It was a cold, rainy afternoon in January. The streets of Dallas still twinkled with fairy lights from the holiday celebrations. I had just entered the 25th week of pregnancy. The first trimester upheavals were behind us and I could finally relax and enjoy my pregnancy. That chiefly consisted of asking my poor husband to rustle up outrageous food stuff that I remembered from my childhood.
That particular afternoon, I craved for conversation in my native Konkani, a cuppa of thick, milky tea generously spiked with ginger and crisp onion pakoras. Ganesh volunteered to make the pakoras. He had finished cutting the onions and was mixing the batter when I first realized something was wrong.
My stomach felt like it was tightening. It wasn’t a particularly painful feeling, just an uncomfortable one. I took a few deep breaths and waited for the feeling to go away. It did, only to return in a few minutes, but this time with a greater intensity. I told Ganesh how I was feeling.
‘Call the doctor’, he said.
It was the weekend, but our doctor had specifically asked us to call if I experienced anything unusual. So I dialled his after hours number, albeit with a twinge of guilt.
As I was explaining my symptoms to the doctor, Ganesh leaned in closer to hear his reply, his hands still caked with besan.
‘Drive to the ER and get yourself admitted. Now.’ was the curt reply.
There was no time to think. Ganesh washed his hands, while I changed. We walked down the stairs, throwing a last longing glance to the bowl full of pakora batter waiting to be fried.
We reached the ER. My stomach still felt uncomfortably tight. The staff there was waiting with a wheel chair. Ganesh went to the admin block to complete the formalities, while I was wheeled to the examination room.
As the wheelchair trundled along the narrow hospital corridor smelling of antiseptic and musty carpets, I felt very alone and vulnerable. I put my hand protectively over my bulging stomach. The nightmare was back to hound us!
I was wheeled into an examination room, where they did an ultra-sound. No one would say anything, but the mood definitely was sombre. I felt the all too familiar waves of panic rise through me. I had read enough about pregnancy to know that a foetus at 25 weeks has very low chances of survival outside the womb.
I was wheeled into a tiny hospital room and made to change into a hospital gown. By now I had realised that I wasn’t going back home that night or the next night or even the next week. I lay in the hospital bed, staring at the scalloped pattern in the false ceiling, thinking about my babies.
By now, Ganesh had returned and was sitting by my side, holding my hand. He refused to make eye contact with me as he did not want me to see the same naked fear that was reflected in his brown eyes.
Dr. Simmons, my OB-Gyn entered the room carrying my reports. He looked serious. ‘You are having contractions Shefali. It looks like your babies are in a hurry to come into this world’, he said, making a vain attempt at humour.
‘We think you could deliver in the next 48 hours.