That evening was dull. The few evenings before weren’t easy either, but that evening was difficult too. I had a sinking feeling and all the strength I had mustered in these few years came crippling down. I decided to stay back that evening with my mum, unlike other nights. But then let me just go home, pack our dinner and get back to the waiting room. This waiting room was for the attendants of intensive care patients. There were many other tearful comrades. My mum and I quietly grabbed two adjacent seats in that waiting room's bench without uttering a word.
Every feeling was uncomfortable and it was better to juggle with silence than speak. There, in the corner, a fragile lady sat with her head down and we could hear her sobbing. It wasn’t a happy place.
Sobs, sighs, deep breaths were the only sound accompanying few silent gazes. I was about to unpack our dinner - four chappatis with some veggies wrapped in a foil in the box. Mum asked, "How many do we have?" I said, “4 mama”. Without even the slightest doubt, she took 2 out of them and handed over to a lady. The lady didn’t expect anyone coming near her. She took her face away and shrugged. Mum wasn’t coming back. She stood there, held her hand and said, “You are here since morning, all alone, no one else with you that I see and you didn’t go anywhere. You must be hungry. We need to be strong, else how will we cope with the situation? Come On. Eat it.” She broke down. I was watching them from where I was seated. I didn't want to get into that uncomfortable conversation and also not to lose our seat where we should be perched for the rest of the night, mostly awake and occasionally dozing. What amazed me was mum used the exact words that I told her before opening the box. So we were left with 2 pieces of bread. Mum had a bite and I ate the rest.
I slept or dozed off or thought nothing except my dad. He was in the ICU for 10 days and it felt as if tonight he wanted to leave the ICU. I don’t know why I felt like that but it seemed as if he was calling me to take him home. I was hallucinating for sure. But this was different.
I went up at 2 am to check on him. He was lying still - the monitors were not beeping. The ICU doctor was irritated. He wasn’t expecting an attendant at this hour. I cannot, till today, tell anyone how bad a feeling that was.
The sense of helplessness is the worst of all feelings. The despair, the nothingness, it was all there at that point. I felt something was not right.
I was thrown back by the security with strict instructions not to allow me into the ICU corridor until morning. I came down to the waiting room and sat silently thinking mum was asleep. She gasped in silence and didn’t utter a word. “Is he ok?” “I don’t know mama." We sat there until 6 in the morning with no words exchanged. They called me on my phone at exactly 6 in the morning.
A voice from the other end said: “You are the daughter." I said, "Yes, tell me." "Nothing..come upstairs. We need some documents." I was relieved - it was just the documents
“Come upstairs”. I went to the same corridor.
“See, we are trying our best. But his BP has gone to zero a couple of times and revived thereafter. Hopes are low."
I knew it was the last. I stood there, seeing him breathe his last. That was the last fight he could put up. I knew that the end was nearing. I whispered “Baba”.
I can’t write any further what it felt. I escaped the sight and rushed out of the corridor. Mum stood at the gateway. I said, "Mama, I can’t see him this way." Mama knew it was his last. It was time to say goodbye.
We knew it and it was my uncle who was still hoping to speak to the doctor. He confirmed. That day, that moment life just gave me the biggest setback.
I lost my childhood. I lost my strength. I lost my weakness. I lost my father, the best half of my life.
Days have passed. Nothing gets any closer to that day, that moment, that agony. I have sat down many times to write about the day. But then the feeling to move on takes precedence.
Truth be told - you can’t move on. Life is such. Losing a parent takes a part of you with it. When my grandpa expired, I saw it in my dad's eyes. I had never thought I would experience that so soon. But life has its ways.
In all of this, the silent hero who had done everything and put everything at stake was my mum. She is the strongest woman I have known or met. Firmly grounded and totally in control of every situation without the slightest hint of despair. That’s her. My dad was strong, very strong. His strength came from her. Today when dad isn’t there, she knows exactly how he would react and respond to situations and acts on his behalf in the best way that she can. Only if dad was alive, he could testify the pain that mum had taken in his ailing years. It was the battle they had both fought together with one survivor.
Two years and a few months gone and it’s October 2019. Mum and I, we have been with each other physically or virtually in our journey to move on. Neither of us have, but we never make it apparent. We don’t talk about it anymore. We get a strange sense of comfort while being next to each other in testing times.
She knew I needed her now. I was expecting my first baby. Delivering a baby is not a big deal. Every other woman does it. Painful yes, but then every mother experiences it. I was prepared physically and mentally.
What I never wanted was mum to see me through the pain. The immense pain that she has been through herself, dealing with a lethal condition herself and major surgery in her late 40's, juggling between hospital-work and household for a couple of years when dad had a chronic ailment and then my pain. I wanted her to stay away from any more of those hospital cycles. Though I wanted that she rejoiced the birth of her grandchild but didn’t want that sight of pain during childbirth to take over.
It was 8th November and the three of us, my husband, mum and I went to the hospital for assessments and induction process. I was confident and super excited as I was nearing the days to meet my baby. We had spent 38 weeks together already. And it was our time to meet.
With an underlying gestational health condition, I was advised induction and optionally to choose or not to be a part of the Trial process. It wasn’t much work except documenting every bit of information about your pregnancy and delivery and thereafter. Eventually, that would be an input to an ongoing research, hence, my husband and I agreed. Our thought was if our birth story helps researchers make other deliveries simpler then why not.
There came my assessment day. Little did I know of the mammoth pain awaiting me. It was the scheduled day for one last assessment and decision to take induction. All I was thinking the night before was how soon could I see my baby. Anything and everything that would come in between shall be managed. I wasn’t nervous but a blend of restlessness and impatience gripped my mind and heart respectively. Mom was visibly worried but carried the same balance and composure like every time. My husband must have been worried, but he likes staying calmer than the rest of the world, which obviously helps. He has been my go-to-banter cum comfort-talk person after my dad left. I needed him all throughout but the hospital allowed just one attendant. And mum being mum, after all, couldn’t leave me alone. My husband was visiting on and off, and was just a call away.
The induction-labour- delivery was an 80 hours ordeal - 3 and a half days to be precise. With 36 hrs in labour, I had almost lost the last iota of energy in me. But when you are a mum, do you ever give up? So there he was. Delivered hail and hearty in the early morning of 11th November. Even in the dizziness from the anaesthesia shot, I got a glimpse of him before getting shifted to the post-natal area. In the recovery room, Rihaan was in my arms and life just sunk in at that moment. It’s pure magic and a divinely feeling when you can’t fully accept that you could create a life yet feel fulfilled to have created one. Words fall short.
Post-delivery, mum and my husband had gone home for a quick refreshment. While I was recovering from the anaesthesia in the recovery room, Rihaan was in the crib. I desperately wanted to bring him to my lap and just feel him for real. I could see him from a meter away in the crib but could hardly reach him. Picking myself up from the bed needed a hand as I was too exhausted. I wanted to pull the crib but couldn’t reach. There was no one around. And then while looking for the nurse's alarm, besides my bed on the other side, I heard the crib cranked a bit and something left through the curtains. Now, the crib was right beside me and I could reach out to him. Oh my bed recline was also corrected.
The nurse comes asking after that, “All ok? You need something..” "No I guess," I sighed.
I could see my baby now and picked him up on to my lap from the crib which was now right beside me. I could feel them both. The angel in my hand and one up above.
Did I say, we three went to the hospital? My bad! We were four. My guardian angel was already there. Thank you baba for watching me from the stars above.
Happy Father's Day!