Synergy of three – the test tube baby

I could identify myself with ‘visalam’, the protagonist of ‘Annamalai’, the TV serial made by RadanTV. Biologically, she has no children of her own. Yet, in her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, she found and cherished the children she never had. Similarly, when, as a young bride, I entered the portals of my new home, I enjoyed and cherished the comfort of mothering my husband’s newborn brother as my own. The growing bond that flowered into a mother-son relationship was so fulfilling that it had a therapeutic effect on both our wounded spirits – we had spent many years without a child of our own.

We live in Sundarapandiyapuram, a heaven on earth – cool winds blow over-generous water bodies, sending pretty ripples over green paddy fields, stretching out to as far as the eye could see. We were blessed with a generously large home. My mother-in-law overwhelmed me with her affection: every day, she would braid my hair, as would my own mother. Even after having worked hard the entire day out in the fields, my husband would come home sweet-tempered. His newborn brother filled our lives with joy and laughter. Peace reigned. Yet, something was missing. My mother-in-law yearned to hear the pitter-patter of a little girl child: a child who would turn our orderly lives upside down, who would scatter things all over the place mischievously. Fear took root in my mind. What if I could never fulfill her dream? Her unconditional love and gentle manner made me feel even more indebted and worried. Sometimes I wished she would be harsh or sharp with me if only to lessen my guilt – but no, she continued to drown me in her love and care. My husband took great care not to compound my worries – he would try to make me feel better with soothing words and gestures, but when our eyes met, the windows of our souls laid bare all our hidden anxieties.

Was there anyone who could help us out? Spiritually, we had left no stone unturned – our fervent prayers resounded in almost every temple in the vicinity; we had appealed to every deity we knew of. Why weren’t our prayers being heard? Finally, Lord Ganesha heard us and came forward to help us, in the form of his namesake. Gemini Ganesan, whose ardent fan we were. It was our destiny – why else did my husband pour out all our feelings to the matinee idol he had adored for years?

Mr. Ganesan took us to consult his daughter, Dr. Kamala Selvaraj. It was God’s will. When we set foot inside GG Hospital in 1986, we felt we were in fact, stepping into a temple of hope. Faith works wonders – but only if your faith is unshakable and complete. Our pilgrimage to GG Hospital began that year. Every two Months, we would be there, carrying hope and faith with us. First, doctors attended to a blockage they found in my Fallopian tube. After that, I went through the IUI (Intra Uterine Insemination) procedure – not once, not twice, but innumerable times. Each time, I would stand there, mute witness to Dr. Kamala’s despair, making me push aside my own. Her mission was even stronger than my yearning, cementing my hope and bolstering my faith. If nothing else, both my husband and I believed that Dr. Kamala’s dedication and optimism alone would yield fruit. Four years went by without eroding our faith Or Dr. Kamala’s zeal. Impressed by her hard work – we have seen her toil day and night in her laboratory – and positive attitude, we decided that we too, will not give up, despite a niggling fear that 1 was fast approaching menopause.

Dr. Kaniala implanted four-celled embryos into five patients – I was one of them; one of the implants – recipients was from Andhra Pradesh. I was among the lucky three who achieved pregnancy. Dr. Kamala’s joy surpassed our own. Forty-five days later, when she saw the baby’s heartbeat with the help of ultrasound, our own heartbeats quickened with exhilaration and anticipation, as did Dr. Kamala’s. When my husband and I saw that she was moved to tears, we were touched. I sent a silent prayer: this experience was well worth the years we had spent waiting…

Normally, the creation of life within you is itself an act of providence. The round-the-clock monitoring and care, the daily communion between the life that was growing inside me and Dr. Kamala, transformed my whole life into one of eternal excitement and thanksgiving. It is difficult to give expression to those feelings in mere words.

I can say I was carefully guarding, to the best of my ability, the miracle of life within me, for nine months, but Dr. Kamala was the ever-vigilant super-guard, the Guardian Angel. I was confined to bed for 12 weeks; for 28 weeks not once did I leave the room. As a heavily pregnant woman, I ventured out of GG Hospital for the first and last time during the pregnancy when Gemini anna hosted the Valaikaapu ceremony in his home. After that. I made physical contact with the outside world only after my baby was born. Scores of concerned people greeted me when I held my baby in my arms – my long-time yearning was finally fulfilled. I mused, was it all part of God’s plan? Did he deliberately make us wait twenty-five years to make us party to this historic moment? GG Hospital and Dr. Kamala Selvaraj went down in history for delivering the first test-tube baby in South India.

The hospital and the doctors became a part of our lives. Exciting newspaper and magazine reporters, well-wishers Ms. Malathi, Dr. Sheela Rajarathnam, and Ms. C Gariyali IAS and the other innumerable concerned people flocked to GG Hospital on that historic day – all their eager faces etched forever in my memory. Overcome by emotion, my half-closed eyes captured for posterity the vision of Dr. Kamala’s grateful, relieved, tear-streaked face as she clasped the newborn to her bosom. Although I was only half-conscious of the goings-on around me post-delivery, I could clearly hear what those gathered there were saying as I could Dr. Kamala’s sobs of joy. True, I had been pregnant ten months with this precious child -but there was also another, my husband, who went through the same experience with me, his pulse beating in step m mine, with the same fears, expectations, and faith. It was the then ruling Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr. M. Karunanidhi, who gave our child her name held her lovingly in his arms. Kamalarathnam – A name that bore tribute to Dr. Kamala and also mirrored how much we valued the fruit of her labour.

A month later, when we bade noodbye• Kamala shed tears – tears that spoke of her anguish at being separated from a child she had borne in her mind all these years, lavishing her care and love. 1 hesitated only to console me that the bond between us would endure wherever we were. Kamalarathnam is a top achiever – M school, music, in reciting shlokas. The moment she gets her report card, she sits down to pen a letter to Dr. Kamala. She talks to Dr. Kamala over the telephone on every festive occasion. Today, Kamalarathnam is a 1 3-year old confident, intelligent, spirited and pretty girl. My husband and I give the entire credit to Dr. Kamala.

Every child created out of a test-tube is no less precious than Kamalarathnam. For, each baby is born out of the synergy of Painstaking effort and hopes of three persons: the doctor and the couple. Cooperation and understanding among the three begin from the time of consultation and needs to be sustained all through the treatment period and time of delivery. Every instruction and word of advice that the doctor offers needs to be taken as God’s own truth and followed with great discipline and faith. It is no big deal to enter a hospital, in search of treatment. It is how well we fall in line with the treatment happily and with patience that matters more.

Faith can move mountains. Faith and patience can bring a baby into your life.