July 11, 2015 was like any other normal Saturday, when I wanted to rest and my wife was already ready with her list. It was an overcast day and who wants to drive to Delhi in rain? But we left nonetheless. I helped her into our SUV. My wife was in her 9th month of pregnancy. Her EDD (Expected Date of Delivery) was 24 July. We were told that she was in her safe period of pregnancy.
We left at about 11 o’clock in the morning. The moment we left it started drizzling.
“I couldn’t sleep properly last night.”
“Why?” I asked, carefully negotiating a road full of potholes.
“I had cramps in my lower abdomen and back.”
“How are you feeling right now?”
“I’m ok. I woke up alright in the morning.”
“I think we should go and see Dr. Soni first.”
“But she asked us to visit her after a week and we only went to her two days ago.”
“There’s no harm in visiting her again. It will be on the way.” I had a feeling about what was happening and it turned out to be correct.
The doctor did an internal checkup.
“Swati is already through her first stage of labour. You guys should rush to the hospital and take her to the labour room.”
Swati and I exchanged looks. While she smiled nervously, I started sweating. All the pre-natal sessions that we’d attended came back to me and I realised that we weren’t carrying her maternity bag, her exercise ball; we didn’t even have the stem cell collection kit. I called my father and brother and asked them to bring everything.
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The rain had started pouring now. The hospital was about 4 km away. But in Faridabad even this short a distance can be torturous and that too during the rains. It took us around half an hour to reach. It was 12:30 when we entered the hospital lobby. While I completed the admission formalities, the staff moved Swati to the labour room. My parents and brother joined us in about an hour. I took out my I-pod from her maternity bag and plugged in Mozart to relax her. I asked for an exercise ball so Swati could do her pre-natal exercises for comfortable labour.
Dr. Anita came to check on her at about 3:30 p.m. and left with instructions to call her as soon as contractions started. The contractions started at around 5:30. It was still raining hard and I was afraid that Dr. Anita wouldn’t be able to make it back to the hospital in time. She finally arrived at 6:30 p.m. Her presence assured me that everything was going to be alright. I sprayed rose water on Swati’s face and neck to comfort her.
At 7:15 p.m. Dr. Anita did another internal checkup and I asked if I could be in the delivery room.
“Are you sure you won’t faint?” she asked with a smile.
“I am sure,” I replied with resolve.
She asked me to change into sterilised clothing and follow her. By now Swati’s contractions had become even stronger and she was in excruciating pain. These were some of the longest 20 minutes, with everyone, including me, trying to encourage Swati to push the baby out and two nurses helping her by putting pressure on her stomach. At one point, the pain was so unbearable that Swati pleaded for a C-section. The doctor refused, and assured her that it would be over soon, just a few more pushes. It was 7:36 p.m. when it eventually happened. Everyone except the doctor was perspiring and out of breath with the effort, when out came a red thing (head first). The doctor cut the umbilical cord.
When I saw the baby I couldn’t control my laughter. Everyone joined me. “Why are we laughing?” they asked.
“Khoda pahad nikla chuha!” It was amusing how something this small made us struggle so much.
I hugged my exhausted wife. The paediatrician immediately wrapped the baby in a towel and took it away.
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“Baby girl or a boy?” Swati enquired in a whisper.
I was so happy to be a father that I hadn’t even bothered to check the gender of the baby! Then I realised the true meaning of parenthood. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl; it’s your baby.
It was a girl and we named her Mysha. She’s the most beautiful thing I know. Other than my wife, of course.