In Times Like These…

Being pregnant is a beautiful experience. For those of you who follow my blog and have read my pregnancy posts, I have described in some detail what it all feels like. But, what is life after pregnancy really like? Well, it is of course quite different for different people for sure. This is my own, very personal experience.

Going into Labour

That particular morning, I woke up with a start knowing something was about to happen. Sure enough, my water broke I went into labour at about 4:30 am. And there started the crazy roller coaster ride my husband and I went through over the  next 24 hours. In all my excitement, I went knocking on my mother’s (she was staying with me to help with the pregnancy and prepare for the baby) door and yelled for her to wake up. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait for my husband and mom to get ready to take me to the hospital. En route, I was excitedly chatting with my mum and asking her what it would be like after the baby arrives. Needless, to say my husband was also pretty excited. So we finally get there and we realise that my medical file was left neatly on my work table at home, by me naturally (I was so excited that I forgot the one thing my husband put me in charge of!).

But all was forgiven and my husband headed back home to get the file, while my mom took me to the gynaecology ward. I was super excited (an understatement), not just for the arrival of the baby but also because I have never really been admitted in a hospital before (a weird fascination I suppose). I have been a caregiver for my parents when they needed it, but have never really been admitted. Every single aspect of going into labour was a joyride for me.

When my husband returned, at around 6 am on a Friday, we set about to calling our close friends and family.. Every call was a happy one while we annouced that I was in labour and expecting a child shortly. What I won’t forget is how excited my co-sister sounded even though I had just woken her up that early. Until that point, I don’t think my husband and I realised how much my brother-in-law (his brother) and my co-sister were rooting for us (for we live across town from each other; we rarely meet). They made my day.

The hours pass on…

And so it went, induction of labor pain and the mild contractions that started soon after, the doctor visiting me every few hours or so. Through all this time, I was pretty relaxed in my hospital bed and my hospital gown (awfully uncomfortable to wear, actually) and couldn’t wait to meet my daughter or son soon. And suddenly, I was walked to the labor room and it was time.

And then it happened…

I wont get into the nitty-gritty of labor pain, because it is truly beyond imaginable. But, after quite a struggle, we had a baby boy. While I was mildly disoriented, I won’t ever forget the little sounds my son made and the very first sight of him after the nurses cleaned him up. I also vividly remember the joy in my husband’s voice (and he was with me throughout).  And I still hear all this in my dreams sometimes.

The next thing I remember is standing in NICU while my dear baby was hooked to all sorts of monitors and being examined by a throng of specialists. I distinctively also remember my husband beside me, in so much emotional pain and he realised (being a practicing surgeon), faster than me, what was really happening. Considering that I had just given birth, I was asked to leave the NICU and rest. I refused to go of course, but, I had to. I settled into a chair right outside, and started praying (for those of you who know me, know that I rarely pray, if ever at all). I have never clung on to hope like I did that night. With the beeping monitors as my backdrop, the tears eventually started. We knew what was to follow.

As I sat there waiting, a nurse came and sat quietly next to me. I don’t know why she did that, because she wasn’t a part of the NICU staff, but she just did. She sat there, saw my tears and held my hand. She had absolutely no idea why I was crying or that I had just come out of labor. But, she sat there. Silent tears gave way to hysterical crying and she stood and she held me for god knows how long. She didn’t ask a single question. I still don’t know her name or what department she worked in. But I owe her.

Eventually, my husband pushed me to go back to the ward and rest. My mom and I after a lot of protesting did just that. Within a few minutes of reaching the ward (I couldn’t walk very fast), my husband called us. It was over. If ever I have heard my husband cry, that was it. Over the phone. It was then 12 am, about 20 hours after my water broke.

The next few hours went by in a blur. We were in shock, and I was torn, watching my mom, my husband and my son.

The calm after the storm…

Calm. Not peace, but a quite, almost sinister calm came over me. I don’t know why, but I was suddenly clear, confident and taking care of people around me. It was weird. Little did I know that it just meant something broke inside me that day. And it was irreparable. It still is.

Times like these…

It is always in times like these that you notice the people around you. The people that have stayed, the people that rush (yes, rush; like it happened to them), the people that continue to care. I won’t ever forget my brother-in-law and my co-sister mourning and crying like they had lost their own; I guess in a way they did too, nor will I ever forget my cousin (brother), who rushed as soon as he heard and accompanied my husband through what had to be his toughest journey yet.

Losing a child at any stage in your life, be it a miscarriage or a loss like ours, a few hours after birth, is an indescribable feeling. It numbs you, it shatters you, it changes you, almost kills you, but eventually makes you stronger.

 Pranav, my baby, where ever your beautiful soul is, we love you.  

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Coping With The Loss of a Loved One

Life has been a little less than kind lately. The universe provides, but the universe does take away. Over the course of the last few years I have lost two precious members of our small, close-knit family. As a result of both these harrowing experiences, learning to cope was not really a choice.

I lost my father first and though I was not very young (but not too old either), it was quite a blow. My father was ailing when we lost him, so it seemed better for him that way as opposed to suffering through his illness. My first reaction was relief… for him. But, as the loss started to sink in, it became quite unbearable. Days wore on and the effects of his life and what he meant to us as a family became that much more obvious. Thus far, reliving my childhood with my father (which i still do, after 6 long years) has been the most difficult thing I have had to do.

A mere year after losing my father, I got married and moved away from where I had lived all my life. In more ways than one, the move was both painful and healing at the same time. While hanging around where I grew up would stir memories at every turn, moving away provided the much needed change of scene. On the flip side however, my heart yearned for all that my childhood was. After all home is where the heart is. Still grieving, I resigned myself to the move and started to better accept the loss fate dealt me at that point in time. But all was not easy! I had severe mood swings and seemed to be on edge almost all of the time. Though I had the wonderful feeling being newly married, every time I was alone, the sense of loss just gripped me and I would cry endlessly. This slowly turned as i adjusted to my new life and I started feeling better both physically and emotionally. I cried a lot less and my mood was lighter. Unfortunately that didn’t last long.

In a short span of three years since my father passed I lost my sister too. Her loss was harder to bear as it was quite sudden and unexpected. What I felt after can only be explained as post-traumatic stress. I also developed anxiety and it was tough to deal with and come out of.

What I Learnt

Considering these losses, here is what I took away from it. You will/may feel a range of emotions; sad, low, fatigued, angry, denial, disbelief, yearning, guilt, humiliation, despair, confusion and shock are some of the many. There may also be times through this grieving process where you start to question your mental stability. I know I did. Just know that this is expected and a part of the normal grieving process.

I eventually learnt that it is okay to let go. It is okay to let yourself feel the barrage of emotions that you have no control over. Though I may have looked strong and calm on the surface, a storm was definitely raging on the inside. I was angry, I was hurt and I was in pain. As a society we have may been taught to hold back our emotions where social situations demanded it, but, in the face of such loss, I think it is cathartic to let yourself go for a bit. How much you let go of yourself is subjective to who you are, but rewarding nonetheless. Before we misunderstand each other, letting go would not mean putting yourself or those around you in the way of harm, it simply means confronting what you feel instead of suppressing it. Once you are done facing what you feel, you will find that the anger starts to go away bit by bit. I will be honest and say that it may never stop hurting, but what you learn is to live with the pain and carry on.

However, the most important lesson that I learnt and one everyone should imbibe is… it is okay to ask for help! At a time of loss, you need your family and you need your friends. Though most often they are around you whether you ask for it or not, you still need to know that you can and must ask for additional support. There is no shame in this and it does not make you seem weak or helpless in any way. I say this, because I felt that way for a while. But, when I could not take it anymore, I realised that reaching out is my best option and so I did. It changed my life.

My husband and my closest friends are who I reached out to and in the face of a dreary situation, it was the best thing to have happened to me. I may have snapped at them or lost my cool more times than I care to count, but, in the end, every little word, thought and prayer they put out for me, calmed me. Once you seek people out, make sure that you express how you feel. If you are creatively inclined you can channelize your grief through creative expression or you can focus on taking up some hobby that you always wanted to pursue, but never really got around to.

It has been 5 years since my dad’s passing and 2 years since my sister’s, and this is the first time I have taken to writing what I went through and how I coped. Though it may seem like I took too long to put this out, it is important to understand that everyone heals at their own pace. If you feel like people are judging you for moving on too quickly, know that it is okay that you moved on when you felt it was the right time. Do not also let people tell you that you are taking too long. Be you, do what you feel is most organic to help restore a calmer mental health stance. Also strive to achieve grieving in a healthy way so that the end result leaves your mental health intact. And if that requires reaching out to professionals, do it. It is OKAY.

Taking care of your health should also be at the top of your list. Grieving can result in physical changes like loss of appetite, excessive eating and disturbances in sleeping. It could also worsen an existing medical condition or bring on a new one. The process of grieving is long drawn, as you may experience, so I would say, be patient. Embrace your grief and accept that life is for the living. You are not alone.