Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To my ginger haired anaesthetist

My birth plan began with a (fairly long) list of things i was petrified of. Of these two were related to the epidural- one was that i would have to wait for hours to get it (London hospitals are infamous for this) and the other was that it would not work well ( more than a fair share of girls i know have howled in pain in spite of the epidural ).

When i finally requested an epidural, my midwife (god bless her, she was an angel from the heavens above and reinstated my belief that while giving birth if you have a decent midwife, you really really do not need anyone else) breathed out in relief.
' Thank God, finally!' she mumbled in her Dutch accent.

Keeping in mind how notorious the anaesthetists are in getting to the patients, i had mentally prepared myself to deal with the pain for at least another two hours before help came.

So when I saw her first about 10 minutes after i requested an epidural, the winds picked up, white pigeons arrived in hundreds and musicians appeared.

The lady who the midwife introduced as the anaesthetist  was tall and broad but not in an unfeminine way. Good looking ( though not in the traditional way), with a pixie like face and round black eyes, she moved around with the ease of someone who knows her work very well. I found myself relaxing instantly. It was a few minutes later, as she explained how the epidural worked ( i knew all of it ofcourse, muhahaha) that i noticed it. Her hair was ginger. So my anaesthetist is a ginger haired lady with a pixie like face, i thought to myself.And even as another contraction hit me, i found myself smiling.

She administered the epidural in the midst of jokes and easy banter. And it worked like an absolute dream. I thanked her profusely and mentally crossed off one thing i was fearful of from my list.

The little incident i want to talk about did not happen in the labour room- i met my anaesthetist again, in the OT this time, as they prepped me for my c-section.

( When about 10 minutes earlier a serious faced doctor had pulled his chair close to me and mumbled ' I am really sorry, i have bad news. I do not think a normal birth is an option for us now, we will, sadly, have to do a c-section' I had to bite the inside of my cheeks to not start grinning with unbridled joy. I desperately wanted a c-sec and had I not been under an epidural, i would have broken into an impromptu bhangra. Instead i nodded my head sadly, and then , under the amazed gaze of the doctor, asked my Mum to hand me my makeup bag. One has to worry about the pics with the new baby, no matter what after all.)

In the OT, while i joked and laughed, i was at some level extremely petrified- it was after all the first time i was in an OT that was not my father's. As the anaesthetist, who made a huge game out of the whole process, topped my epidural, I began to shake- a common side effect of such high doses of epidural. The shaking, though of no trouble on its own, made me extremely nervous and at one point i told my anaesthetist that i did not think i could breathe.

'Darling' she said smiling ' you just took in a large breath to say that'

As things began to happen, whilst i remained fairly calm and continued my salvo of really bad jokes, i found myself clinging to Sid's hand literally for dear life. I told him in very clear terms that he was not allowed to let go of my hand even for a second. Poor Sid, a little white faced because, well, he had never before held his wife's hand as the doctors cut her open to deliver his child, nodded  his head. And we chatted as the team of doctors worked, almost like we were in a cafe, chatting over cups of steaming coffee (only we were not). We spoke mostly about my third book; i told him about the characters and the rattled off pretty much the first chapter word for word from memory.

And then my baby was born.

A hearty scream that warmed the cockles of my heart reached me and one of the doctors pulled down the curtain and presented to me , with great flourish, a red/ purple weird little thing that I guessed was my baby.

They took him away to clean him and i felt Sid's hand pull away from mine.
'No! You cannot go!' i shouted. Not because i did not want him to go see our son, but simply because i was so sure that the world would end if Sid were to leave my hand. In my head it was non- negotiable. No, he could not leave my hand.

So Sid stood there, holding my hand, craning his neck to look at our just born son who was with my midwife.

Thats when the anaesthetist spoke up.
'Sid' she said ' why don't you go and have a look at your son. I will hold her hand'
Sid looked questioningly at me and i reluctantly nodded my head. I was already in Mother India mode and thought that our son was, after all, with strangers at the moment and needed atleast one of us close to him.

And so my anaesthetic came around to me, bent low, used one hand to hold both of mine tightly and then to my surprise, placed her cheek next to mine, almost pulling me in a firm embrace.

We stayed like that, cheek to cheek, the Indian patient lying on the table and the ginger haired anaesthetist bent low next to her for a good 7-8 minutes. She spoke to me the whole while, telling me what the surgeon was doing and that all was going as per plan and that i was doing really well. Her soothing voice and firm embrace put together helped my breathing normalise, and while the shaking continued, it did not feel as scary as before.

It was only when Sid returned that she literally 'handed' me over to my husband.

'The worst is past, brave, beautiful girl' she mumbled letting go of my hand referring to the fact that the operation was almost done.

I looked up and saw that my tears from when i had seen my pink/ purple baby for the firs time had stained her cheeks too.

'Thank you' was all that i could trust myself to mouth silently, so overwhelmed was i by her kindness.

In return, i got a thumbs up sign and a cheerful smile that made her eyes twinkle.

So, dear ginger haired anaesthetist, ( you are probably right now in your scrubs helping another scared Mum) every time I am going to think about the birth, and if the last three weeks are anything to go by - its going to be often, i am going to send a silent, heart felt thank-you your way. Almost 3 weeks since the operation, and i find myself still too overwhelmed by your kindness to really say anything more.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Positives of being Pregnant

A friend, a new mum, told me once that the best thing about her pregnancy was that it was now over and that she had her baby in her arms. And i will have to completely agree. If i were to be honest, pregnancy is hard work, it is more difficult than you would imagine. And no, just because everyone around you has been pregnant, it does not mean that it is easy! Women don't do it because it is easy, they do it in spite of how tough it can be! It is very taxing on the mum's body and no one apart from you, the pregnant mum-to-be, will truly get what you are going through. Let me doff my hat right now to women who do this more than once- well done to them!

Some people do have a very easy pregnancy and for your sake, i really hope you will be one of them. I personally did not really fall in love with being pregnant but this post is not about that. It is , instead about what can be good during the tough 40 weeks. There is very little material about the good in being pregnant and i want to write about the positive and fun stuff. Here are few of the things i liked:

1) You get more attention than you have probably ever gotten before. Friends, family, husband- they will all be extra nice to you!

2) The pregnancy glow- some get it and some don't, but those who do, you will look so much better than you did before getting pregnant in which case, just take a LOT of pictures ;). No matter how miserable i actually felt, the glow was absolutely unmistakable and at times very misleading. I remember an appointment with my GP who listened to all my complaints about how miserable i had been feeling, paused, thought and then said ' but, you are glowing!'

3) The baby kicks- difficult to describe the feeling- you have to experience it to know it and at some stage in your pregnancy the baby will indeed become so big that the kicks will begin to hurt and you will transition from 'awww' to 'O.U.C.H' very quickly. They, will however remain incredibly special and will somehow become your way of communicating with the baby.

4) In a place like london where people keep to themselves, random people will come and talk to you, ask after the baby and just be really, really nice. I had people stop their cars to let me cross the road, let me go ahead in queue, at one point a restaurant actually got me food in the waiting area because i was pregnant. Also, once, as i waddled along the road, a man slowed down his car, rolled down his windows and shouted a 'congratulations for the babbyyyy'.  This delivery guy once sat down and spoke to my bump for a good 5 minutes while i stared disbelieving.

On the flip side, I also once had a little girl throw a massive (and loud!) tantrum in the bus because she wanted to see my bump and i refused to pull up my dress to show it to her. ;/

5) You are welcomed into the world's biggest club that you never knew existed- the parents club.

6) You will bond with your bump and your baby in your own special way. I don't know if 'super-bonded' is a word or no, but that is exactly how i was with my bump. I was confident that he listened to me, he did things i asked him to do and stopped doing things when i wanted him to stop. I was also oddly very very very very confident that my baby would never let anything really bad happen to me and that was the main reason why i was so relaxed before  (and about) the birth. And it worked- i had an easy birth that was actually the best experience of my life! During my labour and delivery i experienced more kindness from strangers than i have ever before in my life. There are atleast 3 different people, all strangers i will probably never meet again, of whom i cannot think of without tearing up with gratitude.

7) There is something really special about sharing the baby's kicks with the husband, the parents and close friends. I will never forget the expression on a friend's face when she felt my baby kick. It was the first time she had touched a pregnant belly and of course the first time felt a foetus kick. The shock, surprise and excitement on her face was absolutely precious.

8) A LOT of people will tell you how beautiful you are looking.  :) I am not a fan of the pregnant body, but if you are lucky with the hormones, be ready to oddly, inspite of putting x kilos, feeling truly beautiful!

9) At some point in time you will plead with your husband to help you with the nail paint on your toes not really expecting him to. But he will sit patiently and do your nails.

10) You will have to just ask and the husband will lather cream on your legs simply because you are too huge to do it on your own

11) At some point in time, your husband will , without being asked, bend down and put your shoes on for you and then tie the laces.
And from then onwards, you will begin to wait at the shoe rack for the husband to come and put on your shoes for you.

12) You will be secretly very very very pleased at how huge your bump will become towards the end of your pregnancy. Pleased and proud. I know silly and difficult to imagine, but it will happen to you.

13) You will find yourself talking to your baby very often. And they will be delightful conversations.

14) Tantrums are acceptable. I remember i was once crying for no reason and Sid was being indulgent. Then i started crying harder because i was getting tired of crying and then i started crying even harder because i wanted to keep crying but i knew i would soon get too tired to cry. Sid had the wisdom to turn around and laugh else i would have hit him.

15) People will help. Towards the beginning of y 3rd trimester, my husband had to go away for 10 nights and i knew that for once, i could not, just could not be alone. My mum had broken her hand and could not come so i turned to friends. And boy, did they help! They came with packed suitcases and (bless them) even little gifts and made sure i did not have to stay alone a single night. Similarly, because i had been feeling so rubbish, I did not want to take on the burden of throwing a baby shower. Friends jumped in. One got Sid to convince me to just say yes to the event, she said she will take care of EVERYTHING else. Her Mum (bless her) even made 2 different types of snacks for the shower. Another friend completely took over the food, another drinks, another cooked more stuff, another two took over the decoration...they showered me with so much of love and affection that i know i will forever be indebted to them all! Not only that, friends who are like family for us expats, will call/ message/ drop in to ask after you. Infact closer to my due atleast 3 of my friends had at one point or the other ( I was 4 days over due) put me on an HOURLY watch! Spread across the world, they were in touch each day towards the end and given how difficult pregnancy can get at that point in time, it really meant so much!

16) Pregnancy will bring you closer to some people (and possibly take you away from some people too)- I finally understood what my Mum (and mother in law) had gone through to bring me (and my husband) into the world and it made to look up at them with greater respect. My sil, who is a doctor, was in continuos contact from the beginning to the end, each day asking after me. It was nice and sweet and incredibly special to have these three women as support even if they were in a country hundreds of miles away.

17) Closer to your due date, every one in the house will drop everything and rush to your side even if you as much as groan. You might find yourself faking a groan just to see their reaction.

18) Closer to your due date, you will be inundated with messages from all and sundry with the same question- 'kutch hua?' and you will go mad telling everybody ki kutch nahi hua! Enjoy that attention too, its really the last time in a very long time that you will get that much attention for once the baby comes, it is all about him/ her and rightly so!

19)And when labour starts, it is actually fun to finally be able to send the 'Its happening!' message.

20) And last, though you will not, you cannot, feel the sort of love you will feel for your baby once he/she is in your arms, you will still be hit with waves of love for the heaving, squirming bump that are more powerful than anything you have experienced yet. And then the baby actually arrives. And you understand, for the first time ever in your life, what love truly is.

While i cannot tell you that pregnancy is easy, that would be a lie, and i am very very glad mine is behind me, I can tell you without any doubt that  in the end, it will all be worth it.

It WILL all be worth it!