By Varsha Khandelwal
I was in my seventh month of pregnancy. Things were moving along happily, with the exception of swollen feet, back cramps and fatigue. Little did I know that these would be the least of my worries. Soon, news started pouring in about the dreaded novel coronavirus. It snowballed and the country went into lockdown, which was extended, and extended.
I was to deliver on May 15. I cannot describe the stress and anxiety I was feeling. As if childbirth wasn’t hard enough, now all pregnant women had to worry about contracting this virus and the safety of their unborn child. One could sense the paranoia at the clinic and during ultrasound appointments.
In late April, after a discussion with my doctor, we decided to prepone my delivery by two and a half weeks as COVID cases were beginning to rise. The baby was ready and it seemed wise to be ahead of the curve. We also decided to change our hospital at the last minute and switched to one that was less busy. I feel extremely grateful that Delhi has many maternity hospitals and I could avoid going to a general hospital for the delivery.
I was required to take a COVID test before being admitted. Finally, the day of delivery dawned. I said my prayer in the morning and set off for the hospital. There was a full screening at the entrance where our temperature was checked and we were sanitised.
My husband and I checked in at noon and my C-section was scheduled for 3.30 p.m. Almost immediately, pre-op preparations began and doctors, nurses and housekeeping staff began buzzing in and out of the room.
Everyone was required to wear masks and sanitise their hands once they came in. Nervousness and anxiety about the operation began to assail me, and corona-stress took a backseat.
The experience at the time of my firstborn was very different than this time. At that time, my entire family was present, but this time only my husband was allowed.
My mother and mother-in-law were allowed to come in individually when my husband took a break. It was heartbreaking not to have my father around.
Furthermore, my husband was not allowed to be with me in the operation theatre this time. Although I understood that the precautions needed to be taken, I truly missed holding his hand like the first time.
And then, she was here! The operation went smoothly and in four hours I was back in the room. My little darling came in soon after and I saw her clearly for the first time.
We settled in and began our new life together. Soon there were doctors, assistant doctors, nurses, paediatrician, dieticians, housekeeping staff and food servers coming in frequently. Once again, coronavirus anxiety crept over me!
I decided to wear a mask and kept reminding everyone to sanitise their hands on entering my room. The maternal instinct to protect my little one kicked in.
The next three days were bittersweet. The excitement and enjoyment of my new baby was accompanied by a constant fear of the virus. Being exposed to many people worried me and made me somewhat paranoid!
I interviewed nurses about where they came from and what means of transport they used. Some walked to work, while others hitched a ride with co-workers since public transport was not functional at the time.
Though this must have been a big problem for them, it was a relief for me that my nurses were not exposed to crowds in closed spaces like buses and the Delhi metro.
When the baby was taken for vaccinations and baths, I could only hope that everyone was following safety protocol outside my room. Soon, I realised that this was a situation beyond my control and the only thing I could do was to sanitise everything frequently and calm myself.
At last, it was time to go home! We checked out, bid farewell to the sweet nurses and walked to the parking lot avoiding the valet. I was in too much pain to hold the baby and decided to take over the wheel instead.
Oh, home sweet home! We were received with much love, affection and many, many balloons. I was in tears when I saw my three-year-old son waiting for me. It was such a sense of relief. We stayed optimistic and believed that we had returned home virus-free.
Two weeks of home quarantine passed and all was good. I am so grateful for my safe delivery and the health of my family.
Sometimes, all you can do is send positive vibes into the universe and hope for the best. And mostly, the universe responds the same way.
Varsha Khandelwal is a Delhi-based lawyer and former state-level badminton player
First published in eShe’s August 2020 issue