Tuesday, November 20, 2007

‘The doctor looked at the scan, & told my husband the baby was dead’

EVERYONE SAYS the second time is easier. Well, you definitely feel more confident the second time around. I felt more positive and less tense, and I was physically fit, having swum, jogged, walked and cycled on many a hot summer day.

The new baby would make our family complete; my three-year old daughter prayed for twins as she could not make up her mind if she wanted a brother or a sister. My parents prayed to Sri Garbarakshambigai at Thirukkarugavur, the protector of the womb, something they had not done the first time. I was to rub the ghee offered to her on my belly. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Little did I know that the ghee would vie with the jelly radiologists smear at the same spot.

The first two trips to the doctor seemed routine, except for the fact that the assistant insisted on taking ultrasound scans every ten days. Having read widely during my first pregnancy and browsed Internet portals — friends even dubbed us Internet parents — I did not want to continue with a doctor who insisted on smearing jelly so often.

But when things started to go wrong, and the dreaded ‘spotting’ began, I wanted nothing more than to see the tiny beating heart in the ultrasound. The new doctor advised complete bed rest. But with my parents far away and with a three-year-old daughter to take care of, I could only take so much rest. I would call my mom everyday, trying not to weep as I knew they could not do anything except pray. Meanwhile, I religiously rubbed the ghee on my belly.

My sister-in-law reassured me that if the bleeding was brown, it only meant that the old blood was making its way out. The websites, blogs and chatgroups confirmed this precious piece of news.

Despite having been told to take it easy, my husband’s and my despe rate need to see the heartbeat made us wait for two hours at a leading radiologist’s. She was at her irritable worst, busy discussing other patients’ ovaries even as I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. She gave the screen a cursory glance and coldly asked me if I had seen “pieces of haath-pair” (hands and legs). I could only cry. No heartbeat was detected and I had to wait for a week for another scan. The decision to terminate my pregnancy would be taken only after the scan.

So far, my life in Chandigarh had been quiet and unrushed. The parks were nice, the roads empty. Everyone compared it to my native Bangalore. I was happy; I wanted my daughter to grow up with oxygen in her lungs, not fumes. When people said that I should stop eating idlis or that 90 percent South Indians were black, I did not take offence. But I realised that I had deceived myself for the past two years. Actually, I just wanted to run away, be with my parents, eat my mother’s rasam and not have to worry that my daughter wasn’t doing her homework. I did not want to go buy vegetables in case I ran into one of my neighbours.

I DID NOT want them to see my tears or know my pain. I had felt this way, being out-of-place, once before, when I was doing my Masters at Leicester, the most Indian of English cities. The parks there were beautiful too. But soulless for a South Indian. I tried to hold on, but felt crushed and defeated as the brown blood turned bright red. I hoped for a miracle — if only the tiny heart could be found; if only it would beat.

Desperate, we decided to ask one more doctor at a nearby general hospital. The doctor took one look at my scan, turned to my husband and said the “baby” was “dead”. When I wept, she commiserated feebly. There were no chairs and I stood there, grieving before a room-full of pregnant women. That afternoon my mother arrived to take charge. My daughter was stung by wasps three times at the airport. In the evening, the scan said there was no cardiac activity and I had had a missed abortion. The clean up at a nice and friendly nursing home was quick and efficient.

If only I had known that there had been no baby at all. No life had been snuffed out. It was a blighted ovum — the gestational sac kept growing, deceiving me that I would be a mother again. My own mother nursed me back to health, to the old me. I began reading, my oldest therapy for pain, both physical and mental. I began seeing movies, following cricket again.

Why do people think the fact that miscarriages are common would comfort me? Even my doctor said she had had a miscarriage, as had my mother’s colleague’s daughter, as had my neighbour. That does not lessen my pain. The loss of a loved one is not the only reason to grieve. There is also not having a loved one, whose heart will never beat. If only people could understand that.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 4, Issue 45, Dated Nov 24, 2007

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