The moment they laid a tiny, sticky skin and bones of a creature on my chest, joy and relief overcame me. A tear or two fell down my cheeks when I heard it wailing, felt its fragile limbs moving, gasping for air. There were frantic movements all around, but nothing else mattered. Because then I knew, my baby was out safely. Finally.
My husband — who had either been running errands or holding my hand, whispering encouragements since 4:30 AM of December 24th — didn’t dare ruin our moment with any funny comments or questions. Salman simply took photos of this 40-week-and-a-lifetime meeting quietly. I was sweaty, bloodied, and flushed, but I didn’t care. It was perfect. No filter needed.
A few moments later, he disappeared from my bedside. His happy voice then echoed along the hall with pride and excitement. The clock read 8:20 PM when he was out of the room, on the phone, calling everyone.
“Ma, it’s a boy. He’s almost 3 kilos.” Then he paused. “Uh, yes. They’re bathing him in the nursery now,” he went on.
“Ezra,” I told myself, half-laughing, half-sobbing.
Perhaps, it was exhaustion that kept me from remembering how Ezra looked like when they shortly took him away. I kept seeing my friend’s baby in my mind when I tried harder, but not my own. Ezra’s face was a blur. Was he just a dream? I guess I was just too tired to recall. Too tired for anything, really. Even for sleep.
The epidural and the laughing gas were gradually losing effect. And so, I was in a bit of a daze when I heard the doctor called for more anaesthesia. My 17-hour induced labour had receded into a memory by then. But by the time they were stitching me up, I could vaguely feel the puncture of the needle and the pulling of its thread.
The nurse — who taught me how to hold the handles on the side of my bed, look down my tummy, and push an hour ago — came in with a tray shortly after. She talked to Dr. Navdeep in a voice that was low enough for me to hear the scream of another mother in labour next door.
“Good. We finished earlier than them,” said a chucking Dr. Navdeep, who was forced to do episiotomy when he saw the baby had already let out his own feces halfway-through my 40-minute active labour.
“You did well!” he went on with a little white lie, less than an hour after he used the vacuum to hasten the process of taking Ezra out. He observed that I was becoming too weak to push, he later explained.
“How’s my baby, doc? Is he healthy? His hands and feet — no missing or extra fingers and toes, right?” I asked to distract myself of the discomfort.
“Haha, no,” Dr. Navdeep replied. “He’s fine and healthy, and normal. They will bring him down any minute and by then, we’ll be finished here. Just rest.”
“Thanks. Oh, don’t leave any bandages behind. Count your scissors and instruments carefully,” I went on, forgetting tact, still high.
I was alone in the cold delivery room for more or less 20 minutes when another nurse came in, pushing a bassinet. In it was Ezra, the reason for my being. He’s clean now. He was swaddled in a thick white towel, looking like a cute little rapper with a white hoodie around his face. Awake, he showed me his big peepers, which pierced through my soul instantaneously. They went with a pair of adorable eye bags. To make this angel look more like a mortal, I guess. The inner halves of his eyebrows were missing, but you can trace where they’re supposed to be just by looking at the deep scowl on his forehead. Small white spots sprinkled the centre of his pointed, low-bridged nose.
As I took note of every detail on his face, I remembered an episode when I was about 8 years old. I just picked up this fascination on the name Shawna. Or was it Samantha? Or any name that starts with an S. I liked the way they’re written in cursive, and I thought, if I were to have a daughter, I would name her Shawna or Samantha. If I had a son, Shawn or Sam. But if he were to be a boy, he wouldn’t probably like the way his name is written in cursive. Because boys hate writing in cursive, don’t they? Then, I wondered: If I were to have a baby boy, what would he look like? My imagination came up with nothing no matter how hard I tried. My dream didn’t carry any premonition, neither. I just remembered how badly I wanted to see my older self just to get a glimpse of his face, catch a bit of a teaser.
Half of my lifetime went by and it brought me there. In that whitewashed delivery room. With me holding the baby I so desperately wanted to see 25 years ago. Now, he’s here. He’s perfect. He’s real. And I can’t wait take care of him and give him a life better than I would have ever known.