Postpartum… (Too short a story)

The cradle rocked ever so gently. Every time the door to the ward opened and a draught rushed in, the curtains swayed apart affording glimpses into other lives.
She lay on her side. Her left hand stretched out under her, as if ready to receive the bundle. Her manicured fingertips graze the metal hinges of the crib.
A baby cries out. Another joins in. And another…
A cacophony of hungry, indignant cries fill the ward.
In a snap her arms curl back into herself, palms resting on the flattened yet flabby stomach.
As other mothers shush and cajole, wincing she turns away from her cradle; her thighs move as if leaden.
It wasn’t an easy labour. The sutures pull and burn, as she clenches… A Kegel frozen in half motion. But she feels no pain; not even discomfort, as she bleeds into her bedding. Nothing was easy.
For a moment there is an eerie quiet. The little ones have been tended to. Ten toes and 10 little fingers, downy hair and pursed lips, wrinkled skin and unfocused eyes… all kissed, swaddled, cuddled and put to sleep.
Then there is one lonely little defiant cry. A sharp pain shoots across her engorged breasts. She chokes back a sob even as her pillow grows damp. She squeezes her eyes shut blocking out the smells and cries that were not hers to reach out to…
I gently open the door letting in another draught, hoping the cradle wouldn’t creak for the emptiness needs no reminding. I slip away from my dark corner wanting no part in her grief.


The mind wanders again… to my second pregnancy

I try to be as honest with O as possible. I answer all her questions, and when I feel it would be a bit too much for her to take, I tell her I will explain it to her when she is a little older.

When I was pregnant with N, there was a barrage of queries. One of which was about how the baby will come out, and I told O, the doctor will cut open my stomach and take the baby out. Prophetic 😦

O was delivered the ‘normal’ way – vaginal delivery. Yet, I wasn’t sure if it was too much info to give a 7-year-old.

Then after the birth of N, when O (already aware of other ways of birthing that she has seen on animal planet and cbeebies) pressed on.

I knew how frightened she was to see me lying in a daze with an IV stuck into me, unresponsive to her chatter, after the surgery.

In fact, the first post-op memory for me is O sitting on my pillow, her thighs pressing against my ear, stroking my hair, and she was calling out to me ever so softly..

I am SO GLAD no one asked her to move away and give her amma some space. Because, what I needed most then was those baby hands on me.

It was then that I decided to tell her that there are different ways in which babies come home, it doesn’t always have to be this scary. Some are adopted. Some are delivered with a cut in the abdomen like her baby sister. And some come out through the vagina, like herself. “Where you go su-su? Yukk!” she frowned.

But I know she was glad that all the half truths she was given were cleared up.

It was also then, recovering slowly from a double dose of anaesthesia that I started wondering why C-sections where so popular.

I can’t understand how people opt for caesareans over vaginal births. Yes, the labour is painful, and the vaginal sutures hurt like crazy, but it’s all gotten over with so quickly.

After O’s birth, almost within the hour I was up and about. Could lift the baby, and hold her for long; could feed sitting up; and was back to my routine in just a couple of weeks.

Three months after N’s birth, my back hurts, my lower abdomen is still kind of numb, I can’t bend down and lift weights, I can’t even carry her for too long. I had to feed her lying down the first few days.

My ObGyn in Madras was, but even she didn’t quite prepare me for what a C-sec had in store.

If I had insisted on a C (instead of going through with it because I HAD to), would she have educated me on what I was doing. That there are chances of post-op arthritis, hernia, and general weakening of your body?

I keep hearing stories of ‘hospitals’ (not so much nursing homes) going in for C-sections without give the patient a chance at normal delivery. It is called NORMAL for a reason after all.

I even know a friend who was asked to go in for a C, a couple of days before her due date, because the ObGyn would be travelling for two weeks after that.

And then what about those who are into astrology and alignment of stars, and opt for the C?

Do check this link.

My doc waited nearly 2 whole days before she decided to wheel me into the OR. Check this for similar experiences others had with her.

I will be thankful to her, for spending that kind of time and effort on me.

Yes, that’s what doctors are meant to do, but how many really keep the oath?

We put our trust in doctors, but why do they so often take steps that are not in the patient’s interest?

I will also be thankful to my doctor and the nurses for insisting that I breastfeed my baby within an hour of coming back to the room. For ensuring that the baby was exclusively breastfed. Even when I was in such pain, lying flat on my back, the nurse came in every two hours and held the baby to my breasts.

These are simple things that we and our babies OUGHT to take for granted. Babies need to be breastfed. But it always isn’t so. Someone else who had a baby around the same time as me says the first feed the baby received was from a bottle. That became the habit.

Let me not wander too much. My highly-opinionated breastfeeding tales deserve a separate post.

Yipee… my baby bump was spotted. At last!

The first time, and now again… my baby bump is not an obvious one.

Apart from those who know I am pregnant, no one can make out that I am some 30 weeks far into it. With the help of some maternity clothes and a dramatic tilted walk, only a few can now guess that I am not just a big woman, but one with a bun in the oven.

So imagine my joy today when in my regular clothes, someone managed to guess that I was pregnant.

It took all my self control to not jump on the rather cute security guard and hug him.

I was at the Museum of Islamic Art entrance, when one of the security guards pointed out my bump to his colleague and asked him to let me skip the metal detector routine. And I wasn’t even doing one of my exaggerated pregnancy walks.

Just hope the guys at the airport check-in next week let me skip the economy class and bump me up to business.

They didn’t punch me in my stomach. Thanks for the advice!

Last evening I took O and three of her friends out for a movie (Madagascar 2) and dinner.

R advising O before we left: “Don’t trouble Amma. Listen to her. Don’t fight with each other (friends not me). And don’t let anyone punch her in the stomach because she is pregnant.”

Now, was he giving O and her friends an idea or what?! Because it is not like people routinely punch me in my stomach, pregnant or otherwise!

For what it was worth, they didn’t punch me on my stomach.

PS: The movie sucked. No story to speak of, and really boring lines. Nothing catchy. Stupid. And why should a Giraffe fall in love with a Hippo. Isn’t it unethical for 2 different breeds to hook up? It didn’t help that I am not a fan of animation films.

Umm finally sees the cons of flexi hours.

I am an ardent advocate of flexi hours. I have seen that both personally and with others, when given an option of flexibility, the will to go the extra length is stronger and productivity is really high.

Of course, there will always be someone who is trying to skive off work or exploit the trust. But by and large, it works well. In fact, the only places where fixed hours — replete with a time office counting the minutes/seconds — are still prevalent are government or other inefficient/unproductive organizations.

I’ve been in employment for nearly 13 years, and barring a horrendous 3 months, have only worked in places that offer flexi hours.

Probably because I totally love my line of work, I don’t even realise that flexi hours often ends up as really long hours. Since I am not willing to account for the hours of the day, I go overboard accounting for quality of my work and the load I’m willing to pull.

Often this means working weekends, late nights, without a break…

In every place I’ve worked in I’ve come across pedantic folks who talk about face time, and clocking hours. Folks who would spend hours away from the desk smoking/drinking coffee/praying/chatting. Folks who would leave at the dot of 5 or 6 or whatever the exit time is. Folks who would whine about putting in a few extra hours now and then…

Those folks, I am glad to say, have little or no influence over how I or the people I work with, function.

But after all these years, I am feeling the strain of flexi hours.

I’ve also come to realize that flexi hours can be quite exploitative.

Though during my first pregnancy I experienced no dip in energy levels, this time around I am quite easily sapped. I am now in my third trimester, and find it rather impossible to work without breaks in between. Must be age as well… just a few months short of 35!

And now I wish I worked fixed hours – which here would mean 5 hours in the morning, 2 hour break and 3 hours in the evening. Then when I go home, I go home! I am not working… While at office, I would be taking the dozen 10 minute breaks a lot of people tend to take.

I would have then been in a position to turn down any work that requires me to work more than these hours…

But no, not only did I practice flexi hours, I preached it with passion.

Now it’s too late to retract. So like the fabled dumb mule, I allow myself to be overloaded with work.

I sit glued to my work station for hours without moving or little movement – something that the doc has advised against; I nurse terrible back and pelvic pain/discomfort; I try and manage the ever-growing team with patience that is wearing thin – for no fault of theirs really; I am trying to finish all the work within the sanest possible hours. I come back home to an annoyed daughter (the drama queen feels neglected), try and do the best by her and get down to work again as soon as she is asleep.

The worst part of it all? I have no one to blame, but myself! In fact, I have some splendid colleagues who have chipped in so much to not make me feel or sound like a whiner.

I have only recently learnt to say ‘no’… it used to be a torturous exercise earlier to turn down requests. I just need to practice saying it more often and more forcefully.

So maybe there is something to be said in favour of fixed hours… not that I could ever embrace that system, but I do see the (few) pros of it.

PS: I know that there are people out there who are nodding sagaciously to themselves, and concretising their opinions on why equal opportunity doesn’t work. Just want to tell those pompous asses: try carrying a pebble in your tummy for a day, while carrying on your regular work… then come back and argue equal opportunities with us.