road was bumpy and in the same sing song tone I was yelling to my husband “bumpy, bumpy, bumpy” and he just calmly replied “ I can’t do anything about it – the road is that way here”. I was mildly relieved to know that we were near the hospital. The left turn signal to enter the hospital emergency entrance turned to red just when we got to that point. After what seemed like eternity, we then turned into the emergency entrance of the hospital. My sister darted inside and found a lone receptionist sitting at the desk. She told him “We need a wheel chair, my sister is in labor and needs to be taken to her room”. He casually asked her “Oh, when is she due?”.
My sister said “NOW, she is term and is ready to go NOW”. He then got some sense of the urgency but only pointed to the wheel chairs in the corner. She ran to fetch one and shouted to him to get the nurses ready in the labor room. By then he had paged a nurse who came running outside and I managed to climb on to the wheel chair. I huffed and puffed my way through the hallways and finally made it to the labor room.
June.17.07 – 2.44pm.
As soon as we got into the room, I asked the nurses to give me an epidural. It so happened that the labor nurse who was there at my first son’s delivery was on duty when I went in this time too. She recognized me and told me “ Well, you have to get into bed first, we need to check you before giving an epidural”. The height of the bed now seemed like the Himalayas to me. I felt the shooting pain of the contractions and the pressure of a baby ready to push its way down. I somehow managed to climb on to the bed and push back as much as they wanted me to. The nurse checked me and casually said “No, can’t give you the epidural, too late, you are fully dilated”. I felt my heart sink. I was terrified of the pains I might have to endure while pushing the baby out. I was someone who would pop an Aleeve tablet before periods cramps started. How can I endure labor pains and push the baby out! Just as I was mired in these fearful thoughts, I felt the pop of the water breaking. There were three nurses in the room and one of them paged the doctor on call, the other inserted the IV needle, my husband held my hand and kept telling me to breathe. My sister looked on to see how I was progressing. One of the nurses yelled to me “The baby’s head is coming out. Start pushing”. It was a scene from the movies. I barely got myself perched on the hospital bed and suddenly I felt myself giving one big push and there it was, exactly seven minutes after I got on the delivery bed, the much awaited sound of the baby’s first wail! The nurses, my sister and B were just delighted and my sister was in tears. She came to hug and I don’t remember where my husband was at that moment – I think he immediately ran to see his little girl. They lifted the baby up for me to see – I could see her pink face and curly thick mop of hair. They took her away to have her cleaned and weighed and wrapped up. We waited for a few minutes when I was left to myself pretty much since all attention was now on the baby. My sister was cooing to the baby and my husband was busy with the camera capturing the moment. All I felt was relief, relief and more relief. Thank you god for big mercies. One wrong move on our part, any small delay here or there, things would have turned out very differently. I could have delivered in the car – a scene I cannot even imagine. I felt like some divine grace had held me tight and kept me breathing right and hold on until we reached the hospital. The nurses remarked to me “What a perfect way to deliver! You didn’t waste any time. You just got here and you delivered!”. The senior nurse looked at me with a grin and showed me the labor chart and said “This is the shortest chart in my nursing career. Just a strip of paper! For the third one, you better get here as soon as labor starts!”. I turned to her and said “Are you kidding me, no third, this is it!”. She looked at me as if to say “We’ll see!”. The doctor on call arrived a few minutes later and congratulated me and shook her head in disbelief. She told me “Thank god! You made it here on time. You really have a high tolerance for pain. It all happened so quickly from the time you called me!”.
High tolerance for pain? Me? I probably do have it but I just cannot believe it. She then sutured the second degree tears I had suffered while pushing the baby out. When they handed me the baby, all I felt was a deep sense of gratitude to whatever power it was that brought her into this world safely in a secure, clean environment. I could not think of anything else. Suddenly sleep took over me. I just felt my eyes close from sheer fatigue from the intensity of the past half an hour. I just lay down feeling blank and tired.
It is already one week since the birth of baby girl. She is sleeping like an angel all wrapped up in her swaddle blanket and wearing her pink baby cap. On our drive back from the hospital, I was sitting between our two children and my husband drove and my sister followed us in another car. It felt complete. Our little family. So much to look forward to. So many countless joys and so many trying moments in the process of raising them. It was only a fleeting thought. I am a bit too sentimental to think too far into the future. Thank heavens for today. We were returning home safe. I suddenly felt a surge of tears remembering how my mother and father were waiting at the door when we drove home after my first child was born. Now my father is no more. I missed him. I imagined his presence at the door when we entered. I do want to believe that the collective prayers and good wishes of so many people and my father’s blessings got me through this safely. Camera, video, flowers, pink balloons, aarthi at the door when we entered…and here we were now a family of four set for a long journey together!