27 April 2020, 9:46 AM.
|Today is the day.
I am going to be induced because our baby’s head is getting a little too big for her own good. So here I am, at my obstetrician’s clinic, all alone. Tim isn’t allowed to enter the clinic because of COVID-19 precautionary measures. And I hate that I don’t have his hand to hold during this whole painful process of labour induction.
|27 April 2020, 10:13 AM.|
|It’s a weird feeling for me to be left out of the conversation.
Call it an occupational hazard or a personality thing, but I’ve always been involved – whether by choice or circumstance – in the crucial happening of the moment. Yet in this moment I find myself sitting outside the clinic, on the cold metal bench at the lift lobby of Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, while my wife awaits her consultation with our obstetrician. If all goes well, our 38-week term baby will enter the world today. And whatever Gladys is going through right now, I am not in that conversation.
|27 April 2020, 12:07 PM.|
|Dining-in is an impossibility, all benches marked with an ‘X’ to prevent loitering, and we can’t eat in the clinic. So here I am at the lobby of the hospital, feeling otherworldly pains, wondering how to get my lunch. Big notices saying ‘NO EATING ALLOWED’ cover every visible surface, almost as a response to my hunger pangs. The only option left is to cross over to Paragon and get some takeaway, hoping for some leniency from the clinic. It’s a good thing the shopping mall is a literal ghost town. No one can see that every fourth step I’m taking, I contort my legs and twist my body to alleviate my contraction pains, involuntarily making the same face of constipation which on any given non-COVID day would earn me judgemental looks from passersby.|
|27 April 2020, 4:25 PM.|
|In some ways, the hospital is the only place in Orchard Road that actually feels like a public space. Masks don’t look out of place in this environment, there are strangers everywhere, and apart from the queue for entry, things look like they are the same. The only indication that they are anything but is the repeated instruction to keep my mask on even while alone with Gladys in the delivery suite. The repeated reminder that strictly no visitors are allowed, kin or kind. I wonder if the first time my child hears my voice, it will be a muffled greeting behind meltblown. I wonder if this is the experience my parents and parents-in-law anticipated with the birth of their first grandchild. I wonder if Gladys wonders these things while she lies there, waiting for dilation, both of us absolutely clueless for what comes next – in every sense and aspect there is in what ‘next’ means.|
|27 April 2020, 9:57 PM.|
|It’s been more than 12 hours since induction, and last we checked I was only 6 cm dilated. Still some way to go. But what is this I feel below – is it a head? A huge lump of poop? I think it’s a head. I call on the nurse to check. She exclaims. HEAD.|
|The nurses make their brisk well-practised movements around the delivery bed, opening up sterile equipment and counting the apparatus. More than once I apologise for getting in the way.|
|I am shivering, it’s cold in here. Or is it? Is it nerves I feel? I’m terrified. Perhaps excitement? Probably both. I watch the hustle around me. I know it is close.|
|Dr. Ann enters with an air of authority and warmth, the contradiction serving to calm the helpless father-to-be of a child ready to breathe for the first time.|
|Pushing a baby out is like a game. You get the timing synchronised. You wait for the cues given by the nurses who are feeling for contractions. When it’s time, everyone screams for me to push so I do. This is a pushing game, and boy did I PUSH.|
|It is curious that in the most pivotal moment of my life thus far, my identity as a problem-solver at work or a cause-fighter in life means nothing – I am helpless save for an arm of encouragement.|
|Maybe a little too fast and furious as I hear the urgent cry from Dr. Ann to SLOW DOWN. I know we are coming to the final push even though it’s been fewer than 10 pushes so far. Every difficult moment in the past 9 months flashes in my mind – like being tested for COVID twice, hospitalised for a persistent fever, endless days of nausea and faint-spells. It’s all coming to an end.|
|The world is in invisible chaos and lockdown, an age like no other. But all that fades away as I see a little human being fall into the arms of our doctor. This is our new beginning.|
what a mad world and time in which we’ve been blessed by your arrival.
Gladys is a music educator imparting to young kids an appreciation for the arts and what it builds. Tim is a nonprofit executive working in leadership and entrepreneurship development for youths and their role models. Both have recently started on-job-training to learn how to decipher baby cries, function on interrupted sleep, and manage overly excited grandparents in a pandemic.