Chapter  6, Pt 4 of 5

OUR SECOND CHILD AND HOSPITAL LIFE

But your natural optimism and the faith in God came to your rescue and you tried to look on the bright side of things. Presently you could not think much at all, and the staff nurse, a tall slim brunette with bright brown eyes, took you into the labour room, which was light and airy and had the instrument cabinets all round it.

And then the nurses and the doctor with white masks on their faces gathered round you. The doctor put a sort of cap on your mouth and told you to breathe hard and go to sleep. You struggled at first, then relaxed and were in perfect peace until you felt Nurse Ragen’s hands on your shoulders, and you heard a faint cry of a baby. “Wake up, Mrs Chowdhary, wake up.” you heard the nurse say. “You have got a perfect little baby girl.”

I had thought of another boy. But that did not matter as long as the baby was perfect and the delivery had been normal. What a great relief it was. I thanked God again and again.

The nurses took me back into the little room where they washed me and changed me and gave me some refreshments so that I would be ready to receive my husband. I would have hated Sheel to be present at the time in the labour ward. I always liked to look my best in front of him.

He came in the little room and I could not hold back a few tears of joy and relief. They brought the baby all washed and dressed to show him. We both admired her small body with somewhat pale delicate complexion and very slim hands and fingers. “She is going to be a real lady,” I said, laughing.

After a few hours’ rest in that small room, I was taken into the General Maternity Ward (there being no private ward in the hospital for that purpose). This was a huge ward containing about 18 beds all occupied, some with mothers who had had their babies, like myself, and others with the ones who awaited their turn.

They gave me a bed in the corner quite near the door, and I noticed that they discreetly brought my meals always on a tray. They made this concession to me because I was a doctor’s wife. It was good of them to do that and I felt grateful. To me this ward seemed like a community centre, humming with life and noise. The patients were mostly light-hearted because they were not really ill, and everybody saw the funny side of things.

Punctually at 6 a.m. we heard the rattle of cups and spoons, which were being wheeled into the ward by three nurses. “Time to wake up ladies” they would announce as they passed the cup of tea round one by one.

Who wanted to wake up at that unearthly hour? I know I did not, but orders were orders, and we obeyed them one after another. Then we heard the babies coming for their early morning feed. The staff nurse wheeled in the stretcher full of them, quite a few of them airing their lungs as they came. Each baby had a nametape tied to its wrist. “Here, this is your baby,” Nurse Ragan would say to me.” She doesn’t really need a nametape, but my goodness if we lost the nametape of any of the others, we would not know where we were. Some of them seem so much alike. Now then concentrate on feeding your babies ladies,” she would shout.

“They must have enough and you know we weigh them before and after each feed.”

“Oh Nurse, but I cannot keep my baby awake to feed her,” one of the mothers would say.

“Well then, pinch her cheeks a little, that will do the trick.”

“How do you know all about these tricks, nurse, you have never had a baby yourself?”

I felt very sorry for a mother who had had a stillbirth and whose milk had to be extracted by an instrument. What must be passing through her mind I wondered? She was brave enough not to wear her heart on her sleeve.

After breakfast, I often dropped off to sleep, but the nurse with the medicine trolley would wake me up. She had the big bottles of laxatives of dark colour and horrible taste. I tried a dose of it the first day but never again. I told the nurse I would much rather take some of my husband’s pills.

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