Things went back to normal after An Inauspicious Start.
Of course, normal was the new normal which wasn’t quite the same normal as the previous normal. Progressing pregnancy dulled the pain of financial doom. Sometime in the 3rd month we had signed up for a 5-day package at Woodlands Nursing Home in Alipore. Dr K, the Ob/Gyn, was a crusty, no-nonsense doctor with a short way with whiny and needy mothers-to-be. He was firm in his advice. “Take the 5-day package and take advantage of all the care the nurses will provide in the first few days. After that it will be a madhouse”. Prophesy we thought then, we later recognized it as wisdom.
Regular visits to Dr. K became ever more frequent and Dr. K’s acerbic bedside manner removed any doubts we may have had in a rational and therefore soothing manner. Lunch with a friend from college who had had had a baby boy a year ago was filled with details of her preparation and delivery process. The next visit to Dr K was ended with his usual “All seems ok. Any questions?”
My wife, tentatively, “What about breathing exercises? My friend says she did breathing exercises….”, she tailed off.
“Oh yes! Here’s what you do. Do you know how to breathe in?”
“Yes”, my wife already knew where this was going.
“Ok, so you know how to breathe out, as well then. Keep breathing in and out alternately. Bye Bye.”
Somewhere in the 9th month, my wife panicked and called Dr. K.
“How will I know, if my water bursts?”
“You’ll drown in it, you silly girl! Did you just call me from my dinner for stupid questions like this? Do you have any more?”, Dr K exploded.
Very early in the proceedings Dr. K had used his circular slide calculator to predict the delivery date as 3rd November. And as the day came closer, visits to him became more frequent. Finally, on the second of November, he sat back with a satisfied air and said “Call Woodlands and check in tomorrow morning, you’ll probably deliver by evening tomorrow”.
In a state of wonder, apprehension and the phenomenal calm that overtakes both my wife and I in moments of extreme stress, we went home. In the evening Ujjal and Sanjit, two of our die-hard friends, dropped by for dinner. We had a quiet dinner at home, they promising to be there the next day.
8 am the next morning, I was putting my wife’s bag in the car, as the lady across the street walked by. “Oh, going for an early morning walk? Very good exercise”. We smiled weakly and drove out to Woodlands Nursing Home.
Check in was a longish process, but finally my wife was on the third floor, in a gown. I was not allowed in. But I saw her as she waved and smiled to me as she was led to the delivery room at 9:30am. I, meanwhile, was asked to head downstairs to the first floor to fill out all the forms and sign all the waivers. I was occupied for a lengthy period of filling in forms, signing them and handing them in to be given a new form in exchange. Finally, at 10:30 am I raced up in the slowest elevator known to man, to run right into Dr K, looking all fresh and scrubbed.
“Congratulations! You have a lovely baby boy. Everything went well, except that the cord was wrapped around his arm so we had to do a little manipulating. The nurses should be bringing him out soon. Bye”
Numb and cold, I waited outside the double doors that hid my new family from me. After an eternity, a nurse came out with a bundle of clothes. She stopped when she saw me. “Mr Sharma?“. I nodded.
“Here’s your baby boy. Isn’t he beautiful? He was born at 10:12am.”
Then I saw him for the first time, a tiny little head amongst the swaddling, crying softly in a piteous manner, the bridge of his nose oozing with two spots of blood, the marks of the forceps fresh on the scalp seen easily through the fine covering of hair. His eyes were open wide, his soft moaning cry was almost more affectation than genuine hurt, anger or sorrow. All this I noticed in a lightning fraction of a second. Then she was off with him and I was alone again, waiting and wondering where life would take us next. This wait was a short wait, rather like the umpires in a cricket match calling “Tea”.
Tea, that leaf that produces the cup that cheers, but that’s another story.