A reserved kid barely 7 years old, I struggled to make a place for myself in my peer group.
I did not have the courage to go out there and announce to the 'cool confident' people, that this is me.. I also want to play with you.
I was too reserved and gawky to do that.
Each day, I would think I'll join my neighbours the next day and each day would pass.
Looking outside the window every night, a jambul tree swayed and the air made shrill noises.
I looked outside each night and prayed for a day when I play the game that I loved the most, with 'them'.
But it just did not seem to happen.
The country has witnessed the brouhaha over Lokpal bill over the last few months.
Reaching a fever pitch, it finally ended yesterday with the civil society of India claiming victory.
But was it a victory? Yes and no.
What exactly is a daddy? The head of the family?
Father of a child?
Characteristically yes, but in reality, much more.
Father is a term, societally. Through the heart, a lot more.
A lot of us, including me, wondered, what the dad-to-be's role was during pregnancy and labor.
My best friend, Google, helped me a lot.
But still, the differing opinions of each single individual only added to the confusion.
Apart from the questions about what the father's role is to be, there are also a multitude of questions on what is good for the baby and what is not.
The questions, trust me, just tear you apart.
Because it's your baby and not somebody else's.
Unborn still, yet you feel like questioning the doctor, the medication, doing a lot of research over the internet, even though your doc is trustworthy.
Is the baby doing fine? Is the position right? Are so many scans ok for the baby?
I had most of these questions like any other doting, worried dad-to-be.
The bottomline was : We did not have prior knowledge. We were first time parents.
All we relied on, was reviews and learnings on the internet(the internet was quite helpful though :) )
Now, my wife, Tina, is a voracious internet reader. She googled a lot and came to know of an institue which had their Lamaze classes in Hyderabad, India.
We chose this particular one, Healthy Mother India.
You can find them here.
Lamaze classes are subtle exercises which both mom and dad can learn, they wont change things dramatically or exponentially, but can definitely help you weather the storm and make it appear like a manageable wind.
That night, we decided, let's give it a shot, we'll learn some exercises, even if nothing else helps.
So we took the leap, and what a life-changing leap it was.
Through the classes, we learnt that exercises were a small part of the course, any exercise cannot last 6 weeks with a session for 3 hours every week. We hadn't signed up for gymming.
It included counselling and the essence of what motherhood and fatherhood are like.
Tips on what to do and how most of the 'what-not-to-dos' are just myths.
Two weeks into it, we were now more clear in the mind, on what is a myth and what is hearsay.
We started questioning, not just doctors who take undue advantage of the ignorance of the people on the subject, but our own traditional unfound beliefs as well.
People always raised an eye-brow on why Tina continued to go to work even in her 8th and 9th month of pregnancy.
We were now confident of what we were doing.
This is very important, because as a parent, if you are not confident of what you are doing, then you will start believing whatever people around you say. Most of it, again would not be trustworthy.
Knowledge is the key, and there are multiple ways of getting it.
Internet, personal counselling, classes like the one we attended, all help.
Specially in India, there would be lot of people telling you what to eat and what not to eat, where to go and what not to do.
Advice is free like air!
But, right advice? not free... you gotta earn it.
Let me tell you, in the ninth month, Tina and I went to watch movies in normal multiplexes on weekends with good amount of crowd. We had dinner in restaurants.
Tina continued her office till the day just before delivery.
To be frank, the only 'to-do' thing is to be normal.
Apart from this, the one question which will haunt most 'aware' parents(to the ignorant and muharat fans, this won't matter, enjoy the bliss of your ignorance) is whether a normal delivery can be ensured.
This question was also stinging our minds.
Fortunately for us, our instructor Dr. Vijaya Krishnan, put a lot of sanity in the thought process.
We then questioned our OB/gynaec whom we had been consulting for a good long 6 months.
The hospital was super reputed, so was the gynaec.
For obvious reasons, I wouldn't name both of them, take this, they are considered to be really good and their C-section rates are close to 80%, I gave them a lot of benefit of doubt there.
But for that benefit of doubt, I think they would cross 80% conveniently.
Our OB would hardly recognize us among the scores of patients everyday.
Slowly but surely, the practices of the corporate hospital were also putting us off.
Every visit would entail a scan, new medicines, checkups and appointments for the next visit.
It was like a completely well thought out business strategy.
On the other hand, 3-4 weeks of Lamaze classes and counselling had a telling effect on our psyche, on how to deal with the problem on hand.
No longer, were we just audience, we were the players, the game was ours, we had to play.
We couldn't be allowed to just sit and watch, we had to take control.
That's when we decided, it was time to quit.
We quit the hospital we followed for months, we did not have any complaints against the doctor we visited, it was just the unfriendliness and the mechanization of the whole process which prompted us to cut off.
Now, actively, we pursued the midwifery model of delivery, prenatal checks which revolved more around asking the mother how she felt in the past few days and analyzing each single detail in case there were any troubles.
This was in stark contrast against the atmosphere of assembly line tests that we were used to.
Each session lasted half to an hour and it revolved only around one thing - the Mother.
The baby checks were minimal. Apart from the position and the heart rate check, as long as the mother was fine, we always concluded the baby was fine.
Now, isn't this how mother nature meant it to be?
Are any of the mammals around us subjected to the kind of assembly line business oriented checks prenatally?
All through this, I was a part, not just a spectator.
I was with her in the room always, not just a driver who drove her to the clinic.
Clinic is the wrong word, its a natural birthing center.
Through the thick and thin, like they say, in illness and health, I was with her, every checkup, every visit... noting every detail of the supplements she needed, every food which would help her.
I asked her, is there something else I could do?
She said, is there something else I could ask for? This is all.
Those are the kind of words which made my day everyday!
The day was nearing... we waited with bated breath.
She broke her bag of waters on the morning of 3rd August.
Did we panic? Yes.
Did the education help us? A big yes, inspite of the panic, we knew what to do.
Note the color and the texture and call Vijaya :)
That's what we did, the support was tremendous, 6 in the morning, she was on the phone asking Tina the details she needed.
We went for an intermediary check that afternoon to the birthing center.
All was well, but it could happen anytime, with this result we drove back home.
That night the contractions started, I panicked again... but that's the thing.
You would anyway panic, because you are human and it concerns you... but few minutes into it, sanity prevailed.
I got a diary out, started timing the contractions.
It was 930 PM on the 3rd of August.
They progressed well, started occurring more frequently and for longer durations.
We called Vijaya again, she just asked us to keep timing them and informing her about it every few hours.
I was thankful for that kind of support in the midnight.
It was about 230 AM on 4th August, when I thought that writing the timings of the contractions needed some innovation.
I googled a bit and found the contraction timer.
For all you people reading this, you can find it here.
It's an easy to use tool. All you have to do is press a Start/Stop button and it gives you the exact timings to milliseconds and also tells you the time between contractions. :)
Wow, some good innovation!
Next morning, 4th of August at about 5 AM, Vijaya called us to the birthing center.
Armed with our delivery bag, we set out, the roads were empty... drive was smooth.
All through the drive I just remembered one thing I learnt, "Babies don't fly out"
Even if there was traffic, they would give you a cool 3-4 hours time so that you reach your care provider.
So all you dads worried about the travel time to the care provider, relax. It happens only in movies!
And if its a bluemoon and it happens with you in the car, then whoa.. you are a movie star!
The contractions kept getting stronger, by now, I was moving like a trained mid...maybe husband :D
Just stayed with her, held her, wherever she needed help, helped her with various positions.
Vijaya and Marianne, the two docs who helped us through the whole thing stood there like pillars who gave strength to the whole structure to stand.
They kept analyzing how and when what was happening, the heartrate of the baby every 15 mins.
They told us positions we hadn't heard about in the classes too.
It was on the job learning. I held Tina right through it.
It was a long long labor. But with it I saw the beauty of all of it.
Nothing is left to chance, nothing is left unplanned by the nature.
Each single contraction, each single pain produces hormones which release endorphins which act like pain killers and help you weather the process.
The birthing process is so beautifully crafted in a way that you cannot imagine, its a process that will teach you that no amount of science can replicate such a deeply intricate process.
Each step in itself is a marvel.
Step 1 releases a hormone that leads to Step 2, Step 2 releases another which leads to step 3.
You can only marvel at all this as a Dad, simply because your body is not capable of this.
The female body is.
I was astounded, a little scared to see the lengths to which Tina was able to pull it off, she grunted like a beast, possessed, to deliver her baby.
This is the nature's path breaking moment which comes in every mother's life, and I would plead to all the ladies, let it come the way it is meant to come.
Do not tamper, unless there is some complication you are going through.
After a long labor and pushing using multiple positions, the angel surfaced.
Surfaced at 1540 India time, 4th of August, 2011.
Tired after a lot of work, the baby looked a little worn out too :)
But a pat on her back and she screamed... screamed like there was no tomorrow.
And I, I just stood there standing.
I stood standing without a single word escaping my lips.
My eyes were not moist, they were wet.
I had just experienced the spectacle, the birth of my daughter.
Words failed me, I thanked God and nature for what they built into a small square foot of the mother's body.
I thanked God and nature for the intricate processes which they built, processes which are foolproof, processes which never had to go through a CmmI or an ISO rating.
I thanked Vijaya and Marianne for all their experience and support.
But yet, I just stood there standing.
What's a dad anyway?
Nothing much, but he can support. Support that his baby will call him by a name tomorrow : 'Papa'.
Love to my baby Advika, my wife Tina(or Shiva as she is officially known), to my parents and my care providers Vijaya and Marianne without whom it wouldn't have been possible.
I'll leave you with a few pictures of the cutie!