About five years ago, I wrote about and shared my first childbirth experience. You can check it out here. The years flew by and in front of me now stands a girl in pigtails and pink glasses, who talks non-stop. To absorb all of her endless talk, my husband and I decided to add another pair of ears to our family. Also influencing our decision was the fact that we have one sibling each and our lives would be incomplete were it not for them.
A second child might be a few years of extra hard work for parents but a lifetime of companionship for their children. With this reasoning in mind, I braced myself for the additional responsibility, the following words from a Coldplay song (the context was different, but still) ringing in my ears:
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I’m going back to the start
Cue the guitar …
Alright then, here’s an account of how our Baby Number Two made an entry into this world during an unforgettable year, with the Covid-19 pandemic changing how things were normally done. Everyone in the hospital (except me, especially during labor) wore face masks all the time. Only one person could accompany me, no visitors were allowed and we were sent home with the baby after spending just one night at the hospital after the baby was born. I was filled with gratitude for all healthcare helpers — my OB/Gyn, the staff at her office and at medical centers like labs and the nurses in labor and delivery at the hospital, who continued to provide care to us during these unprecedented times.
We were expecting a boy and prepared for his arrival in much the same way as we’d done for his older sister except that this time it was like traveling down a familiar road, but with much of the landscape around it having changed!
Like last time, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and was going to be induced earlier than my estimated due date. So on the appointed day we got myself admitted to the hospital. Last time, full dilation had taken a long time (around 36 hours) and we came in half-prepared for a long wait and half-hoping everything to speed up since the method of induction was different (an oral pill given to me was supposed to take effect faster) and also because it was my second pregnancy.
On arrival, I was poked in preparation for the IV to go in and fitted with two abdominal belts tracking the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. After swallowing the pill, I tried to help move things along by walking back and forth and bouncing on the birthing ball. I was so enthusiastic about it that the nurse had to come in to check why the baby seemed to be jumping about inside me!
After that I rested, read my library book of Hemingway’s short stories, ate lunch and was given the second dose of the pill because there was still no dilation. We started to watch a movie on television. Then my doctor came in to check me. My ears perked up when she said that maybe there was a leak, that perhaps my waters had broken. But a test to verify this came back negative.
By then I had begun to get mild but consistent contractions. In the evening, the nurse told us that she’d wait to start the drug Pitocin since the contractions were two minutes apart and not spaced out yet. Dinner time came and went. We finished watching the movie that we’d started earlier, wondering when the pace of our own movie was going to speed up. The nurses changed their shifts and gave me another dose of the pill. We settled down for the night, but I was unable to fall asleep.
Sensing my restlessness, the night nurse with a distinct non-American English accent (it was South African, I later learnt) said to me, “All you can do right now is try to think positively, love. Gather all the time you’ve spent in your nine months of pregnancy and condense it into this waiting period until your labor begins.”
I took heed of her advice and drifted into much-needed sleep. After a couple of hours she came in with promising news. She would be starting a dose of Pitocin through the IV. I went back to sleep and woke up at 6 a.m., refreshed after a good rest even though mild contractions had continued throughout the rest of the night.
And then when I was least expecting it, it happened. I was returning to bed after going to the bathroom when I felt a sudden gush of water trickling down my legs and drenching my feet.
“Look! Is it what I think it is?” I said to my husband. I had never experienced my water breaking before because during my first childbirth, the doctor had broken my bag of waters.
The contractions began to come close together now and became stronger like a train picking up speed as it leaves behind a station it’s been stuck at for too long. I began to huff and puff like an old-time train engine, inhaling a deep breath and letting it out in throaty moans.
It hurt, much worse than what I’d endured in the past. During my first child birth, I had received the epidural in earlier stages of my long labor when the pain level was lesser, while this time, labor was progressing faster. My body and the baby had decided to make a dash toward the finish line in a race car instead of on a bicycle.
The nurse from the previous day who’d returned for her morning shift massaged my lower back and then flipped me around so that I could lean into her arms while I rocked my hips in tune to excruciating pain.
“You’re doing great and handling the contractions very well,” she said.
“Thanks, but when do I get the epidural?” I gasped, looking around for the anesthetist.
I finally got the epidural in the nick of time, barely able to keep still with the pain accompanying the contractions coursing through me, as the anesthetist inserted the needle for the catheter into my back. Only twenty minutes passed before I became considerably dilated and started to feel the urge to push.
The doctor came in and within half an hour she, the nurse and my husband positioned themselves around the foot of my bed. Another nurse began to prepare the baby’s station for checkup and cleaning. I no longer felt the pain with the contractions, just immense pressure, which I worked through by pushing on each rising wave. Towards the end, the doctor expertly guided me to “hold” certain pushes as the baby made his way out in the final stretch.
And then I felt something I’d never experienced during my first time — an intense, burning sensation down below, brilliantly named the “ring of fire”. I hunkered down, the past few years of my first-born daughter growing up flashing before my eyes, and told myself over and over again while I tried to push this baby out, “This is the easy part! This is the easy part!”
Then I gave one final push accompanied by a loud “aaaahhhh”, much like the dramatic one they show in the movies, the mother’s scream just before the shrill cry of a newborn suddenly pierces the air.
And out he came! Without any cuts, tearing or stitches on me this time. The doctor untangled the umbilical cord that was wound around my son and placed him on my belly with his squished-up little face turned up towards me.
My husband and I gazed at the newest little member of our family who looked like his older sister when she was born. We couldn’t wait to bring him home to her!
Here are lovely metaphors given by famous writers to describe flash fiction or micro-fiction: “an iceberg” “ice melting on a hot stove” “a single raindrop that engulfs its own blue pearl of light” “the world in a grain of sand”
My husband and I are not religious, but we do worship a certain goddess – Mother Nature. For years we yearned to go on a special pilgrimage – a trip to the East Coast – to view the changing colors of the trees during the Fall season. This year in October, we finally did it and came back with unforgettable memories of all the colorful blessings that nature bestowed upon us.
On this trip, my husband, toddler daughter and I were joined by our friends, a husband-wife duo and her parents who were visiting from India. We traveled to the White Mountains forest region in New Hampshire and stayed at a chalet provided by Huttopia (https://europe.huttopia.com/en/), which promises a unique experience of “glamping” (glamorous camping) with tents and chalets or cabins, equipped with modern amenities.
We had planned the timing of this trip by consulting online fall color trackers that provided estimates of the best time to view them in that area. If we arrived too early, the leaves would still be green. If we were too late, we would find most of the leaves on the ground. The margin of achieving the perfect window of timing was narrow.
We arrived at the Huttopia chalet late at night, in pitch darkness, not knowing how bright the fall colors were around us. Naturally, we eagerly awaited the sight that would meet us once daylight dawned. Morning came and as we began to explore the surroundings in our car, we were a bit disappointed. The trees in the area where we were staying were mostly green with only a few colored leaves peeking out here and there.
However, as the car moved along the road that went north towards the White Mountains forest region, hope began to rise. Colors began to pop up. “Oohs”, “aahs” and squeals from inside the car began to get louder and more frequent. The multitude of colors outside kept on exceeding our expectations. Our eyes hungrily gobbled up different shades of yellows, pinks, oranges, reds and greens as the car turned around each bend in the road. And from that colorful landscape emerged individual delights – a pinkish red branch emerging from green foliage, a blazing orange tree and small pockets of pure yellow forests. The trees weren’t passively standing around, they were bursting with color and rushing by in bright streaks as we sped along.
We traveled further north, still among the vibrancy of the autumn leaves, to reach an area called Glen village at the foot of Mt. Washington. It is an area of limitless beauty, with a babbling stream flowing between lush green meadows and beyond them, hills turning into mountains, all dressed up in autumn finery. A flaming red-leafed tree stood beside the flowing water and we enjoyed a wonderful picnic beside it.
After we were done, we joined a line of cars making their way up the historic route to the peak of Mt. Washington. The winding road was bordered with similar yellows, pinks, oranges and reds and beyond them, deep valleys were filled with the same wondrous colors. At the peak stood a visitor center, an old hotel preserved as a museum, observation decks and … a train station located at a height of 6200 feet! Looking at the tracks on the steeply inclined sides leading up to the top made me dizzy. And yet there were two small train carriages perched precariously on those tracks, inching down cautiously, as if afraid of skidding down the slope like rollercoasters. Surrounding this mountaintop, ranges upon ranges of other mountains stretched into the distance. On the ones that were close, the fiery fall colors of the trees were spread out all over their slopes. What a heavenly view it was!
The sun began to set as we came back to where we had started at Glen village. In the cool light of the evening, the colors of the trees took on a sharper hue. I stood in the meadow near the flowing water, green grass underneath, blue skies above and all around me, a riot of colors painting every hill in sight. I was seized by an urge to run. As I sprang towards our waiting car, I had a vision like that from the movies, where at the very end, before the credits start rolling, the audience is viewing the scene through the eyes of the protagonist who is leaping forward towards the expansive sea or onto some striking landscape. And then there is a flood of bright light before the screen goes blank. I bounded forward as if in such a movie and my heart exploded with emotion. It felt like my spirit was sweeping up to become one with all of the natural beauty around me.
The next day, we drove along the picturesque Kancamagus highway. It was overcast and in the subdued light, the fall colors were brighter than the previous day. Looking at them once more, it felt like falling in love all over again! The hills in that area were covered in patchwork quilts of different colored trees and when the mist moved gently to kiss their tops, it sent a quiver of delight through me. We couldn’t help stopping every few miles at vista points to drink in the copious yet fleeting beauty offered by the vegetation during this transitional autumn season.
On the second night of our stay, outside our chalet, the velvet canopy of the sky patterned with countless stars stretched over our heads. On one side of it ran a clear strip of the Milky Way. Our friends started up a cozy campfire and we savored the meals cooked over it. A feeling of contentment enveloped me and my eyelids grew heavy with sweet drowsiness. Long after the fire had ebbed, the pleasant smell of wood smoke lingered in my nostrils, much like how images of the magnificent colors of fall floated up, to remain etched in my memory forever.