This day 31 years back the First Born was born. At about this time he was bawling his heart out for the comfort of his mother’s arms while I was sedated and literally abandoned on the operating table. No, I was not operated upon, I had what’s called a ‘normal’ delivery. Yet, there I was, still in the labor room. The hospital, in all its wisdom, had not bothered to show me the baby. Instead they palmed him off on the grandmother and Dad waiting outside. Then, the whole jingbang of hospital staff, doctors, nurses et al, finished the rest of their work, dimmed the lights and walked out, leaving me to sleep the night off on the same cold and hard table where I had given birth just an hour earlier.
There is one thing about me and sedation. We simply don’t get along. Don’t ask me why it is so, because I really don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that when I am given medicines to sleep, except on rare occasions, I remain wide awake, even wider awake than I would have been if left alone to my devices. That’s what happened on said night too.
I passed the time staring at the ceiling, at the walls, the IV drip going into my hand, the curtains, whatever my eye could make out in the dim yellowish light. I fretted hearing the baby cry every now and then. I could hear my mother’s voice trying to soothe him back to sleep. What was wrong? Why was I being kept still in the labor room? Why wasn’t the baby being brought to me or I being taken out to the room to feed him? There was no one to answer my questions.
After a while a nurse walked in. In the dim light she saw my eyes shining and asked with surprise, “Haven’t you slept yet?” I picked up courage to tell her, “The baby is crying.”
One has to experience the rudeness of the nurses in maternity wards to really understand what I meant by ‘picked up courage’. The sad plight of pregnant women! You carry the child, go through all the difficulties of pregnancy and when you are in the throes of pain with delivery imminent, you also have to listen to harsh comments from the nurses and assistants. The favorite one of theirs is the sarcasm dripping query to women crying out with pain, “What are you crying for? You didn’t think of this when you enjoyed sleeping with him?!!” What a society we are, eh? We don’t even let women suffer their pain in peace.
Having heard such tales, I was terrified enough not to allow any sound to escape my lips during labor, which was also the reason I was so hesitant to ask why I was being ‘held’ in the labor room still. Earlier in the day I had my head bitten off twice for no fault of mine by a fire-breathing dragon of a matron. But this one, to whom I timidly suggested that the baby was crying, only smiled and said it was okay, the baby was being taken care of. She took whatever she had walked in for and left, telling me to get some sleep.
I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. The whole night I listened to the sounds of the hospital (it was a small private hospital), a car stopping outside, the whimpers of a woman in labor pain beyond a curtain in the next room, harsh words spoken by a nursing assistant, a door banging shut, someone shush-ing a baby, fans whirring and of course, the one that affected me most, my baby crying.
I must have finally dozed off at dawn from sheer exhaustion, for when I opened my eyes next, there was light. It was morning and a commotion could be heard outside. Someone was being led to the delivery room. I heard a voice say there was no bed free in the labor room and suddenly hope lifted its head in my heart. Yes. I was quickly moved to my room to make space for the new-mother-to-be on the scene. I was positively thrilled about that. Finally, finally, almost 12 hours after giving birth, I got to have a good look at the First Born and to finally feed him.
Even after all these years, I am really clueless as to why I was kept under observation though I heard words like blood loss and ‘anaemic’ being thrown about. But no proper explanation was ever given. In the past, the intimidating atmosphere the hospitals (even the small ones) maintained was not conducive to asking questions and receiving explanations.
I also wish hospitals and doctors in India treated women patients better and learnt to communicate clearly with them. My experiences in this regard have been really, really bad. Doctors generally speak to the husband, even when it is the wife being treated, as if the wife is an imbecile incapable of understanding what they say. Many of them don’t look you in the eye and have a very condescending attitude while dealing with women patients. Of course here again cities and small towns differ in the way they handle things. Fortunately in recent times among the newer crop of younger doctors I have noticed a remarkable change for the better. But that’s a topic for another day.
Related post: About the First Born
©Shail Mohan 2015