Monday, November 14, 2011

Great Expectations

The day I came home from work and gorged on an entire bottle of mango pickle, I knew. The stork had come calling, it was finally that good news and there was soon going to be the patter of tiny feet at home. Only in my case it turned out to be two pairs of feet.
Right from the first check-up, when I told the doctor that I had ‘evening’ and not ‘morning’ sickness, and she replied that I was ‘different’, I should have been suspicious. Maybe she didn’t want me to panic. Whatever the reason, it was only in the fifth month that I knew it was not one bundle of joy but two! I wasn’t exactly harrumphing with joy or whooping around the corridors at the news. Of course, the fact that my feet were rapidly disappearing from view and that I could use my ‘baby bump’ (just that in my case, it looked more like a boulder), to balance my dinner plate, should have given me sufficient warning.
I breezily sailed to work every morning, announcing my arrival much before I appeared, dragging the rest of me after. At assembly (I taught in a school), I could hardly concentrate as a warring flurry of elbows and knees practised their kung-fu moves inside my belly. “God, let both of them not be boys,” I would pray fervently every time this happened. “Let at least one be a cherubic, sweet, placid little girl.”
In the local train, the women looked at me accusingly and some of them wouldn’t meet my eyes. The unasked question in their glance: ‘Would I suddenly go into labour right there? And make them miss the 7.15 fast?’ Poor me was only in my fifth month!
Hypertension in my seventh month did not sweeten matters. And neither did the fact that the skin on my burgeoning abdomen was stretched so much that it became completely black! I wondered if I would burst one day like an overripe fruit. Was I worried about stretch marks? It seemed as if they would extend from the city to the distant suburbs, I wanted to yell to all those ‘no marks’ cream manufacturers.
Then began the ‘which side to lie on’ dilemma. Every time I turned, it was like lifting a oversized pumpkin weighing a zillion kilos. They ought to re-define the phrase ‘tossing and turning’. Never mind that my ‘tenants’ decided that playing footsie at 3 a.m. in the morning suited them just fine.
And the itching…it would begin just when I was dropping into a doze after what seemed like hours of staring at the ceiling with wide-awake eyes, long after the last sheep had jumped spryly over the last fence. In the morning my stomach looked like I had just crawled through menacing fields of brambles, nettles and an entire desert of Saguaro cacti. Anyone fancy a game of belly tic-tac-toe?
Finally, finally, after bursting into tears, pleading with the doc that I wasn’t exactly slavering for a ‘normal’ delivery, enduring a saline drip and comments that I had a ‘cast iron’ uterus, being poked and prodded, at last, deliverance. ‘Seeta aur Geeta,’ pronounced the anaesthesist with a smile and I wanted to scream, ‘Ram aur Shyam’, ‘Luv aur Kush’, I don’t care, get them out of me already!
It was as though a great weight had been lifted and I felt free, free, blessedly free. No more waiting, no more tossing, and best of all no more scratching. No more agonising over whether my babies would be perfectly formed or heaven forbid, joined together at some unmentionable place, or missing arms, legs, fingers or toes. Considering the Mahabharata that was waged inside, not for 18 days but nine whole months, I had expected some serious war wounds!
They placed the babies wrapped in bilious hospital green into my arms. I gazed at my two flawless, beautiful little girls, at their beatific, rosy and content faces. I nuzzled the petal-soft cheeks, breathed in the warm, milky smell. I heaved a long sigh; the first of a million ‘mommy’ sighs…

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