It hit me finally on the British Airways flight from London to Washington, D.C. Something was terribly wrong. I was six weeks pregnant and I was bleeding heavily.
In the days leading up to the flight, I had refused to believe that my pregnancy was coming to an end. Two gynecologists and one radiologist (who performed the ultrasound scan) in Bangalore had told me that things were not progressing well — they should have been able to see the baby's heartbeat by then but they could not. Was I sure of my dates, each of them had asked. Any history of miscarriages?
I was convinced that the problem was not at my end. Perhaps the scanner was outdated. Perhaps the radiologist did not know what he was doing. Perhaps the gynecologist was counting the weeks from the wrong date. Spotting is common, isn't it, in the first few weeks of pregnancy? Perhaps this was implantation bleeding.
Things could really not be going wrong. There was not even an inkling of a problem the first time around, when I was pregnant with Big N. I did not even have morning sickness. So how could my pregnancy not be progressing well this time?
I decided I needed to get back to the U.S., back to the same environment that I was in during my first pregnancy. Maybe that would make the niggling problems of spotting and no heartbeat go away. I was not thinking rationally but my plans made perfect sense to me then. So I advanced the date of my departure flight and, still upbeat about having a second child and a sibling for Big N, he and I started on our journey back to the U.S.
The flight from Bangalore to London was uneventful though a little hectic with Big N (then just past three years old) and two large suitcases and a carrybag.
Once on the flight, things progressed smoothly. Big N walked over to the young, newly-married woman who was sitting behind us and was being his usual chatterbox (on every single flight, he ditches me at the first opportunity and goes off to find someone else to talk to and play with). I smiled aplogetically at her, letting her know she could send him back if she had had enough. She said, no, she was having a good time. I was happy to let them both be, seizing the opportunity to visit the restroom.
I came out shaken. I sat in my seat, and Big N came over to see where I'd been. I pulled him over, hugged him and willed the tears to stop. They did not. The sobs came out unbidden and the two mothers who were sitting to my left, both with small babies on their laps turned to me. Are you okay, they asked? I explained to them, between sobs and wiping my tears, what was wrong. Their expressions of concern relaxed somewhat. One of them told me she had bled as well when she was pregnant with her daughter but everything had turned out fine. There's nothing to worry about, they said.
By then Big N was getting anxious. He did not know why I was crying and was wiping my face with his forearm. One of the air hostesses (I named her Big Bertha) walked over and I repeated my story, feeling better somewhat and beginning to think once again that it was no big deal. But Big Bertha thought otherwise. She went on a war footing. She brought over the head steward who went around the plane looking for a doctor. He finally found one in First Class who advised that I should lay flat on my back and rest completely until we reached Washington. "We're flying over the Atlantic," the head steward said, "so we cannot land the plane anywhere soon." "Land the plane?" I thought. "It's not really that bad, is it?"