“Let’s take him out this Saturday.” The doctor’s words came out suddenly looking at the oral glucose tolerance test results. Although we were expecting the arrival in a couple of weeks, this unanticipated reduction of two weeks from the plan came out with a shock. I believe that in life there are two kinds of shocks according to the very next emotion that follows them, the extremely happy ones or otherwise. This time it was somewhat in the middle, hence I found it hard to explain. One thought said that I’m going to see my son in a few days’ time. The next thought quickly followed reminding me of the change. A life-long change.
We got in the car to go back home. I could see the same expression of excitement mixed with a hint of fear in Tharani’s eyes. But she chose to talk about the plans rather than the emotions. She wished for a normal delivery until the last moment. Although a procedure of induction could grant her that wish even now, we decided that the cesarean surgery was the safer and the less worrying option. This was our first child. The decision had given us just two days until the trip to the hospital. The following day we decided to spend shopping for more things that we thought we should have at the baby’s arrival. As with all significant events in life, we made sure that we spent more money than what’s needed for this one. But for a change, this time I didn’t complain.
Appropriately, along with the macintosh sheets, swaddling blankets and feeding pillows, the shopping list also contained a Christmas tree. This was the epilogue of November 2021, hence Tharani insisted that we should have all the Christmas decorations done when he arrives home. So we spent that evening setting up a Christmas tree while the cot was still in a box. The next morning we woke up for a call from Tharani’s father who reminded us that we were late for the daane (offerings) they had organised for the nearby temple. It was a monthly practice for them, but this time they were dedicating it to the birth of their first grandchild. That felt special.
The temple rush followed by some more last-minute shopping led us to the realisation of the uniqueness of that evening.
The other day my academic supervisor, Uli, was telling me about a casual tradition that Germans tend to follow, where the night before a child’s planned birth, the mother and the father to be would go to an Italian restaurant for dinner which incorporates a glass of red wine. Although we had no wine, we decided to make some Italian at home that evening.
A baked pasta carbonara with bacon wrapped in every cheese that the local Cargills food city offered, cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan. A fresh salad chaser incorporating cucumber, lettuce and red apples. Tharani made this Italian recipe-with-a-twist more often than one would guess. I loved it. Also on the side, I grilled some chicken breasts seasoned with almost every spice on our rack, just to make sure we have more food than we could finish that night.
We forgot the candles because we were too hungry by the time we finished serving all the food. So we sat down, ate and reflected on life. These nights would never be the same again. And we were looking forward to the change. The IG story said “homemade dinner just for two today”.
The anticipated day arrived. The usual morning coffee tasted the same. The utterance of good morning sounded the same. But I guess there was a slight hush of nervousness in my breath. After all, it was going to be a major surgery.
But Tharani didn’t show any nerves at all, although she is usually the one with most of the complaints. She told me that all she was worried about was the spinal anaesthesia injection before the procedure.
She had assisted many cesarean surgeries before and remembered how painful it was usually for the patient. Being a medic herself, she knew every detail about what they were going to do on her that day. In situations like these, knowledge can sometimes be the bearer of fear.
But she looked calmly at her tummy sitting down on the sofa and told that she might miss the baby bump after today.
The rest of the day went pretty fast, at least for me, with everything from loading the suitcase into the car and unpacking it in the hospital room. Nurses in and out of the room until one came in suddenly and asked Tharani to get into the surgery gown. It was around 7 o’clock in the evening. The events that soon followed would be, by far, the most emotionally striking in my entire life. And I didn’t have a single idea about them while accompanying the rolling bed carrying Tharani into the lift, down to the second floor and through a two-part door that was named “operation theatre”. “Please wait here.” The person taking Tharani through the doors told me. “We’ll call you in.” I stopped and turned to see some others standing outside that door as well. Anxious. Pacing.
The area right outside the theatre door didn’t have any sitting arrangements. It’s as if they knew that none of the people waiting there would be sitting down. Nevertheless, I joined with the others, waiting.
I wanted to be with Tharani when they were giving that spinal anaesthesia injection. This was the thought that revolved in my head at that time. But it seemed like I would miss it. I realised. In a few minutes, a person rushed out of the door and uttered “Mirantha”. As I went in he showed me a changing room with piles of theatre scrubs and face shields. I changed quickly to go out and notice several other guys waiting in the same attire. Sitting. Anxious. With just phones in their hands ready to capture the first moments of their babies coming out to this world. And there I was, also fitting in.
It was surreal to think how everyone sitting there next to me was going through one of the most special moments in each of their individual lives. The many theatre rooms behind us delivering those emotions in bulk, in a queue.
The breathing under the face mask had formed a slight mist on the face shield making my view a bit blurry. I noticed that the guy seated next to me was also trying to wipe his shield. So similar I thought, yet two entirely different stories.
A few moments later, time started to move a bit faster, I felt. A person came and escorted me along a corridor to a room on the right. As I reached the door, I saw Tharani lying on the theatre bed under waves of green colour sheets. A tidal wave of blue colour cloths was flowing above her. I figured that was the gynaecologists, anesthesiologists and nurses wearing blue theatre scrubs. They were already on it. I had missed the spinal injection.
I was directed up to the top of the bed where a chair was placed to sit down. “Hey..” I said. Tharani took a second to recognise that it was me near her. It was all happening so quickly. Her hands were tied to either side of the bed, on one, a big cannula had been pierced in. I held her other hand and leaned in behind the screen that a green colour cloth had formed in front of us.
While I stayed looking at her face, she told me that the anesthesiologist was a lecturer she knew from her medical school and that the spinal injection didn’t hurt as much as she thought it would. The excitement in her voice overshadowed the fear in her eyes. It did that for me too. Soon after, she told me that she had some difficulty in breathing. I quickly called a person in blue nearby who removed her face mask and administered some nasal drops. “It’s just the coldness in the room.” The person smiled and uttered.
Honestly, writing this I figured that I cannot exactly recall what Tharani and I mumbled in the next few minutes. I think I kept asking her about the breathing while still trying to keep calm.
Suddenly the doc peeped from above the screen and said that they were going to apply some pressure. The bed wobbled along with my thoughts, while I kept telling myself, it was okay. It was normal. A few moments later, we heard. We heard the cry. The long-awaited cry. Just twice, not much... The next moment we saw, we saw him above our heads. The doc held the child and brought him to our side of the screen.
He didn’t cry. I guessed he was cold. But he didn’t complain.
An attendant had already taken my phone to take the photos. He came from the other side and asked us to smile for a group picture. And there it was. Our first picture with all our hopes bundled in a life form.
That done, they took the baby away for further checks. I saw the needle and the thread from above the screen. I wished to stay with Tharani until the rest of the surgery was completed, but a person called me and pointed at the door. I objected for a moment to stay a little longer. “I’ll meet you outside,” I remember telling her before letting go of her hand, which I was continuously holding.
Back through the corridor to the changing room, I was out of the theatre area. I called my mother immediately to share the news. “How’s Tharani?”, she asked. “OK, I’m waiting till she comes out.” I hung up.
Back to waiting near the same two-part door from before, I didn’t expect the next one and a half hours to be the hardest part of the evening. Harder than the time inside the theatre.
To the left of the theatre door, was the elevator that routinely brought more pregnant mothers rolling in beds to go in. Same drill. It was like a flashback scene from a movie. Mother taken in, the partner asked to wait near the door for ten thoughtful minutes until called in. And towards the end of the scene, the partner comes out of the door and waits till the mother returns with the baby. Same drill. I looked around and realised that some of them who were waiting there when I was going in were still there. The anxiety slowly started creeping in, I was pacing. I knew everything was ok, but what happened after I came out?
The next moment, the two-part door slightly opened and there was a bed on the other side. A small iron cot with wheels was taken in. It was for the baby to come rolling alongside the mother. Everyone waiting on this side peeped in with the hope of seeing their partner with their baby. Two minutes passed and the doors fully opened. One guy next to me walked up to the bed and helped roll the baby’s cot into the elevator to go start their new life. Back to waiting for others. The caution-biased mind kicks in at times like these and that moment was no exception. I kept on thinking how Tharani was finding it hard to breathe during the surgery. “Was the baby fine? Did the other babies cry more? I hoped they didn’t mix up the babies. Well, no. I have the pictures.” The thoughts kept cycling and cycling and cycling.
The doors opened again. This time the father looked worried. Mother rolled out with the iron cot, it was empty. Maybe their baby needed some special care after birth. Just taking a bit more time.
None of the people standing there talked with each other. They were engulfed in their own worlds, their own thinking. Some of them were constantly on their phones, providing updates to the families, “No. didn’t come out yet. It’s been more than an hour.” My legs were starting to hurt. I kept pacing until I saw another bed waiting against the door. A slight opening showed the hands of the mother. I knew it was Tharani.
As I sighed with relief they came out. Mother and son, both triumphant and rising from the depths of the operation theatre. I smiled.
I held Tharani’s hand as the elevator doors opened. “Ting”.
I didn’t sleep that night. As I waited near his small wooden cot in our smaller than average deluxe hospital room, I had my eyes locked on him. Just two expressions or three. Sleeping peacefully till he takes on the challenges of surviving in this new world.
All the slightest moves, the slightest noises from his mouth, I heard. I listened. He reminded me of how simple life can be. A matter of just being until the next feeding session. That night I wrote —
I want him to start life with the lessons I’ve learnt so far in my life.
I want him to know that he should look openly at life and that the world rewards authenticity, not fitting into norms.
I want him to know that he doesn’t have to impress his parents but impress only himself with the way he has lived.
I want him to know that even though he’s the most special person in our lives, it is not like that out there. He’s just one in 7.5 billion, and he should face the world with that attitude. Be kind, everyone is equal and just trying to survive.
I want him to know that it is not his duty but his choice to look after his parents when he’s older. It was our duty to bring out the best in him. And then it is his right to spend his life according to what he wants. So here we go...