Wednesday, 17 October 2018

part 59 : To Err is Human

After having endured the first three months of her pregnancy, also known as the first trimester, Riddhima was relieved to get rid of the pervasive feeling of being sick all morning and sometimes all day. Smells, sights, foods and sometimes even Armaan's kisses all made her want to retch as the sour taste of acid burnt her throat at most unexpected moments. She was yet to experience the 'joys of pregnancy' as books and other women often mentioned.

Her little spat with Kripa the other day had at least helped change her attitude- zinda hoon…shayad mere liye yahi kaafi hai- Kripa's heart wrenching words made her feel guilty each time she complained about her own pregnancy. Thankfully, Armaan had calmed down after that day too. He realized his impulsive and sometimes restless behavior, affected his near and dear ones adversely. Self realization made him less anxious about her pregnancy and he stopped hovering over her like an overprotective husband.

 Instead, Armaan did what he was best at- cheered her whenever she felt down, sent her surprise gifts like flowers and teddies when she was at work, cooked her favorite dishes when she craved them, took her out whenever she felt claustrophobic at home or at the hospital- essentially he was always there for her when she needed him without micro managing her pregnancy.

Dr Keerti was chosen as their Obstetrician who would take care of her pregnancy and delivery. Gauri was too nervous to be her doctor- I would rather just be a dadi- she said.

Armaan really wanted his best buddy, Angad to deliver their baby but both Riddhima and Angad felt a bit awkward at accepting that new role. Since the incident in the hostel, when Riddhima had walked into Angad snuggled up in Kripa's bed a la full monty, there had always been a thin wall of hesitation between the two freinds, and mutually decided that Dr Keerti was probably the best choice!

One morning, around her fifth month, Riddhima felt a little flutter-almost like butterflies floating in her tummy-while checking a patient in the Cancer ward. At first, she thought she was imagining; the flutters stopped when she walked, but recurred the moment she halted at a patient's bedside. There comes a moment in everyone's life when one crosses that bridge of uncertainty to certainty, from confusion to clarity, from restrained emotions to demonstrative emotions, from a feeling of being burdened to a feeling of being liberated- and that's what Riddhima felt at that very moment when tiny little body parts of their unborn child flickered in her womb that afternoon.

                          To the world you might just be one person,
                           but to one person you might just be the world.
                                            ~Author Unknown~

Ecstatic, she dropped the patient clip boards at the nurse's station and cautiously ran to the elevator. Tears of joy welled up in her eyes as a feeling of warmth and utmost joy filled all her senses. She pressed the elevator button to the Psychiatry floor but then changed her mind to the newborn nursery instead.

"Kripa!" She waved at her friend excitedly from the window to the nursery.

A baffled Kripa put her stethoscope down, threw her gloves away and walked out to meet her friend.

"Kya hua Riddhima? Sab theek tho hai na?"

Riddhima held Kripa's hand and placed it on the lower part of her slightly protuberant belly, "feel this."

With a quizzical look, Kripa raised her eyebrows, "hmm? Mujhey tho kuch feel nahin hota."

Riddhima smiled tearfully and hugged Kripa, "I am so happy Kripa….aaj main sach much bahut khush hoon…..aur haan sirf apne liye khush hoon….aaj mere baby ne pehli baar mujhey kick kiya…..I felt the baby Kripa! He or she is alive…..a person…..a little precious one….aur main uski maa hoon Kripa!"

Kripa could not control her excitement; she cried out with joy, "SACH! OH MY GOD RIDDHIMA! I AM SO HAPPY…Armaan ko bataaya?"

"Nahin…sab se pehle tumhein bataane aayi thi….kyunki…kyunki," Riddhima wiped her tears, "kyunki tumhein sabse pehle bataana chaahti thi… yeh khushi kisi aur ki nahin…sirf meri hai…..I have never been happier Kripa….and I owe it to you to make me realize what is really important in life… aur promotions tho aate jaate rahenge……but what I felt today has no parallel in life….even Armaan cannot feel what I just felt….yeh ehsaas main zindagi bhar nahin bhool sakti."

Kripa cupped Riddhima's face in her hands, 'pagli kahin ki…..I think your hormones are making you a bit too emotional….bhagwan ne chaaha tho yeh din tumhari zindagi mein kayi baar aayega."

"Thanks Kripa," she smiled back and hugged her friend once more before she left to give her husband the big news.

Kripa walked back to the nursery, genuinely happy and relieved for her friend's happiness. As she resumed her work, she recalled her recent check up with Dr Mani.

"Kripa….I would strongly advise you not consider getting pregnant for a while."

Angad and Kripa were disappointed to hear Dr Mani's recommendation. Angad knew how eager Kripa was to become a mother, seeing the color fade away from her face pained him, but he knew Dr Mani would never give them wrong advise.

"Sir…lekin kyun? Kripa really wants to become a mother." Angad squeezed Kripa's hand under the table as he asked the doctor.

"Well first of all she has been on a lot of medicines to prevent rejection since her surgery…..and as you know they would not be safe for the baby…..and secondly, her kidneys are showing just a few signs of early rejection….nothing alarming….don't get too worried….but pregnancy could tilt the scales….I hope you understand…..we cannot take any chances."

Angad and Kripa lowered their heads dejectedly and swallowed their pain.

'Sir…when would it be safe?"

'May be a year or two." Dr Mani smiled.

"That's not too bad sir!" Angad smiled at Kripa, "we can be DINKS for two years."

"DINKS?" The middle aged doctor was confused, not used to modern day acronyms.

"Double Income No Kids!" Angad grinned, "and Kripa…we can take care of the Kishangarh project too."

"Yes of course," Kripa had a faint smile on her face.

Since that day, they had both resigned to postponing the most important decision of their married life. There were days when Kripa wondered if life had been unfair to them, had they faced more than a fair share of hurdles and obstacles than most couples do? Her best friend was unsure about her pregnancy while she could give up anything to experience that pleasure?

Kripa had learnt to comfort herself by thanking her fate for giving her the opportunity to live and give her a loving husband like Angad, a wonderful family and the best friends in the world. It was ironical that a man who delivered babies all day and a woman who took care of them all day, could not call one of them their own- at least not yet.

In a way, Riddhima's whole hearted acceptance of her impending motherhood felt less unjust to Kripa. Since their conversation in the cafeteria, Kripa had been irked about Riddhima's attitude towards her pregnancy, but today she was both relieved and reassured that life was not as unfair as she had thought.

What about the Grandparents-to-be?

As expected, Padma and Gauri were anxiously awaiting the birth of their first grandchild. Between the two women, they made sure Riddhima's health and welfare was being well taken care of. They even organized a godh bharai ceremony in the seventh month to receive blessings from all near and dear ones. To Kripa's delight, Gayatri and Surybhan arrived from Ajmer too. She insisted they stay back till Riddhima had delivered the baby as no one was a better expert than Gayatri on traditions, customs and rituals of Godh bharai and after care of the pregnant mother.

Abhimanyu was dying to find the sex of the baby but Armaan and Riddhima put their foot down- dad we want it to be a surprise.

"Lekin agar ladka hoga tho uska naam soch sakte hain na….I think it should start with A….just like mine and Armaan's……and then here,' he pointed to a blank space on the wall, "we can hang his picture next to all his ancestors!"

"Dad!" Armaan protested, "even I don't like my portrait over there…'s just so flashy… condescending to others…..main nahin chaahta hamara bachcha bhi apni khaandani izzat ka itna badha bhakt bane!"

"Armaan! You should be proud of your lineage….and so will my Arnav!" Abhimanyu scoffed and walked away.

'Arnav?" Armaan threw his arms in the air, "I hope it's an ARNAVI!"

"Arnavi?" Riddhima chuckled, "yeh kaisa naam hai?"

"Whatever Riddhima! Our child's name will NOT start with A….bas keh diya maine!" A disgusted Armaan walked back to his room.

Shashank on the other hand had resigned to the fact that he was actually becoming a grandfather. He realized that he had no control over Riddhima and she was going to live her life the way she wanted. Even as he chose to accept the truth, the news of another doctor in the Oncology department, less qualified than Riddhima (because he had not trained at Johns Hopkins), surpassing his daughter and getting a promotion ahead of his pregnant colleague peeved Shashank. If it were not for Padma's last minute interjection, he was ready to drive to Riddhima's house and give her a lecture on what she had just 'lost.'



After work, Armaan and Riddhima lazed around one evening as a very heavy and pregnant Riddhima sat on the bed with a book to help her fall asleep.

"Riddhima…aaj kal tum mujhse door door kyun rehti ho?" Armaan pouted and laid his head on her lap.

"Aaraam se Armaan!" She protected her belly as he plopped his head close to her belly.

"Ok baba! I guess the baby is more important than me now," he caressed her belly and kissed it gently.

'Aisi baat nahin hai Armaan," she smiled and ran her fingers through his hair, "I feel so bloated….so big…so unattractive……and so exhausted….kaise tumhare paas aaun?"

Armaan lifted his head and supported himself on his elbow, "soniye….yeh faisla mujh par chhod do…..mujhey tho tum pehle se bhi zyaada soni lagti ho," he drawled romantically and kissed her fingers.

He always had a way with words, especially with Riddhima.

"Achcha Dr aashiq….tumne abhi tak mujhey yeh nahin bataaya ki soni aur khubsoorat mein kya farak hai?" She giggled as his fingers made circles on her belly.

"They are one and the same thing…what a silly question," he was bemused.

"ARMAAN! You rascal!" She picked a pillow and pounded him mercilessly.

'Arre arre….kyun maar rahi ho? Baby sun raha hoga….kahega mere dad ko itna maarti hai tho mujhey kitna maaregi meri mom." He ducked.

'Shaadi se pehle itni meethi meethi baatein karte the….ki Riddhima tum kitni soni ho…..khubsoorat nahin soni ho….aur ab keh rahe ho it's one and the same thing?" She fumed.

Armaan laughed and threw the pillows away. He sat up and encircled his arms around her, "yahi tho farak hai khubsoorat aur soni mein…..khubsoorat sirf baahari sundarta hoti hai… know like a model on the ramp… an actress on the screen… a hot babe in playboy magazine."

"What?" She pulled away.

"Suno tho poori baat!" He pulled her closer, "khubsoorat ladki dekhne mein achchi lagti sirf….…….lekin soni," he kissed her cheek, "soni tho andar se bhi aur baahar se bhi sunder hoti hai…..usey dekhne ka…..choone ka……ehsaas karne ka…..sab mann karta hai."

Riddhima blushed and hid her face in his chest. They held each other for awhile till she felt the bed sheet soak in a warm fluid from inside her.

'ARMAAN!" She sat up aghast.

'What?" He was puzzled.

"I think I just broke my water!"

'WHAT?" he jumped off the bed and like a maniac ran to get his mother from downstairs.

'MOM! MOM! I think Riddhima just went into labor."



Although, it was 9 in the evening, it was like day break for the Mallik, Gupta and Khanna families. News of Riddhima's labor pains had spread like wild fire. Dr Keerti arrived promptly to deliver the young Mallik.

Angad and Kripa were at Riddhima's bedside along with an over anxious Armaan. A hyperventilating Armaan forgot he was Riddhima's breathing coach during labor and turned pale with each of her contractions.

Angad caught him just in time and soon there were two stretchers being wheeled into the labor room.

Gauri, Padma and Kripa accompanied Riddhima into the delivery room as Armaan was very much indisposed. Angad hung outside with Abhimanyu and Shashank. The three men hardly exchanged any words. Angad, used to this kind of tension on a daily basis, sat outside with a cup of coffee and newspaper and waited for the good news.

Abhimanyu and Shashank both paced restlessly; their hearts beating fast but their lips sealed, their eyes avoiding each other. Both were hoping to be the first one to hold their grandchild.

"I am sure the baby will have the characteristic Mallik nose!" Abhimanyu finally broke the ice.

Shashank smirked, "you mean zaroor se zyaada oonchi naak? I hope the baby has the Gupta brains!"

"You mean swollen headed?" Abhimanyu sneered.

Shashank stiffened at the comment and turned his head away. Angad looked up in disbelief and shook his head at their childishness.

"Mera dil kehta hai ki the best surgeon of this country is on his way." Abhimanyu inflated his chest and grinned proudly.

"No… chief of Sanjeevani!" Shashank snapped back.

While the dads battled their egos, Dr Keerti helped Riddhima push with each contraction. Padma and Gauri held Riddhima's hands on each side while Armaan, who had gained consciousness by then, paced nervously and bit his nails to his nail beds. Kripa checked the baby's heartbeat in the womb with each contraction. A steady and strong heart beat was soon replaced with a dangerously dipping heart beat as Riddhima kept pushing with each escalating contraction. Kripa knew that was an ominous sign especially when she saw the baby's head, ready to deliver, but glistening with green fluid (this sign is considered a sign of grave danger to the baby- it's called meconium staining).

Kripa gave a concerned look at Dr Keerti. They both knew the baby was not tolerating the labor pains well and was in distress. She nodded her head as Kripa switched roles from a best friend to a newborn doctor within seconds. The resuscitation kit, warmer and oxygen were soon ready to accept the potentially sick baby.

Riddhima let out a loud scream at the final push. Her shrill cry pierced Armaan's heart like a needle. Armaan ran to her bedside and finally took over from the two moms. At that moment, he knew she needed him more than anyone else. His fretfulness was soon replaced with soothing words of comfort and love as he held her trembling body and hands. He looked up and saw the apprehensive look on Kripa and Keerti's face. He raised his eyebrows curiously and worriedly, but the two women were engrossed in getting the baby out as soon as possible.

Gauri sensed the emergency and held Padma's hand, "chalo…hum bahar wait karte hain."

"Kya hua Gauri? Sab theek tho hai na?' Padma asked nervously.

"Padma….the baby is in distress….aise mauke par jitney kam log andar ho utna achcha hai…..let Keerti and Kripa do their job."

'Lekin Gauri…Riddhima?" Padma asked.

"Armaan hai na…wo sambhaal lega," Gauri said confidently.

"Armaan? Lekin wo tho khud pareshaan hai."

"Main apne bte ko jaanti hoon…..when it matters….he will deliver…chalo bahar aa jao." The two women crossed their fingers and walked out of the delivery room.

"KYA HUA?" Shashank and Abhimanyu dashed towards them.

"Relax Abhi……right now the baby is in distress…..we don't know anything yet." Gauri calmed her husband.

"WHAT?" Shashank was shocked, "kya hua? Main andar jaata hoon."

'NAHIN! AAP YAHIN RAHIYE!" Padma held her husband's arm forcefully. Angad sensed the emergency and quietly slipped into the delivery room.

Instead of seeing a wailing healthy newborn baby, he was stunned to see a limp and blue baby on the warmer as Kripa swiftly tried to resuscitate the little baby boy to life. Angad walked over to help Kripa revive the little one. It reminded him of their first few days in internship, except the stakes were much higher now- their best friend's baby was in grave danger!

Dr Keerti removed her gloves and walked over to Riddhima, " Riddhima…..congratulations…you are the mother of a beautiful baby boy…..bas thodi breathing mein problem ho rahi hai usey….Kripa is with him….don't worry."

A tearful Armaan held Riddhima's hand as she trembled and cried from pain and pleasure, 'Armaaaan…..kya hua hai hamare baby ko?"

Armaan glanced at Kripa and Angad nervously, "kuch nahin Riddhima…..he is just playing a prank with us."

"Tum chupa rahe ho kuch! I WANT MY BABY ARMAAN!" She wailed loudly as Angad and Kripa silently took the baby away to the ICU.

………………….to be contd………………….


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