The pink head with a shock of raven hair appears first and then i face straight at the tightly shut eyelids, button nose and rosy lips. Then come the small hands and then the tiny feet. Reshma is still unconscious as i pat the young one. The baby boy lets out a sound scream that reverberates along the maternity ward. As i remove my grubs, wash and move out of the theatre, my eyes go again to Reshma to check her vitals. Still unconscious. I crane my neck to look at the little one blissfully asleep near the new mother. Satisfied, i stroll along to my room. The huge Christmas tree adorned with tiny colorful lights tinkling on the corridor catches my attention. I walk doggedly to the tree and stand in silence near the manger. Folding my hands i stand in a quiet prayer, as baby Jesus sleeps on His bed of straw. The sight of the sleeping boy who was born just then flashes by my mind. Shaking my head, i stumble to my room. I can have some peace, at last.
The couple before me look quite ordinary to me, must be another pregnancy confirmation, i think as i gesture them to sit on the chairs. The girl is robust, happiness showing in her whole 5 ft 4 inches frame and the color fanning her pink cheeks. I check the case sheet to find nothing and nudge them to speak. He was ill for the past six months, she complained. Stomach pain, treated as ulcer with all proper medicines. I write out a normal endoscopy just to be sure. As they walk hand in hand outside the room, i admire the deftness with which he held her little fingers. One loving and cute pair, i say to myself.
As i examine the reports, all i can feel is professional sincerity. Something is wrong, i think as i write down the name of the top oncologist on my prescription pad and hand it over to the couple. " Please go and meet him as soon as possible. Let us see what he has to say on these reports." I couldn't bring myself to meet the eyes of the young woman who looks at me with earnest eyes. I know what would happen if i open the news here, better, let the oncologist explain. I couldn't bear to shatter the happiness of them.
Few weeks later...
As i call upon the next patient, Raj enters the room. He is nowhere near the shadow of the young man whom i had met two weeks earlier. He is looking pale as death, gaunt with a thick stubble on his chin. " I have something personal to discuss with you, Doctor", he quips. I intently listen to what is being told and silently admire his courage. Again i pull out a sheet of paper, scribble down the name of the sperm bank, make a few phone calls and turn to him. He is in terrible pain, that i can see. " You have an appointment with them tomorrow at ten", i reiterate. He nods and thanks me for the help. As he staggers to the exit in excruciating pain, i am feeling numb and i spend the whole day in a dull and melancholic haze.
That was the last day i saw Raj. He had died in a week. It is almost a month later that she appears in my clinic. Bloodshot eyes, all color drained from her face, thin and wallowy, she makes a sad sight. She hands me a crumpled sheet of paper that she must have read and re-read hundreds of times. The scrawl was almost undecipherable, probably written with great difficulty. It read-
"My darling wife,
I know i am leaving you. My end is near and i can feel it. You too know my days are numbered. These six months of our wedded life have been the happiest of my life. We woke up in delight, ate in company, spoke with love, made love with passion. If only God had given me few more years to live with you, you would have known how much i love you...Life is always this way- predictably unpredictable. I know i am leaving you all alone in this dark world. You need someone to cling on to. Some hope to live, some life to love. I remember i have never got you the Christmas gift you have always wanted.
Please do meet Dr Anne. Your gift is with her. I am happy i could give you something as i leave you. And i know my gift can make you immensely happy. I shall always miss you, your sweet smiles and tinkling laughter. I wouldn't bear to snatch all that happiness and smiles from you. I shall always be there for you, guiding you and protecting you. God Bless.
P.S. I love You!"
I turn away holding back my tears and produce the file from my closet. Her expression goes from blank to hope and then extreme happiness. With my hands folded i watch hundred emotions criss cross her face. " Yes, Raj had asked me to hand this file over to you. He wanted to gift you his child, after his death. He wanted you to give birth and bring up his own son. I suggested he deposit his sperm in the sperm bank and he had done so. When are you starting the IVF schedule?", i gently prod. With happy tears she says- " Right away, Doctor", clutching the crumpled letter from her darling husband.
It is time for my night rounds and i move on. The case summary in the cot stand reads RESHMA RAJ and i see her stirring slowly. She gently opens her eyes and reaches for my hand. Gently i hold her, ask the nurse to lift the baby son for her to see. Tears of joy roll down her cheeks as the lights from the Christmas tree weave a colorful array all over her beaming face. " Doctor, can you please help me to the tree?" she asks. Holding on to the baby as if it is life itself, she sways and staggers to the tree. Nearing the manger, she touches the cheeks of the sleeping figurine of Baby Jesus. "This is the best Christmas gift a man could ever give, Doctor" she says. I stand watching her in peaceful silence with the sleeping baby in my arms. The church bells chime somewhere far in the dark chill night.
P.S. : This post has been inspired by the following news link- Miracle baby