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.

2 comments:

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