Too Soon

“BUT why do these things happen?”

I was elated to know the news of my pen pal friend, who took to announce over Whatsapp that a son had been born to him and his wife.

“I wish I knew.”

He replied after a day, and I could sense the confusion in response, since he was from the medical field himself. “My baby was tiny, you should have seen him, but thankfully he is well now.”

I knew what tiny babies looked like.

It was one of those regular check ups. My pregnancy was carrying on well, with no out-of-the ordinary symptoms. I googled why palpitations happened, and that seemed to be no surprise to many moms-to-be. The physician said there was nothing to worry about. The ultrasound scan was due that evening and I was assured that everything was normal. The baby was developing just fine, it’s weight had been perfect, so also it’s skull and other vitals. My cervix was normal. I excitedly collected my DVD and proceeded home, not before collecting a couple of sandwiches to eat for myself and my husband.

I would have loved to spend more time with the last of the pleasant weather days, but as always, I was attached to my cat Alice, who would be eagerly expecting me at the door, waiting for a cuddle and some snack.

When evening came, I began to experience sharp lower back pains akin to constipation. I tried to dismiss them as Braxton Hicks – a false alarm version of real labor, since they weren’t too painful. But as the night progressed, they began to get rhythmic, which to me was not right. I casually mentioned to my husband, to have it checked at the ER after dinner.

“You’re not planning to have the baby tonight, are you?”, he smiled while driving me to the hospital.

I assured him that it was ok if I went into labor, as I had reached the seventh month milestone. Secretly, I tried to calm my desperate self.

“It’s probably just gas.”

The attending gynaec on night duty was more interested in the delivery in the ward next to mine, therefore half heartedly looked through my baby’s vitals. It seemed that the next door lady was a maid who concealed her pregnancy from her employers until her water bag broke. The resultant baby was delivered in the employer’s car on the way to the hospital. Since she was not known to have a husband, it would soon be registered as a police case. Indeed a lot of excitement for the hospital staff in comparison to my gas.

The night passed with several visits to the toilet. Pregnancy can have some serious gas alterations I thought. Alice could not sleep as well since she was in the habit of following me to bathroom most of the times. I had hoped to hold on till morning before showing myself again to the doctors.

It was Thursday morning, 7 am. Once again the spasms came in, but this time so did the bleeding. I knew by now things were for the worse. I rushed to the hospital in my pyjamas and slippers and took one last glance at Alice, who lay perplexed on the bed and was now at the mercy of the other family members, mainly my in-laws who also lived with us. My thoughts were racing all along. I knew the look on the technician’s face who was in charge of the ultrasound that morning. I asked him how was my cervix – my medical questions were always a result of too much googling, resulting in me always diagnosing the case before the doctors and sometimes even imagining the unnecessary. Despite the drama around me, I was still positive and hoped that the situation could be resolved with some medication and some precautionary strict bed rest for a few months. I could imagine my mother-in-law’s chagrin to the latter of course.

I could not avoid the inevitable. The emergency gynaec on duty, thankfully different from the previous night, was astute to get all operations running. I was in labor, I was told and could deliver almost any time. However, since the baby was still premature – 26 weeks and less than 1 kg weight I was required to stall the delivery for another 24 hours, while they would boost me and the baby with steroids, that would help his lungs survive the impending oxygen after delivery. The NICU unit was summoned and they briefed me about the medication as well as the course of action for the baby’s transfer.

The first 24 hours went about rather smoothly, perhaps because I was mentally prepared that the delivery would take place anytime then. But the baby took its own time, with the labor spasms now becoming clearly unbearable. I remember begging the nurses for a caesarean section, or some heavy painkillers to end the trauma. Deep down of course I knew that at the end of my battle, my little one’s fight to survive would begin, and that added to my ordeal. My sister and husband, were the two pillars of hope present by my side, and didn’t count the hours or the loss of sleep.

When the clock struck midnight on Friday, my husband unknowingly joked that my boy would be born around the same hour as me, which would mean nine hours to go. This was a nightmare and I shot an angry glance at him, in the light of my trauma. The highlight of my pain, was that I could not be inclined at an angle, or the baby might come out unnaturally, or so I was told. I was flat on my back for more than forty-eight hours soon, and the resultant soreness caused my lungs to become heavy, making breathing rather difficult. I remember asking a nurse on duty to get away with me, and to save my child, with which she simply smiled.

Unbeknownst to me, my sister kept updating me on the weather – something about it that was very unusual. Winter was over, yet there was a fierce storm coupled with strong winds and rain –  a little extraordinary for the end of March. The blinds of my window had been closed and I could not make the difference out of day and night. The ambulance officials were concerned how they would make it through the storm, carrying my baby to the next hospital, that were more equipped with premature amenities for a 26 weeker. They too had been waiting with me for more than two days in a row, and there seemed no sign of delivery. Instructions were passed to leave by 9 am. The attending gynaec, this time again a rather disinterested one, said I’d easily take another couple of days, to my horror. But just as she had passed her verdict, a ‘better’ gynaec came along who examined me and knew the kind of ordeal I was going through. She suggested, that if my pains had gotten severe, then I should push, otherwise to stay put. Two times I attempted, and both failed. There was no movement.

A Filipina nurse saw my deteriorating condition, and for some reason, she managed to reassure me,

“Today your baby will be born with my hands”.

I needed just one human to say this. Just a minor sentence like this lifted my spirits and renewed some strength, whatever I had left. With faith, I began to push again, and after a few attempts, movement was sighted. The ambulance crew who were on the verge of leaving, were alerted to get procedures in order. My membranes were clearly visible. Doctors and nurses began to dress and prepare tools, post-haste. My heart was racing. I received some instructions how to do the final push, and both my husband and sister held me to ease my position. After all my body had stiffened after the two-day ordeal.

I could not see the final moments. But my boy was born, like my husband predicted jokingly at 9 am, and was rushed by ambulance before I could see him been taken away.

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