Sunday, August 21, 2016 – the date and time has been etched into my rather porous memory, for life. The moment of revelation, the day I became a father. There she was, in her glorious pink pureness, surrounded by the verdant garden of scrubs, putting her lungs to the ultimate test – my daughter had announced her arrival; loud and clear.
6:00pm – Sabiha’s (my wife) contractions were picking up speed, but not frequent enough for us to panic. Anyway this was more or less a planned visit, the doctor wanted us in around 9.30pm, in order to induce her so she could deliver the next day, but the baby had other plans. We had already replayed this situation in our heads multiple times. Our bag was already packed a good month in advance. We made sure we took everything required for the birth of our unborn child – mother’s clothes, baby clothes, swaddles, mittens, caps, baby soap and shampoo, blankets, sheets, toiletries and most importantly diapers! It is absolutely essential that you carry everything that you think is important apart from the essentials, trust me, it is not worth running around last minute. Sabiha had planned out everything in advance by packing everything for a minimum of three days, more on this later.
Throughout her pregnancy I kept wondering what it would be like to drive my wife while she was in labour, will it be a weekday OR will it during peak hours OR will it be a weekday during peak hours? What if it’s raining cats and dogs and we get bumper to bumper traffic (shudder)? But in the most anti-climatic manner, it turned out to be a rainless, boring Sunday evening. Sure we got some traffic thanks to the good people of Mumbai gearing up to celebrate Ganesh Chatruthi (a festival, celebrating Lord Ganesh’s birthday, that lasts about 10 days). We were at the hospital in 45 minutes. Once again, we knew exactly what route we had to take to reach the hospital in the fastest way possible. When we went for consultations and sonography we tried out all possible routes to gauge the best possible option. The idea is to be perfectly calm on D-Day and take effective and conscious decisions, hence dry runs were very important for us. Be prepared for unexpected speed bumps (no pun intended) but think with a very clear head. DO.NOT.PANIC.
The hospital was approximately 14 kms away from where we live in the Mumbai suburb of Khar, a quaint little place, which was more of a home than a tube light flooded hospital. We had already selected our room a few days ago and knew what to expect. It was 7pm, the nurses and the stand-in doctor helped my wife to settle in, who by the way was in early labour and the contractions were coming in fast. We waited for the doctor to come in. My wife’s cervix had already dilated 3cms, the target was 10cms to push the baby out, she had a long way to go. At 8pm, Sabiha’s doctor came in, all smiles and dandy, ever so fresh, checked her up and said she was more or less there, then very nonchalantly proceeded and broke her water! Yes, apparently that’s a thing. The doc then looked at me smiled and said we’ll be ready in two hours! while my wife was waddling in her own amniotic-fluid-soaked bed. TWO HOURS! She was supposed to deliver the next day.
So the previous day we came for our regular checkup and the ever smiling, ever glowing doctor seemed a tad alarmed (in her own uniquely jovial manner) and remarked “Why hasn’t she got her contractions yet? it’s already 40 weeks!” Now it was my time to get alarmed, I wasn’t quite sure if she was expecting an answer from me, so I did what I do best in these situations, stared back with a really dumb look. She told us to calm down and get admitted the following day around 9.30pm.
8.30pm – I had stepped out to get some dinner when I came back my wife was writhing and groaning in pain. The nurse had hooked her up to a NST machine (Non Stress Test) to check the baby’s heartbeat and the frequency of the contractions, they monitored her very closely, keeping a check on her dilation and informing the doctor accordingly. I was just sitting there in one corner, eating my roll, trying to come up with ways to help her. My wife yelled at me for eating in front of her while she was in pain and asked me to get out of the room. I was finally of some help. When I got back, I saw the nurse was rubbing my wife’s back every time she got a contraction, I volunteered to do it myself. It was impossible for me to even begin to fathom the degree of pain she was in but I just wanted to alleviate it in whatever way possible. If rubbing her back helped then I wanted to do it to the best of my ability. At this point you need to ensure that you are calm and do everything to keep your wife clam as well, don’t show any signs of duress or stress, it is not going to help you or the child. If the child gets stressed, there is a very high possibility of the child passing stool while still inside and that’s an automatic C-section, and my wife wouldn’t be too pleased with that as she always wanted to have a natural delivery.
10pm – She was now screaming, there were three to four nurses helping her to empty her bladder, well let’s just things got messy and it wasn’t the best thing to be a nurse at that point, but hats off to them. I could have sworn my wife broke a nurse’s arm while yelling “I’m sorry!!!! I’m usually not like this!!”. I quietly disagreed. In my head. In the darkest recesses of my mind.
The doctor came in her scrubs and ordered the team to ready the OT. She told me to wear the scrubs and be ready as I could be called in anytime. I am coordinating with both sets of parents to come as soon as they can, the baby could be out any time. I saw them take Sabiha into the OT, while I was explaining the address to my sister. Within a few minutes two nurses came running to asking for me. My heart skipped a beat, did something go wrong? Why are they looking so alarmed? Did it have anything to do with the umbilical cord around her neck? (yes the sonography the previous day showed it, but more on that later). I rushed into the OT and I could see people in scrubs coaxing her to push. I was confused, was everything ok? The anesthesiologist said everything was fine, she was doing really well and got a stool for me and I sat besides her and was about to say encouraging words to her and I heard a cry… The doctor announced it was a girl! My wife was ecstatic and started hollering “we have a daughter!”
There she was in flesh and blood, my senses were fixated on her for I was experiencing something so pure, something so unequivocally divine for the first time. She was crying inconsolably, My throat was dry, my eyes tearing up. I just wanted to reach out and mollify her to tell her that it’s ok. I had done my homework and read quite a bit on childbirth to realize that the baby must cry as soon as she is born, I knew that! But at that time, my mind was all muddled and a heartfelt plea came out of me “Why is she crying? please do something!” to which the doctor said “It’s a good thing she is crying, she is fine”. It was over in exactly five minutes. The staff cleaned her up and I held her for the first time, blinking, breathing, living…
My name is Nadir Kanthawala and I am a proud new age dad to a beautiful daughter! Through this blog I plan to record all the milestones of our daughter and the experiences we are having while raising her. I want to reach out to working parents, especially dads and promote hands-on parenting.
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