I don't think I ought to be competing with the supermoms of the current generation. I wish to share my experience just to warn young mothers to be about how a little ignorance and indifference can turn your pregnancy into a nightmare. All this happened 37 years ago and times are different now. However, a little caution will not harm. It is a long narrative. Please bear with me as you always have. Here goes my entry for -
It seems odd to share pregnancy tips with young girls after becoming a grandmother to four adorable grandchildren. However, I wish to share my story just as a warning to would be mothers and first time grandmothers.
Thirty seven years ago at the age of 23 I did not know how to react to the news of my being pregnant. I had no knowledge of what to expect. Oh yes, my mother in law fussed over me since the family was going to hear baby sounds after a gap of 21 years and every one was thrilled. To be fair to her, she took me for regular check ups and the doctors prescribed folic acid capsules that she made me take right in front of her eyes. She prepared special dishes for me and after the initial misgivings we bonded really well. As long as I was in Jamshedpur it was a very normal pregnancy and I was totally unprepared to face the trouble that awaited me.
As was the custom I went to my mother’s place for my first delivery. In fact it was the first time after marriage that I got to spend some time with my mother and I was looking forward to a relaxed stay with her. Unfortunately that was not to be. The day after I landed home I had nothing much to do and took it on myself to clean a storage space near the kitchen. This was an area where stuff like shikakkai (to wash one’s hair) and gingelly oil was kept in addition to soap, surf, phenyl and other cleaning agents. After setting the place in order I took a bath and joined my mother and aunt for the afternoon meal when I felt itchy all over. I went to the bathroom and checked for signs of rashes in case something had bitten me. I could see nothing.
Those were days when the family lady doctor came on house visits and she was summoned in the evening. She had delivered most of the children in our family and very much like a family member. Considering the advanced stage of my pregnancy she had to be careful with the prescription of drugs and asked me to apply some lotion and left. The next three weeks were a nightmare to say the least. I could not get sleep, felt itchy and miserable and to add to it I began to have a funny sensation in the back of my head and my ear lobes started feeling hot. The doctor came once a week and checked my blood pressure but I could not understand or explain the sense of unease that I felt. To get some relief from the itching sensation I’d have a bath thrice a day and wipe myself with dettol water the rest of the time. My mother felt helpless and hoped that the itchiness would go away after my delivery.
Finally at the onset of the ninth month my mother had a small function in connection with my pregnancy. It was a noisy affair and I did not feel inclined to meet anyone. However I sat through the ritual of being blessed by elderly ladies. They had lunch and left. My eyes were puffed up and my head started feeling heavy. I attributed it to lack of proper sleep. The doctor’s visit was due the following day. I went to sleep early and surprisingly fell asleep immediately.
It must have been around seven the next morning when I woke up on hearing my elder brother’s voice. He had come over from Gudur to meet me. On seeing me awake he offered me some biscuits and I remember telling him that I’d brush my teeth and have it with coffee. I walked to the wash basin and suddenly I wanted to throw up. My mother thought that the heavy food consumed the previous day did not suit me. I did vomit but it was not undigested food that I threw up. It was bile. Within minutes I felt my eye sight dimming and by the time I rinsed my mouth I had lost sight completely and had to be led back to my bed. To add to my misery I had an unbearable headache and was writhing in pain.
The entire family took sometime to register that I could not see a thing. Someone rushed to call the doctor. We did not have a telephone at home then and mobiles were unheard of. The doctor came immediately and checked my BP. It was a soaring 220/150. Urine test revealed excess of albumin and I was administered sedatives and put to sleep. By evening my BP was normal, urine sample had just traces of albumin. My vision however did not return. An eye specialist was summoned. He flashed a torch into my eyes but I could not see a thing. The entire neighborhood was at our doorstep as is the case in a small town like Gobichettipalayam. My family still relied on Dr. Leela - our family doctor. The baby was not due till the next fortnight and I had not gone into labor. So no one was thinking about the baby. They wanted me to regain my eyesight. That was their immediate concern. It was then that Dr. Leela did the wise thing. She went over to a neighbor’s place and told them to advice my uncle and mother to shift me to a better hospital in Coimbatore. She wanted them to make it appear as if they were advising my family. She said that her clinic was not equipped to deal with complications but her daughter in law was working in a reputed nursing home in Coimbatore and if I was shifted there I could get better medical attention. She would line up everything and give us her car and driver. She was afraid that if she suggested this herself we would get panicky and imagine the worst.
The neighbor came over and suggested that I be shifted to a hospital in Coimbatore. My mother was not sure how Dr. Leela would take it. The neighbor pretended that she had convinced Dr. Leela and she had agreed. The family pundit was called in to check if the following day was auspicious. Our smart neighbor cornered him before he reached our place and on being properly briefed he declared that I should be shifted on the very evening since the next three days were inauspicious. We came to hear of all this back room maneuverings later. Finally around 8 at night I left with my mother, brother and uncle to the hospital where the doctor’s daughter in law worked. It was pouring rain and mother, weak sighted herself, was praying hard that I should regain my vision. We reached the hospital at 11 in the night. Treatment was started immediately. The next morning I asked the doctor if she was wearing a red sari. I could make out bright colors but little else. By evening I could make out my mother’s face but the hospital bed the stand to which IV drips were attached everything seemed to be slanted. The next day I could see properly. The doctors induced labor and my daughter was born the same evening at least 2 weeks before the due date.
The four days that had gone by were best forgotten. My I did learn a few valuable lessons in the meanwhile. They were-
1. Never ignore the signals that your body gives you. I did just that thinking that it was perhaps normal to feel so.
2. Never hesitate to go for a second opinion. In fact a good gynecologist would be open to consulting more experienced doctors herself.
3. When it is the question of life and death, almanacs and pundits need not be consulted. Not everyone would have a smart neighbor like mine.
4. When you feel uneasy contact the doctor at once. I was stupid to think that I could wait since my doctor’s visit was due in a day’s time.
Finally, my mother in law felt that if I had opted to stay back in Jamshedpur I may not have faced such a situation. In fact symptoms similar to the ones mentioned did come up in the next two pregnancies. But I was careful and my treating doctor was aware of my case history so I was admitted at the appropriate time and labor was induced. I’ve never gone into labor the normal way.
Years later I heard of a case similar to mine that unfortunately resulted in the death of both mother and child. The girl, like me, was unprepared and her case was handled by a reputed hospital in Jamshedpur. I was probably destined to share my story with you all and I got the lease of a lifetime of happy blogging!