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But she felt fear gnawing at her insides. She had a premonition that something was very wrong inside her- the kind of premonitions only mothers can have.
Trigger warning: There are themes of infertility, pregnancy loss, grief, and depression, that can be triggering to survivors.
He was pacing back and forth in the hospital corridor. Today he felt so empty from inside. After a while, he sank down on one of the many chairs in the visitors area, clutching his head between his hands.
At this wee hour of the night, the hospital was eerily calm except for the pitter-patter of the rain-drops outside. Monsoon had arrived earlier than usual. It seemed that the sky was also mourning his loss by shedding copious tears in the form of raindrops. He felt grief wash over him. He had lost his unborn baby. And his wife was admitted in the ICU.
She was shifted to the ICU for monitoring early that night. Lying listlessly on a bed, she stared blankly at the white ceiling.
The ICU reeked of general medicine and cleaning supplies. The air inside was bland, stale, gloomy. The doctors intubated her. One nurse in a pale blue scrub administered sleep-inducing medication to her. Then she whispered in a reassuring tone, “Don’t worry. Everything will be alright.” For a split second, she almost believed that every damn thing would indeed be alright. But her pragmatic self refused to believe in the chimera. With all her will-power, she tried vehemently to push away the disturbing thoughts clamouring for her attention inside her head. Soon the medication lulled her to sleep.
Darkness slow and deep, quiet, still, unmoving, unbreathing in a dark, sugary sleep: no pain, no joy, no sight, no sound, no taste; she remained floating, distant. She wouldn’t wake up, she’d stay in this cotton-wool world, its soft, sleepy music lifting her up through the roof, the banisters, the rooms up above, through the entire weight of the building, its steeple. She rose like a wisp of cloud. She wanted to stay forever in this dream world. The real world was incredibly cruel and she didn’t wish to go back there. She hoped to find her unborn baby in this world.
“Come to me, baby! I’m your mother. Call me ‘maa’ just once,” she cooed. But nobody cared to answer her. The sleep started to dissipate slowly as real life waited for her with all the pain and sorrow.
Getting pregnant had proved difficult for her, owing to her poly-cystic ovarian disorder. She had gone through fertility treatments, used herbal medication for infertility, offered prayers to assorted gods and goddesses, kept a fast on auspicious days- all in the hope of having a baby. She had searched the internet often and read random articles on ‘how to get pregnant’. Sex was no longer pleasurable. It was just another essential chore which had to be performed during her ‘fertile window’ as indicated by the fertility tracking app that she had installed in her mobile. But in spite of everything, maternal bliss seemed elusive.
The experience was utterly frustrating. With every passing day, she sank deeper and deeper into the dark abyss of depression. She was thirty-five and started to think that her biological clock was ticking away. She started to envy everyone who were blessed with children. Even her house-maid had three children. The lady, ignorant of her blessings, often complained of how hard it was to feed three children, given how hard-up her family was. The world didn’t seem fair any more.
Then one fine morning, two parallel pink bands on the pregnancy test strip had changed her black-and-white world to technicolour. She and her husband were overjoyed and excited. They started to plan how their lives would change with a baby in their family. It was after years that they were planning something together.
Would it be a boy or a girl?
What would be the name of the baby?
Would they need to hire an ayah to look after the baby?
Who would the baby resemble? The mother or the father?
After a long time, she started to look forward to a future which didn’t seem bleak any more. She had a crochet business, but she stopped taking orders. Instead, she began to crochet blankets for the baby. She thought about crocheting a red frock if the baby was a girl. If it turned out to be a boy, she dedcided to crochet a pair of white booties with yellow flowers.
As the weeks came closer to her 12 week scan, she started to feel anxious and restless. Her husband tried to allay her fears. He said that there was nothing to worry about, that she was hyperventilating. But she felt fear gnawing at her insides. She had a premonition that something was very wrong inside her- the kind of premonitions only mothers can have.
The sonographer inside the dimly lit room announced woodenly, “I’m sorry. This pregnancy seemed to have ended a little while ago. There’s no heartbeat.” She was shocked. She lay there, unmoving, breathless.
She had lost the baby.
They called her husband and explained that she had suffered a missed abortion two days back.
Here was the image of her motionless baby on the untrasound screen.
The anaesthesiologist was called for evacuation of the uterus. Within just ten minutes, the procedure was over.
She had failed to become a mother.
It was so uneventful, as if there was nothing extraordinary in all these happenings. But the searing pain of failure was insurmountable. She didn’t know how to deal with such profound loss. She let out a throaty, guttural scream. She was bleeding profusely.
The baby who had brought so much joy in their lives was no more.
Next few hours passed in a blur. Her blood was sent for investigations. She was taken up for examination and exploration, under anaesthesia. She heard muffled voice of the anaesthesiologist droning on about her low blood pressure and low platelet count. There were transfusion of red blood cells and platelets. Once her vital signs stabilised, she was shifted to the ICU for monitoring. She was extubated after three hours.
Her life was black-and-white again. She tried to shift attention to her crochet business, but the image of her stillborn baby was imprinted in her mind. Focussing on any task seemed difficult. Then one day, her husband brought a potted jasmine tree and placed in the balcony of their flat. They named the tree Baby June in memory of their unborn child whose embryonic journey came to an end in the month of June.
She had started to hate her body that was incapable of giving birth. Where did she go wrong? What was her fault? Was it not eating on time, or was it travelling in an auto-rickshaw during pregnancy?
Condolences from friends and relatives started pouring in.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“It’s all part of God’s plan.”
“At least you know you can have kids.”
“At least you weren’t that far along.”
“You’ll get pregnant again.”
She was peeved. Why didn’t they just leave her to her own devices? She didn’t want their sympathy.
Then one night, a jasmine flower blossomed in the plant. A beautiful, dainty, white-yellow night jasmine flower. Its fragrance enveloped both of them, just the way a child embraces it’s parents. Her eyes welled up in tears. She tiptoed to the balcony and whispered to the night jasmine flower, “Baby June! You’ll always be remembered. We’ll love you forever. You’ll always be the one who first made us Mummy and Daddy.”
Missed abortion- When the child in the womb fails to grow.
Platelets- One of the components of blood required for clotting.
Author’s note: According to Mayo Clinic, 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, though the actual number is believed to be higher since miscarriages can occur early in the pregnancy when a woman doesn’t know she is pregnant. The impact of miscarriage on women’s mental health is well established. If you know someone who has recently experienced such an unfortunate incident in her life, refrain from offering consolations. Rather lend her an ear and listen to what she has to say, even if you don’t know what to say. Ask her what you can do to help.
This story had been shortlisted for our February 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest.
Image source: a still from the film Talaash
An engineer by education, I am a civil servant by profession. A doting mother. An avid reader. I try my hand at writing as and when ideas tussle inside my head. read more...
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"There is a story and a vision which makes us gravitate towards cinema. Even as we worked as assistants on ads, we realised that cinema was our true calling," say Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh Raseen.
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A ‘thank you’ makes a lot of difference in the way any woman in your life sees herself in your eyes. It might even mean the world to her.
I have not received any appreciation in the past. Probably never will. This is the experience of ample women across the globe. The expectation to be thanked for all the sacrifices she makes to keep others happy has faded. Yet the urge to hear few words of acknowledgement always lingers.
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It will mean the world to your mother if you answer her calls. If your sister seems lost give her a hug and assure her about her strengths. Tomorrow, there might come a day when you would have to make your daughter feel empowered with few words of wisdom every now and then. For the children to feel wanted and loved, you must be able to spare some quality time with your wife and be present in the moment.
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