Sunday, August 29, 2010

The month of July

The month of July 2010 was one of the toughest periods I've ever had to face.
This pregnancy in any case had been a turbulent one. The first few months were bad - it was surprising for me, considering everyone always said a second pregnancy is significantly easier. Of course, what we didn't know at the time was that it was a twin pregnancy.
The week that we discovered it was a twin pregnancy was Week 20 - we went through a range of emotions, from shock to elation to worry to fear - and almost complete despair when we were wrongly told that it was a monoamniotic pregnancy - which usually means a survival rate of 50% for the babies. A final ultrasound by the best ultrasonologist in Delhi cleared that one up.
The last few weeks of the pregnancy were difficult in a way I hadn't experienced before. The babies were growing quite well for twins, but their combined weight was bearing down on me and hurting me, and it was all terribly uncomfortable.
But all this was a breeze compared to the month of July.
The reason I am writing this post is to remind myself of a few things that I learnt during that time.
So on the 2nd of July, I had an ultrasound that showed that it was unlikely that I deliver before end July.
The next day, I saw that I was bleeding - it was 8.30 a.m. on a Saturday, and I had been woken up by Peanut, who sort of kicked me awake and then went back to sleep herself. I went into the bathroom, saw the blood and told Vijay. Two hours later, we were in the hospital. The doctor said she would like to do a C-sec, though she had always said till now that we should try for a normal delivery.
In the OT, the anasthesia started to work, but suddenly I started to panic. I felt like I couldn't breathe and felt extremely claustrophobic and frightened. I started chanting the names of my three babies and calmed myself down. A short while later, I could feel a weight being lifted out of my body, and the doctor held up Pickle and said 'It's a boy'. One minute later, I felt some more weight being lifted out, and the doctor held up Papad and repeated 'It's a boy'. They were brought close to my face, and I felt a huge gush of relief. But I could easily see how tiny they were, and it was scary. They were 2.1 kgs each.
The next few days were tough. The babies were in the nursery and I was on bedrest. After the first day, I started to go and visit them every three hours to feed them. My doctors weren't happy with this, but the neonatologist was adamant about not sending them to my room due to the risk of infection. I was taken there on a wheelchair each time and each time, everybody would stare at me, and check to see if I still had my legs. I made a game out of it soon, and would stare back and remark loudly to Vijay - 'look at him! look at her!' - and even count out loud all the people who were staring at me. '1...2...3...oh, look another, 4...'. It was funny. For a while.
The babies had jaundice. Common enough. But the levels that Pickle were reaching were not common. His bilirubin count reached 18.5 one day, and they prepared him for a blood transfusion, because above 20 means possibility of brain damage. So it was terribly scary.
He was under phototherapy for many days. Seeing him lying there like that, naked under a bright white light, always managing to struggle and pull off his blindfold - and my being unable to breastfeed him for a couple of days - was really awful.
In the meantime, my condition wasn't improving. The pain in my abdomen continued. I developed a fever. Basically, there was something wrong and I was constantly on antibiotics.
Finally, after 10 days in the hospital, we were discharged. I was still not well. Antibiotics continued at home through IV - but an ultrasound then showed the large blood clot inside that was pressing against various organs. Two days later, I was readmitted to another hospital and a surgery was carried out on the 16th of July - a mere 13 days after the C-section to remove the clot.
My sister-in-law - Vijay's eldest sister - performed the surgery. Before the surgery, she had got various tests carried out, which included an MRI. I wasn't prepared for what it would be like and when I was inside the machine, with the loud noise, and my nose anyway half-blocked as usual, I started to panic again. I never realized I am actually semi-claustrophobic.
Anyway, after the surgery, this time under General anasthesia, I woke up in a lot of pain and screamed for my husband. He was brought there and I was crying, for a variety of reasons. After this surgery, the pain in my abdomen was almost completely gone, but I was terribly weak.
During all this time, I had periods of hallucination. I could feel myself blacking out. I was too weak to go to the bathroom by myself or bathe. Through all this, Vijay never left my side and tended to me and basically nursed me back to health. My mother, sister and the rest of family were all there too but Vijay was unbelievable. I really lucked out with this marriage. Must have done something right sometime. Must have been in a previous birth, don't remember doing anything that great in this one!
However, this time round, the twins were admitted in the hospital with us. It was great to have them with us in the room - but it was also not great because it was far more tiring to manage everything. Well, I was only feeding them, Vijay - with help from my mother when she visited, and of course, his brother Ajay- did everything else. But by this time, I had been in the hospital for so long that I was even more depressed, cranky and overall emotional. Plus, the first surgery had the carrot of removing two little babies and bringing them into my life. The second surgery was to get out a not-that-attractive 200 grams of clot plus 200 ml of blood. It gave me huge relief, but the infection continued for many days after that, too.
A hundred injections. Being away from the babies. Pickle's jaundice. The pain. Being away from Peanut. Being away from home. Blood tests, urine tests. Being on a catheter. Having a drain pipe attached to me, which drained out the remnant blood after the surgery into a bag that I had to carry around with me even once I was able to walk. The hallucinations. The frightening feeling of almost blacking out. The yelling at members of my family who were only always trying to help. My abusing the doctors as I came out of GA. This and much, much more. All this was the month of July.
And then I became better. I am home now. Things are still terribly chaotic because Vijay's mother is very, very unwell. I don't have full time help for the twins yet. We are a lot of people staying in a 2-bedroom house. But still. I have my health back. It is amazing to feel healthy.
Simple things mean so much now - Being able to walk around without pain and discomfort. Being able to feed the babies in the comfort of my own home. Being back with Peanut and spending loads of extra time with her to make sure she adjusts well to the babies. Being able to just breathe in and out. Fingering my surgery scar and feeling it heal. Not having that damned canula stuck to my hand. Being able to take a long, hot shower. Eating a Peanut butter and Jam sandwich instead of hospital food. Not having to remember which antibiotic to take when and forgetting what 'OD, BD and TDS' mean. Not worrying about bilirubin counts and other blood counts. Not having IV antibiotics three times a day. Taking a walk in the park. Lying next to my husband instead of alone on a hospital bed with him on the uncomfortable attendant's sofa. These and a hundred other things.
And yet, it's so easy to forget what it was like, and to get bogged down by the various daily issues that we face. This is just an attempt to try and remember one simple thing: without your health, you have very little. So I try and celebrate a little everyday now, even if it's only a couple of minutes in my head of thanking the universe that today I have my health. It's an upredictable life. So basically try to be less stupid about letting the little problems overwhelm you, and just remember how good it feels to feel this way.
That, and the fact that I have a great family, especially a great husband, mother, brother-in-law and sister-in-law.
Just lucky, I guess.
So that's what July 2010 was trying to tell me.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I'm blogging!

Yess!! I have time!! TIME!! I can do this! All three kids are asleep - finally! I am super-mom.

Chalo, got to go now. I hear crying.

I think it might be me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hello there People!

So here we are, then!

We discriminate. Period.

I really hate to say it, but it's really ingrained into our thinking.
Fair is Lovely.
I always believed that I was someone who would never support this view. I was one of those people who would tend to get indignant at fairness cream advertising that showed success and happiness being achieved by a woman's skin becoming a few (many) shades lighter.
But recent events have made me realize that in all this discussion, there's less black and white and more shades of grey. And some amount of hypocricy too.
A couple of years ago, when I was on a consumer visit with some young girl's family in Mumbai - This family was not a very well off one at all, and I was quite interested to spend the day with them and observe how they lived. At one point, the young girl's little sister came home from school, took one look at me and said (in Marathi, translated for me a minute later) 'This lady is very fair - she must know good english'.
Not that I am 'very fair' in any case, but I was truly surprised at her reaction, attributing knowledge of english and presumably many other things to my physical appearance. It only reinforced my belief that we need to somehow stop this discrimination.
But then Pickle and Papad came along.
Pickle, the one who has been through much with serious jaundice, prolonged periods in phototherapy in the nursery and many, many injections for the first few days of his life. Pickle is the dark one. The black sheep.
Papad, not only looks like a tiny Peanut and therefore has always been easier to relate to, is also the fairer one.
I looked at the two of them and felt bad - they are supposed to be identical twins! So why this difference, anyway? Pickle would always be compared to Papad and remarks would always be made about it.
I found myself wishing that they were more alike, at least in terms of skin colour - they may grow to be more alike as the months pass, everyone knows that babies look very different at different ages. I thought, why doesn't Papad just become darker with the passage of time! That will solve things.
And then, he did! For a few days in the middle, Papad turned quite dark and his colour was actually identical to Pickle's. This didn't last though, and now he's back to being the 'fairer one'.
But the thing was, when he turned darker, I looked at the two of them and found myself actually wishing that Pickle had become fairer instead of Papad becoming darker. Isn't that just sad? But it's the truth.
Sometimes the truth doesn't make you feel good at all.
The thing is, I relate a lot more to Pickle. He's the 'middle child' like me - older by one minute than his younger, smaller, fairer brother! He's been through so much. I actually feel very connected to him. He's somehow different from the others. He's resilient, he's a fighter. Despite his poor start, he's actually gained more weight than his brother, and become very round and cute very quickly. He's more difficult, sure, appears to also have colic, but in general, I can tell he's going to be the tough one.
Yesterday, a very wise and well-meaning close relative looked at him and said 'Bahut pyaara hai. But Papad is cuter, because he is fairer'.
I was quite shocked to hear this from him. The words were right out there, hanging in the air between us. I laughed incredulously and said 'You can't really have just said that. That's so discriminatory'.
He laughed, too but didn't really take it back. He just added 'Papad is also the smaller, younger one. You somehow feel more for the younger one'.
I said 'Not me. I feel for the middle child. It's tough'.

We left it at that. But while I feel very blessed to have such beautiful little baby boys, this is one thing I am not looking forward to - and I do hope they start to actually have close-to-identical skin colour. Even if they don't, that's okay. Pickle can be the tall, dark and handsome one - like his father.

In the meantime, we lovingly refer to him as our Gulab Jamun, Papad as our Rasgulla.

And Peanut as the Rasmalai.

Yummy little ones.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sweet Exhaustion

Vijay is up till 4 a.m. almost everyday handling the babies. After that, till about 10 a.m. is my shift.
At one point, Vijay remarked 'Honey, this Zone defense thing isn't working - maybe we should try Man-to-Man instead'.
(We both used to play basketball - in our colleges - and even after we got married. Before the many children).
I was thinking, Fine, I'll say I'll take Papad, but he quickly added 'I'll take Papad'.
It's pretty obvious Pickle is the more difficult baby to handle.
So anyway, the Man-to-man thing didn't work out either, so we're back to 'Zone' and continue to take them on in shifts.

Vijay also has configured the sleeping arrangement - one bassinet near the bed and one other little sleeping basket on the bed. Initially the bassinet was further away from us, by the window, but eventually, he brought it closer and closer to his own bed as it's easier to just pick up the wailing baby from it.
However, even the most patient man has his breaking point.
Vijay (lying back exhausted, listening to the sound of Pickle starting to work himself up again) : Should I move the bassinet one more time?
Me: (sleepily) where? (wondering how much closer he can bring it to our bed)
Vijay (gritting his teeth, pulling his pillow over his head): To where we can't hear him anymore....