We are three now

Luca Nikhil Krishnan arrived Sunday morning – 3 weeks early, barely topping 6 pounds on the scale, but otherwise healthy and hungry and delivered in Troyes.

If you’re thinking …."that all made sense until he got to the bit about delivering in Troyes"… you’re not going to get any pushback from us! After going through 9 months of sonograms and gynaec appts and anaesthesiologists and what-not…all geared towards producing the perfect, delivery experience in a clinic in Paris, you’d think we’d manage to do our part and show up where & when we were supposed to.

But Luca had other plans.

We left Paris Friday night for Grancey – a roughly 3 hr drive into Burgundy. Sophie spent Saturday mostly taking it easy while I was puttering around the yard attacking assorted pieces of undergrowth with sharp, metal objects. Sometime around 6pm, Sophie’s fixing dinner. I ask her if she wants to go for a pre-dinner walk, as we often do. She says no – the tummy is a bit sore.

Now …. it’s highly unusual for Sophie to say no to a walk – unless her foot is falling off or something. It should have set me thinking. But it didn’t. Instead I thought – maybe I can go get a bike ride in before dinner. In the bedroom upstairs struggling to get my bike shorts on (sympathy weight can do that to you), I hear Sophie beating it up the stairs.

"I don’t think you’re going biking", she says. "My water just broke!"


Come again!

But she’s not joking. It’s for real.


I don’t know where the nearest hospital is. And it’s August in France, which is when everyone is on vacation. And I mean EVERYONE is on vacation – the neighborhood butcher, baker, lawn-mower distributor – all gone!

Panic ensues. Sophie runs downstairs to find a phonebook and a cell phone. Mamita (Sophie’s grandma) is on the land-line calling up everyone in the village with a medical connection. Friends in Paris are on the phone, running web searches for hospitals in the region. All the rapidfire French is making me dizzy, so I pack our bags and load up the car. A frantic 15 min later, we’ve identified a likely target – a public hospital in Troyes, roughly an hour away if we don’t get lost. Maps and cellphone numbers are thrown around, and then we’re on our way.

Sophie is in the passenger seat – the seat on full recline. She’s looking at a map while dialing her brother (because he might know the route). Meanwhile the first contraction shows up. It’s mild. But it’s a contraction and what do I know! "Ok, we’re going to time your contractions" I tell her. I’m having mental flashes of Sophie delivering in the front seat with me pulling and tugging on a little head. God save us if that happens. She’s calling the hospital now – to see if they can take us in. There’s a discussion about contractions and pain levels that I only get half of. But they can atleast tell us how she’s doing and whether we can make it to Paris. I floor the gas pedal. This is the time when the story to the cop about your wife being pregnant is actually true. I almost wish a cop would start chasing us, sirens and all. And it’d clear all the traffic in front of us.

By the time we screech into the driveway of the emergency ward, Sophie’s contractions are coming like clockwork and now only 3 min apart. Lot of adrenaline in the air. We half-walk, half-run into the building. The nurse figures out what’s going on from 20 yards away. A wheelchair shows up. Sophie is installed and wheeled to the maternity ward. We’re greeted by a cheery nurse – "Dont’ worry, you’re in good hands now" she says. I feel the soothing tug of relief. We made it across the finish line. Just minutes away from disaster. Oh what a close shave!

Then …. well ….Nothing!

I mean… nothing happens! Sophie’s contractions vanish. No more pain,no more 3-min intervals, no more finish line. Eh? Where’s the baby that we almost delivered on the side of the road? We sit around waiting – Sophie’s now wearing a kind of glorified diaper and a hospital gown, but otherwise doesn’t look anything like a woman in labor. I’m confused.

Two hours pass. "You should go walk around a bit", the nurse says. Ok. Not like we got much going on at this point. So we start walking. And – just like that – the contractions are back. Not little itty-bitty ones either. These are fist-clenching spasms that bring Sophie to her knees – literally – every 5 minutes. Wow. "I see what they mean by labor is really painful" I think.

That was only the beginning.

A few hours later – it is now the dead of night and there is no one else in the hospital but us. The spasms are coming harder now.

No, that’s an understatement.

The spasms are unloading themselves in rip-roaring, gut-busting, stomach-churning bursts. Sophie is in some real pain here. I’m supposed to tell her to breath soft – like the nurse said – but I’m afraid she’ll decapitate me if I try.

The nurse comes in every hour to check on progress. The uterus has to dilate and "3 cm" is the magic number. At 3 cm of dilation, Sophie can get an epidural – which is like the biggest, baddest drug-fix ever. No hallucinations in la-la land. But going from contractions to complete loss of sensation must seem like nirvana to a pregnant woman. Sophie’s definitely motivated. She offers to kill the nurse. I am sent off to do battle for oral painkillers but I get yelled at by a gang of matronly mid-wives upset because I was walking around in the "staff only" portions of the hospital at 3am.

Though, our nurse (really a midwife) sounds super-competent. Everything she’s said had worked out so far. So I take my chances with ignoring Sophie’s new-found expertise on narcotics for pregnant women.

A few more agonizing hours later – Sophie is just about tuckered. And just in time, because the nurse checks once more and we’re at 3 cm. Yippee! What more could one ask for in life than a 3cm uterus when you need it? More nurses show up and Sophie is wheeled off to the delivery room for her fix. God bless pharmaceuticals!

After that, things get much more congenial. My wife is chirpy and chatty while the doctors and nurses run around poking at various beeping monitors. They time each contraction and tell Sophie to push in step with it. There’s much yelling and shouting to boost her morale. And after some pushing and shoving, Luca slips out and is layed down on Sophie’s stomach. He’s unhappy, squirms a bit, but then settles down on the warmth of mummy’s tummy. He looks like a mess.

The nurses whip him away to the examination room. Tubes are inserted into his nostrils. He gets a good wipedown. He starts to protest. Lying bare naked on a cold table is really pissing him off. It’s good to hear him cry. He is measured and weighed and examined and finally wrapped in layers. His clothes are several sizes too big – stuff borrowed from the hospital because we have nothing on us that we can dress him in. I need to make a trip to Paris to go get his stuff. But for now, I just get to sit there and hold him for a bit, watch him squirm and try to find a warm corner in his sleepsack.

Sophie is looking tired and happy.

We are three now.

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