A SERIES ON TRUE EXPERIENCES
“AT THE age of 33, when he was already the father of four children.” The line Mohun Biswas wrote every time he wanted to test a new ribbon for his typewriter came to me with a stark finality when I was 31, and childless.
Every recent month had gone by in a flurry of checking ovulation cycles, tears, routine trips to the doctor — all while an invisible biological clock kept ticking away, saying: It will get too late, be warned. And so my childlessness was beginning to alarm me.
At a pre-wedding function for a sister-in-law, I found myself isolated. All the other women in the family, their proud plumpness denoting their status as confirmed mothers, sang the ritual songs with a complete belonging. So many of our rituals and ceremonies are centred around motherhood.
I wasn’t ready but three years post marriage, my relatives, the people I spent most time with, weren’t ready to hear that answer either, and of course in course of time, neither was a part of me.
So when the signs were positive, I received the news with happiness and apprehension. I wasn’t ready, I thought, but then one isn’t really ready for most things ever. I listened to the doctor’s advice, went for the routine tests, recognised the onset of physical signs, and set about preparing myself mentally. No running, no stress. Expecting a baby is a gradual process, it grows on you, till one day you awaken feeling more responsible about life than ever before — someone else’s life.
And so I wasn’t ready when six weeks later, different, more alarming symptoms made themselves visible. Yes, a little bleeding was there. And pain too. Discomfort of course is part of the entire process. So I remembered the lines I had read, the advice I had received, and quelled my growing worries. I who hadn’t been ready for motherhood, wasn’t ready to receive any bad news yet.
The radiologist knew at once, and insisted on speaking to my doctor immediately. And avoiding my eyes, she looked at my husband, and explained, “She has to be operated on urgently.” As she spoke to my doctor, I learnt what an ectopic pregnancy was all about.
“It’s nothing,” said my sweet, ever friendly doctor. “It is just an embryo, with not even a proper heartbeat.” But ‘it’ for me was already a little girl or a boy who would love reading, who did this or that. “We aren’t going to operate,” she said, “that might cause too much blood loss… So we will just inject you.” She looked at me expecting to be thanked. “It’s an injection that kills cancerous cells. It will dissolve in no time.”
Four times over two days, she administered the injection to me, painlessly and expertly. They monitored my beta-HCG levels (to calculate pregnancy hormones), measured my waist and blood pressure, monitoring how ‘it’ left me, almost as if I were being exorcised.
I went home in less than a week, armed with medication, capsules and depression. She had warned me about that. “Any chemotherapy like treatment will induce that. You will get over it, come and talk to me,” she said in her cheerful doctor voice. But ‘it’ proved stubborn. ‘It’ was there in the heaviness I felt in my lower limbs, in the agonising pain that sometimes gripped me over the next few months, in the heavy bouts of bleeding, and in the emptiness for which I never had any words.
For almost a year, ‘it’ stayed in my system, more than a normal baby would have. I was again monitored monthly, given more capsules, till ‘it’ had no option but to leave. One day, months later, my beta-HCG levels were those of a normal woman. A normal, childless woman. I found I was speaking to myself again, “I am 32, a childless woman.”
Illustration: Samia Singh