With a shock, I realise that this is the ‘transition’ phase. I have studied the books and thought that I knew what to expect.
But this is not it. This is much too quick. What happened to the long period of contractions?
I have had very few and now this weird ‘all over the place’ state of mind. This baby is more ready than we are. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Go go go. Husband gets the car, Ali, our bearer, calm as always helps us get away smiling his reassurance through the window.
The Seventh-day Adventist hospital, the best in Karachi, is about 20 minutes away and we arrive at 7.30am. In such a male-dominated culture, the maternity ward is a haven of female life. Not only is it a place of mothers and babies, but here, it is women in charge and women making the decisions and doing the work. There are no male doctors trained to take these positions.
The corridors are full of the overflow of beds and women shouting, as seems to be the custom in times of grief or pain. The noise is amazing, yet I hear someone say – “look at that foreigner, she is not making such a fuss”.
I am hustled straight into the delivery room after a quick assessment of my state of readiness. No time for enemas or shavings, or reflections. Our baby arrives at 8.15am as the doctor is scrubbing her hands and shouting – “don't push yet!” But now, pushing is the only thing that I can do. No power on earth can stop me. So I push as hard as I can. The time for shouting or anything else is over.
The doctor is there making sure that all is well, doing her job and smiling at me over my knees with her eyes. An easy one – she says and we all smile.
We spent about 12 days in the ward as I was treated for suspected blood clots in my legs. It was December, Pakistan’s winter, and the concern was to keep my blood warm and flowing. A team of nurses would arrive with hot wet blankets that they had soaked in a bath of hot water and then rung out by hand. They also brought sheets of clear plastic. These would be wrapped around my legs and left to cool. This process would be repeated every four hours or so. Apart from the weight on my legs and a bit of discomfort, this was an enjoyable, companionable business with lots of laughing and sign language.
For me this whole period was bliss, with the novelty and special feeling of being surrounded and cared for in this all-female atmosphere, as well as having nothing to do all day but feed my baby. An added bonus was the curiosity and overwhelming friendliness of all the staff. It was a wonderful experience and remains a treasured memory.
Our baby has just had his 41st birthday.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem