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Payal’s pregnancy had been so eventful. After 2 miscarriages, her 3rd pregnancy was one filled with hope, fear, delight, caution and what now. For the first 2 months, she suffered from severe Hyperemesis gravidarum that she had to be hospitalized twice. Both times, she feared losing her baby. But she came out of it. As she entered the 4th month, she started feeling better and the fear of miscarriage was not like a dreadful cloud that hung over her. But during one of her regular screenings, she showed up positive for Down syndrome. The doctor recommended an amniocentesis (in which amniotic fluid is sampled using a hollow needle inserted into the uterus, to screen for abnormalities in the developing fetus). Amniocentesis carries a small risk of miscarriage and so, the cloud came back over Payal’s head. The amniocentesis went off without any complications, and the baby tested negative. Before Payal could heave a sigh of relief, another storm came her way. She was diagnosed with placenta previa (low-lying placenta covering her birth canal) and was immediately advised bed rest. This put Payal into a severe depression, but she had no choice, but to follow doctor’s orders. Payal’s husband, Roshan and mom tried to be as supportive as they could, even when Payal’s mother-in-law was cursing the ill-luck that Payal brought on. Roshan had no choice but to send Payal to her mom’s house, so that she could be saved from his mother’s constant taunting. Roshan not being around pulled Payal further into depression. At 27 weeks, Payal went into pre-term labour and the doctor had to do an emergency C-section to save the baby and the mother.

Little Naina was put in the NICU and labeled as Extreme preterm. Her lungs were not developed and she was hooked up to a respirator. Her nutrition was sent through IV. She had hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), jaundice and urinary tract infection. Under all the tubes, she looked very tiny. Payal was wheeled into the NICU a day after the birth. She couldn’t see the tubes, she couldn’t see the bandages and needles; she just saw the lovely angel, in all her glory, fighting to survive. Payal didn’t cry, she didn’t fret; she just leaned over and said, “Hi princess, Hi Naina. Amma is here. And we will be going home soon”. Next to Payal, Roshan looked a mess. But when he heard Payal showing such strength, Roshan was amazed. He looked over Payal and spoken is his baby, “Naina. Appa is here as well. You are going to be awesome”. Payal spent some time looking and admiring the awesome being that she brought into the world, before she was wheeled back into the room.

In the room, Payal had a long discussion with the pediatrician and quickly made a list of things to do. She began pumping her breastmilk and insisted that the baby (though tube-fed currently), should be fed her pumped milk and not formula. Payal then made regular visits to the NICU (as much as she was permitted) and sang to her baby, spoke to little Naina and told her what an awesome baby she was. With the pediatrician’s encouragement, she started holding Naina skin-to-skin as much as she could. In 5 days time, Payal was ready to be discharged. She said she will not go home without her baby. The hospital was a very busy one and couldn’t allocate the room further to Payal and said that she can go home and visit her baby once a day. But Payal was persistent. She said she will sit in the waiting area. This was clearly discouraged by the doctors, nurses and family members, as Payal needed rest to recover from her Cesarean birth. There were risks involved. Payal understood the risks, but it broke her heart to go home empty handed without the baby. In came Payal’s savior, Sister Ananya, the head nurse from the pediatric NICU department. She offered Payal her nurse’s resting station, where Payal can rest, take naps and pump milk for the baby. Roshan had to return to work, but Payal bravely carried on, sleeping in the cramped quarters, resting, so she got the energy to take care of her baby, and visiting the NICU regularly. The NICU staff was astonished at this young mom’s hope and persistence. Payal was kept company by her mom, who brought her food and by her husband, who gave company in the evenings. But she was alone at nights. Payal did not stop her breastmilk pumping and skin-to-skin with her baby. Her positivity inspired other NICU moms to start doing the same. As Naina entered the 32nd week, she suddenly stopped breathing. Tense moments passed in the NICU as the doctors tried reviving the little one. Payal immediately requested the doctor to place Naina on her chest as the doctors continued reviving her. The colour slowly came back on Naina’s skin and she began breathing.

The next day, late morning, as Payal tried to settle in for a nap, she saw the shadow of a woman at the end of the lobby, holding a lunch carrier. As the woman approached closer, Payal realized it was her mother-in-law. Payal was shocked to see her. She hadn’t visited Payal or the baby ever since Payal was admitted in the hospital. Payal was dreading the visit. She was worried her mother-in-law might bring up the topic of ill-luck again. Payal was already stressed and tired. She had no energy to take in anything her mother-in-law would say. Her mother-in-law sat quietly beside Payal. This was not the face of the woman who came to curse Payal. This was the face of a woman who hadn’t slept in days. This was the face of a woman who had been constantly thinking about Payal and Naina. This was the face of the woman who had been praying every single day since Payal had been admitted. This was the face of a woman who was full of guilt. She sobbed quietly holding Payal’s hands. Payal didn’t say a word. She understood. She gave her mother-in-law a big hug and let out all the tension and stress. Once both women became calm, Payal took her to the NICU to see her grand-daughter for the first time. As the grandmother put her hands to touch the little one’s hand, Naina immediately grasped her finger with her little hand. Grandma gave out a huge smile. By 34 weeks, positivity had engulfed the entire family. Payal and Naina were ready to go home. As the beautiful survivor and her hero mother left the NICU and the hospital after 7 weeks, the entire staff gave them a warm, wonderful sendoff. Hence began Naina’s journey from the NICU into the beautiful world waiting for her.

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