“9 o’ clock sharp,” I reminded my then-husband the night before the surgery.
“I’ll be there well before 9,” came back his tired voice.
I put the phone away and shut my eyes. I tried hard to fall asleep, but anxiety got the better of me. I tossed and turned in the uncomfortable hospital bed all night. The padding underneath the sheets did little to soften the thin, coir mattress. The room felt warmer than normal – maybe it was just my body. My mum-in-law was fast asleep in another bed across the room, and for the first time I envied her.
So many thoughts raced through my mind. “Why isn’t the sedative working?”
“Did I remember to take all the medications?”
“Where does the enema go – through the mouth or the butt? Is it painful?”
“I just had my meal and I’m hungry again! I had no idea my digestive system was super-efficient!”
“Will the baby take after me or his dad? Oh Allah! Make him resemble me!”
“They will probably give me an epidural, won’t they? Or, will they? Is it necessary for a C-section? I know some women give birth without the epidural. Wait now! What does an epidural do?”
“Subhanallah! They’re going to cut me open in a few hours and I’m feeling so helpless!”
“Why did I get married in the first place? Why did I have to start a family? Why didn’t I think through all of this?”
The call for fajr prayers interrupted my thoughts. I prayed 2 rakat and stopped worrying for a while. I was too exhausted to worry anymore.
At 8 o’ clock, thin beams of sunlight fell on my face. I made a trip to the lavatory which was surprisingly smooth considering my struggle with constipation since the time I conceived. I was assisted to a wheelchair after my parents showed up. No sign of the baby’s dad yet.
I was wheeled to the operating suite which was brighter and cleaner than the rest of the hospital. A member of the hospital staff accompanied me to a changing room. She disrobed me and made me put on a thick cotton gown with rear flaps and a distinctive laundry scent. She wheeled me further into the far end of the suite where the operating room is located. We passed by surgeons and technicians who went about their business, oblivious to an 8-month pregnant woman with rat-tail braids sticking out of either side of her head. It was awkward for me since I wasn’t allowed to carry any extra articles of clothing with which to cover my head.
The operating table stood in the centre of the room and was surrounded by machines of all sizes with red, yellow, and green buttons, and pipes attached. A male technician grabbed my elbow to help me ascend the steps to the operating table. I shrugged him off and turned around to scowl at the female nurse who simply stood and watched. She got the message and hurried towards me. She helped me lie on the table. Minutes later, I was pulled up by the arms and made to sit. I was held in that position while the epidural was injected. I was horrified to see that my request for a female anesthetist was ignored.
The epidural acted instantly, giving me a piercing headache. The pain was so excruciating that I couldn’t utter a sound. My mum-in-law, who was allowed inside the room because she was a practising GP, heard my moans and mistook it for panic. She kept telling me it would be alright and then I mustered the strength to tell them what was really bothering me. The anesthetist responded promptly and adjusted the canula on my left arm. After a few seconds, the headache was history.
A catheter relieved the pressure on my bladder as the obstetrician scraped through layers of tissue, muscle, and fat. From the operating table, I could view scalpel, scissors, tongs, sterilized gauze, gloved hands, and masked faces. A screen over my chest prevented me from seeing what went where. But, since I was awake, I could feel everything that was being done to me on the other side of the screen.
At some point during the procedure, the inevitable happened. The obstetrician pulled out my bundle of joy! I was expecting to be shown a glimpse of the handsome little fellow, but he was rushed to the next room where a pediatrician received him with an incubator on hand. The room was filled with squeals of happiness which followed the newest member of the family.
The obstetrician and her team stitched me up and left without a word. Suddenly, I found myself all alone in the operating room. I was lying on the table confused and clueless about the post-operative procedure. After a long while, two sari-clad ladies arrived and transferred me to the post-operative room on a mobile bed. I stayed in post-operative ‘care’ until evening with a fresh catheter and only a couple spoonfuls of sweet corn soup.
The baby’s dad didn’t make it in time due to traffic. I relied on him for moral support. I feared the worst as I was being taken to the operating room. My child deserved another month inside me, but the abnormal position of the placenta made me bleed throughout the pregnancy and caused him fetal distress. After the third hemorrhage, it was the obstetrician’s call. I had no say in the matter.
The whole experience left me with zero energy, lots of pain, and twice the anxiety. The sight of Ibrahim’s tiny hands and feet punching the air from his cot gave me brief moments of relief and excitement. It was great to know that he survived the complicated pregnancy unharmed. Also, Allah answered my dua – baby Ibrahim was a carbon copy of his beautiful mum. Alhamdulillah!
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