Having a baby amid the Covid-19 crisis
As anyone who's ever brought life into the world will tell you, there's unspeakable agony - but also overwhelming joy
"Pack your bags. Get admitted early tomorrow morning. We'll get the baby out," the doctor said, as my wife and I held hands with excitement.
Piece of cake, I told myself, as the missus went on about how to handle the elder one during this time.
When the first one arrived, my wife was in India and I was here in Dubai. My mother-in-law broke the news over the phone as I rushed with my shower. The flight was in four hours and I was unusually late by my standards. My wife's mum, sister, grandmother, sister's mum-in-law, everyone was around when our first daughter was born. By the time I reached the hospital that evening, they were nicely settled around the new mother, narrating stories of how much the baby's chin resembled her mother's, the eyebrows were like the father, the ears like grandpa, toes like...
I smiled as everyone congratulated me, glancing a look at the baby every now and then. God, she didn't resemble anyone. Just some wrinkled skin wrapped in a blanket.
It was different this time. We had decided not to fly to India, as it would have meant the elder one missing out on her school. Instead, our parents were to fly over for a few weeks. All good, until Covid-19 struck and grounded all flights. That was when we realised we'd have to handle the project alone.
We'd already known by January that it wouldn't be easy. Right now, all we needed was an uneventful trip to the hospital. So when the doctor asked us to visit the following morning, we made arrangements for the elder daughter and double-checked our bags. Maternity clothes? Check. Baby's clothes? Check. Diapers and wipes? Check. Baby still in womb? Double check.
We'd barely slept for two hours when the alarm rang. It was still dawn when we reached the hospital. After getting our temperatures checked, we went off to the labour department. Nurses kept flitting in and out, administering a dose, adjusting the drip, checking the readings on a machine that kept printing a graph. The line graph looked quite like the ones you get from a seismograph. The wife was in no mood for stupid jokes. Causing a tremor inside you already, I wanted to ask, but then realised there'd be nowhere to run. So I kept quiet like a supportive husband, as the missus huffed and puffed every few minutes. An hour passed. Then, the pain started to worsen.
I ran to the nurses' station. They smiled and said it was okay. There's still some time for the baby. Relaxed, I sauntered back to the wife, who was now pacing up and down. "There's still some time for-," I began, but she cut me off.
"No, she's coming. Tell them," she shot back. The pain was getting stronger and more frequent. Before I could run back, I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. My wife, in unbearable pain by now, had sunk her teeth into me. Now, we were both in unbearable agony.
The nurses came rushing in after they heard my scream. They made my wife lie down for another check. It was unnecessary.
The baby was not staying in. Thankfully, the delivery room was right next to us. A nurse wheeled my wife while the others rushed to prep the room. The baby was coming early, and we were caught unprepared. I ran behind everyone else, but stopped when the door shut in my face.
"They have taken her inside," I said over the phone as mummy called. She cried. I cried. Different reasons. She was delighted, and sad that she couldn't be here. I was still nursing my shoulder.
Moments later, the nurse returned and told me the baby was out. The tears were different this time. I quickly walked towards the other room.
There she was! Covered in some white grime that the nurses were busy wiping, crying herself pink as lungs filled her air, the baby had completed our world.
We were overjoyed. Then the wife realised she must ask about my injury. No sweat. I was the spongy rock she needed.
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