The maternity ward
The maternity ward
HE was pacing up the verandah restlessly. Anxiety, worry and impatience writ large on his face, he would often walk up to the room and then return disappointed on looking at the closed door. He moved uneasily.
He must be around 25, and handsome. He was there even before I had arrived. And I had been observing him ever since I came. He was the only male among the women waiting there.
It was a maternity ward in the government hospital. There were about a dozen women – old and the middle-aged, some sitting on the lone old wooden bench and some squatting on the floor in the verandah outside the labour room. I too was sitting on the floor, as there was no space on the bench.
The man had been pacing up and down the verandah, with his looks fixed on the closed door of the labour room.
It was a summer morning and the sun had been very harsh from the morning itself. There was a lot of humidity causing profuse sweating. The lone, high-ceiling fan in the verandah was hardly effective. But none of the people assembled there seemed to mind the discomfort.
The cries of the women undergoing labour pains were being heard from inside the room every now and then. And these cries visibly frightened those waiting outside.
I too was worried. For, it was more than three hours since my daughter-in-law was taken inside as she had developed labour pains since morning. She was yet to deliver. My heart sank whenever I heard her painful cries. It was her first pregnancy. I prayed to the Almighty to bless her with an easy, quick delivery and to save her.
Similarly, anxiety, fear and worry could be clearly seen on all the faces there, as all of them had sent their dear ones inside the room for delivery.
“My poor daughter wanted to undergo the family planning operation after her second child, but her husband would not agree. As the earlier issues are both girls, he insisted on waiting till a boy is born”. Suddenly, the old woman sitting beside me confided in me. “I am very much worried about her, as she has become very weak physically”.
I could see a mother’s concern in her voice. “God is great! Everything will be ok,” I tried to reassure her.
“Who is inside – your daughter or the daughter-in-law?” She enquired of me after a while. I told her.
The man looked more restive now. His body language betrayed his mounting tension. He was walking up to the door and then turning back abruptly. He was looking at the door expectantly whenever the labour cries were heard and subsided.
I felt pity for him. It is not for a man to undergo the ordeal. For, men cannot bear the situation. It is a different matter for a woman, however.
Apparently his wife was undergoing labour pains inside, and I could guess it from his behaviour. I could not resist laughing inside as he was looking at his watch quite often. The delivery would not occur according to the watch. The ‘nature’ has its own agenda and schedule. He looked like an embodiment of impatience of the present day youth. Perhaps, there was no other female member in his family to assist him. Sending his wife inside, he had been suffering the labour pains himself.
Suddenly the door of the room opened and an old nursing sister came out.
The man rushed to her. He talked something to her in a hushed tone.
Her eyebrows narrowing, she had again gone inside.
He now went and stood at the corner of the verandah, consulting his watch.
One of the women had asked him for the time.
“Eleven-forty five,” he told her.
He had now started for the door and stopped midway as if he had changed his mind. He walked back to the corner of the verandah and stood there impatiently.
I felt pity even as I watched him. I could understand how much tension he had been undergoing. ‘He would not have imagined the pain of the situation when he had dragged his wife into the bed,‘ a faint smile appeared on my lips. Each labour cry of his wife must be piercing his heart.
His wife should deliver easily and fast, so that he could be relieved of all the tension, I sincerely wished. For, any further delay seemed to drive him mad.
The door was opened once again, and this time, a young nursing sister in her early twenties, had emerged out of the room.
His eyes twinkling at her sight, the man almost ran towards her.
She smiled at him.
Holding her hand, he took her to the far end of the verandah.
There he talked something to her in a hurried tone, showing his watch. She was replying to him with a smile.
I strained my ears out of curiosity, but nothing was clear.
After a few minutes, he pressed her hand with a broad smile, and hurried out whistling to himself jollily.
I watched him going down and starting the motorcycle. He sped away and disappeared outside the hospital’s main gate.
His wife must have delivered, and definitely it would not have been a case of cesarean. That must be the reason for the sparkle in his eyes and his jolly mood, I reckoned.
Even as the young nurse was returning to the room, the woman who was earlier talking to me got up and approached her. “Oh, that man was dying of tension for quite sometime now“ she said to the nurse. “Has his wife delivered safely? Is it a boy or a girl?”
The nurse looked puzzled and queried, “Whose wife?”
“That young man’s wife”.
I had strained my ears out of curiosity.
The nurse looked surprised, and asked the old woman, “Who said that his wife was to deliver?”
Her query had plunged all of us present there into a quandary.
Quite confused, the old woman said, “He has been full of tension and restless for the past couple of hours. If it is not his wife’s delivery, whatever it means?”
Suddenly, the nurse’s cheeks became pink with blushing. “He has not come for wife’s delivery. He is unmarried, in fact…” She said. “He has come for me”.
Her words had stunned all of us.
“But…the tension…his restlessness and anxiety…how do you explain, then?” remarked another woman amazed.
The nurse flashed a cozy smile, and explained thus:
The man was her boy friend. He had procured tickets for the noon show of the megastar’s new release, for both of them. He could not convey the message to her, as she was held up in the labour room on duty since early morning. So he had come down to take her to the show. As he was unable to communicate to her, and the time was ticking away, he became restless. Now she had assured to meet him at the restaurant opposite the hospital in fifteen minutes.
We all felt stumped.
While retreating, she smiled at us shyly and said, “We love each other!” leaving all of us gaping at her.