I sat there as my thoughts kept racing up and down. I tried looking back at the last couple of months and what they had been like. We had been here a couple of times before since February of that year. But it had always been the usual visits. Nothing unusual. In fact, on a few occasions, I carried my laptop to continue working while we sat there waiting for our turn at the queue. Today, I could barely lower my head to read a Parents magazine that lay on the coffee table in front of me.
“Aaah…”, she gasped in pain as she held onto her tummy. And before she could say what the problem was, I was on my feet looking for a nurse; to tell her I thought that this was now an emergency — officially. The time was at 12.15pm.
Earlier that day, we had woken up late and being a Saturday decided to continue watching an episode from the blockbuster, MoneyHeist, which is one of the very few series we’ve ever watched together.
My wife had graciously carried the pregnancy for the last nine months. And as is the norm, most days were tempered in nausea and exhaustion. Few of them, especially in the third trimester required a lot of walking, which she did graciously too. Sometimes we’d fight when I insisted that we do an extra 50 meters beyond the target. By and large, the pregnancy had been smooth, and I had the honor to experience the changes first hand. From the doctor visits to installing pregnancy app trackers that ensured I kept abreast with the ever-changing dynamics, to the ultrasound sessions where the sonographers kept telling us “See that — it’s the stomach”, they would say pointing on the screen at something we were sure wasn’t a stomach. But what do we know? “Here is the skull, though it’s not clear as the baby keeps moving a lot. Can you see it?” We would nod as if to confirm, in the same way, people nod to each other when they both don’t understand the language involved.
At first, I tried following the transducer but never quite saw what the sonographer was touching. Then slowly I began to see the various parts. First, it was the legs, then the umbilical cord, another time I saw the eyes and the heart, then I saw the spine and other organs as the baby kept swimming around, seemingly oblivious of the perplexed onlookers.
So on this day, 3rd November 2018, as we sat there watching the series and having late breakfast, my wife suddenly announced that she had ‘heard something dropping down there’. And from our voracious reading, it sounded like the mucous plug had come off. Meaning that we only had a few hours before the water broke. Otherwise, she would deliver in the house, with the only help being a political science graduate who hates the sight of blood.
In a span of 15 minutes, I had loaded the already packed maternity bag at the back seat of the car and we were off to Mater Hospital. We arrived there a few minutes after noon, and that’s how we were both seated at the waiting bay, waiting to see a doctor.
We finally saw the gynecologist, who then proceeded to establish how far she had dilated. He looked back at our eager eyes before making the announcement — she was 2 centimeters!
Here we were, afraid that she had dilated to 9 cm, and would have actually delivered in the car while en-route to the hospital!
We were advised to proceed with admittance, after which we should start walking around the hospital as this helps in the dilation. Thereafter we spent the next 6 hours walking around the hospital, occasionally pausing to allow her take in deep breaths as the pace of contractions rose. Often, I found myself walking a step behind her, in case she collapsed under her own weight. I also had to deal with curious patients, doctors, and other onlookers, most of who cast mischievous gazes at us as if to say, “now you must lie on the bed you made alone”.
At around 6.30pm, we went back to the labour ward, as she needed rest. And there I found fellow men seated on the pews next to their wives’ beds, in a remarkable show of solidarity. At this time, everything looked normal. No cries, apart from the occasional moans whenever the contractions would set in. For the first time, the process felt easier than I had expected.
Then we heard the first scream.
By 7.00pm, the number of men in the labour room had considerably gone down. Only two of us now remained, and despite the curtains that shielded one from another, I could hear the other man next to us wishing his wife all the best, as he needed to go take care of their other children back at home. I almost drew the curtains and told him not to be a traitor. I was definitely terrified of being the only man sandwiched between the ladies and the furious contractions.
By 9.00pm, anyone passing by our bed would have easily confused me for a professional masseur, as I neatly curved my hands around my wife’s back massaging it to reduce the pains that accompanied the contractions, which by now were so frequent and predictable, she was literally waiting for them urging me to prepare whenever she felt them coming. “It’s coming…! I can feel it…Rub my back harder… no, not there… Up here”, she’d say, as I fumbled to follow her own hands, which now seemed to race all over. She had been in active labour since 7.30pm until 9.15pm when the doctors insisted that we help her limp into the delivery room. This was intended to help guide the baby into the pelvic opening which also encourages an optimal position for birth.
Inside the delivery room, I stared in utter disbelief as the doctors and nurses unleashed their arsenal as if preparing for the battle of the Titans. All this while, my wife maintained a brave face, which occasionally was interrupted rather painfully by the now consistent contractions that kept coming at her like a swarm of angry bees. With the guidance of the nurses, I helped support her head, whenever she needed to push in the wake of a contraction, following the deep breaths. But just before 9.43pm, I decided it was now time for me to also see where children come from, so I moved to the front where all the action was happening. And two minutes later, at exactly 9.45pm, a small hairy purple handsome boy popped out!
He seemed deep in sleep, undeterred by the activities around him. But before the nurses could lift him up and slap his behind to usher in his first cry, he let out a loud scream, as they lifted him to cut off the umbilical cord. It was at this moment that I realized that I too, like my son, was crying uncontrollably. It was the first time I’ve cried so passionately in public without bothering to wipe off the endless rivers forming fast on my face.
After wiping and weighing him up, they moved him to a warmer at the corner of the room, where I also relocated, in readiness for our first ever conversation. “Welcome to earth, EJ”, I said to him as I shook his miniature fingers. He had since stopped crying and was looked at me strangely as if to ask, “Are you sure you will be a good father to me?”
There are experiences we go through in life, that change us forever. This for me was one of them. It changed my perspectives on many things, including the role that women play in the furtherance of life. Today, I see my wife differently, having witnessed first hand the throbbing experience she bore for hours on end, to deliver this joy into our hands. I look at God differently, having seen his amazing power to form a human being from an initial nondescript dot on an Ultrasound screen, to a fully-fledged human being. And today, more than a year since I first set my eyes on my son, I continue to pray that I will indeed be a good father to him and his future siblings. Because, besides husbandry, fatherhood is one of my biggest life’s calling.
So help me God.