My mother is at home. She bustles around the kitchen, making dishes that taste like my childhood. A hasn’t been home very much, he has a baby of his own in the form of his company. So I pounce upon my mum and get her to come shopping with me (aka hold my bags, since I’m now firmly told not to lift weights). We head to Hyper City with a two page list, and I buy everything I need for my hospital bag. I wince at the thought of button-down nightgowns; it’s too hot for full length clothes. But I decide I need some for the hospital at least, and I can hang around in tank tops at home afterwards.
We come back home to a very special delivery; my antique wooden cradle. I say ‘mine,’ because it literally was the cradle in which I was put and given my name, 27 years previously. My mother could call it hers too, she was put in that same cradle 60+ years previously. And now, here it is, in all its dark-wooded glory for my child-to-be. I choke up and watch it being set up. My dad has sent a beautiful green baby-sized mattress, cushions and a pillow with it. I look at it and I think – SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome)! It’s exhausting trying to make Western research make sense vis a vis Indian sentiments. I compromise by taking the pillows and cushion away but leaving the mattress where it is.
Through the day, I’ve felt weepy and tensed, my standard PMS symptoms. I’ve done enough reading to know this can go on for days. So I try to crack on with regular scheduling. I go for my walk in the evening, moving a bit slower than usual.
By this time, I’m also having weekly appointments with my doctor. I waltz into the hospital as usual, prepared for our standard 2 minute dialogue.
‘Hi, all looks good, any questions?’
‘None, thanks; see you later walligator.’
I’m not the kind of person who has a ton of questions for a doctor. I did enough research before choosing her, she already has my birth plan, and I trust her to follow it implicitly. I want a vaginal birth if possible; I want natural pain relief, if possible; I want skin to skin, and delayed cord clamping, and immediate breastfeeding. I have a three-page dossier on my birth choices, in fact, and she endorses all of it. Just as I endorse her need to change anything at the last minute, if absolutely necessary. A has been drilled on all the info too, and is going to make the final calls if I can’t.
We’ve already decided that A will be the one in the labour room with me. We’re a team, and I can think of no one I can depend on more. But birth and delivery are honestly the furthest things on my mind. I’m thinking of freelance projects I need to work on that day, and am mentally refining copy in my head.
That’s when the doctor tells me I’m registering contractions of the 75th degree on my non stress test.
‘Do you really not feel anything?’ She asks, incredulous. I enjoy being regarded as Superwoman. Incidentally, the next day is my due date, but I decide the baby can’t possibly come then. It’s too statistically unlikely, this is a first-time pregnancy. I’ve already made plans to go out with my friends for some dosas at dawn.
The doctor agrees with me that it may take a while, and sends me home with instructions to come back in four days. I decide nothing will change by then. I ride home, still feeling triumphant about my awesome contraction-ignoring skills. But I can’t ignore how tired I feel, too tired to walk or do yoga. Instead, I do my version of nesting – I start finishing off my work assignments, one by one. I finally finish them all by around 9pm, and sit down to eat oats dosas. I ignore my mum’s protests and clean up the kitchen carefully afterwards. I know that makes my sugar levels return to normal.
I never sleep without reading at least a few pages of something. I really regret this, but I end up picking a VC Andrews novel, If There Be Thorns. It’s exactly as bad as you the title makes it out to be. The plot makes very little sense, even objectively speaking, and on this night, with twinges hitting me, it makes no sense at all. I will the book to put me to sleep, but it isn’t working. I eat another oats dosa and make plans with my girlfriends for the next day’s dosa trail. I email A my plans, since he’s still not home. I wait for sleep to come. I wait for my back to stop feeling like I’m 80 and arthritic. Neither happens.
By 10pm, I’m hit with what feels like gas. I go sit in the loo, and find – voila! It’s a comfortable position! I bring my tablet in and read, drifting in and out of sleep. That bed is torturous, we should all sleep in toilets. In another hour, the toilet stops working as pain relief, but I’m still able to bend and pretzel myself into ignoring the intense gas rippling through my back and into my stomach. I’m not naïve, I went to Lamaze classes, I know this is what labour feels like. I also know this doesn’t feel nearly as painful or dramatic as all the movies and books make it out to be. I figure I have a long way to go and hope I can keep up the Superwoman act when the worst of the pain finally hits. I also know I have dosa plans and nothing is getting in their way.
A gets home at 11:30 and finds me bent into a raisin position; eyes frantically scrolling from line to line on my dreadful book, which, yes, I’m still attempting to read. I remember saying, “I just want to sleep! If I can sleep now, it’ll be ok in the morning.”
Spoiler alert: It’s not.