One day while tidying my cupboard, I found myself holding a bit of paper, discoloured and moth- eaten around the edges. On closer inspection, I discovered that it was a receipt issued to me, over half a century ago. Memories came flooding back, as I recalled the past.
I was in my late twenties and I was expecting my second baby, which according to the doctor, was going to be a big baby. Since our first-born was a daughter, we hoped the second would be a boy. I thought I would have a difficult time delivering the baby. Ultrasound scans were unheard of in those far off days and I couldn’t remember hearing of Caesarean births.
Monday, September 26, was Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s first death anniversary. There was a religious function to bestow merit on him, at the school where I taught. I took part in all the activities and came home feeling rather exhausted. The following day, I was admitted to the Nursing Home. It was a relatively quiet afternoon. The Nursing Home was very homely and comfortable and one of the best in Colombo. In the evening, I was asked to go for a long walk. I remember walking the whole length of the Galle Face Green with my husband and sister-in-law on either side. The Galle Face Green was tranquil and serene in those far-off days and I managed to walk from one end to the other.
Back in hospital the doctor was given a call. When my doctor, Dr. Daniel arrived it was rather late at night. We were shocked when the doctor delivered the baby and exclaimed, “There’s another one on the way!”. With no history of twins in either of our families, we just couldn’t believe our ears. They were healthy, beautiful, bonny baby girls with perfectly formed features weighing six lbs. and seven lbs. and born just 4 minutes apart. Our first-born was thrilled to have two sisters. Visitors to the hospital were curious to see the young mother and twins, and I had an endless stream of visitors.
Back at home after six days in hospital we were wondering how we were going to cope with two babies. If one baby meant sleepless nights just imagine getting up, to feed two. I had only six weeks maternity leave to adapt to life with the twins. It was a difficult time for us, but domestic help was freely available in those far-off days. My family members were of immense help to us.
That little faded piece of paper, I found among my souvenirs brought back fond memories, but what prompted me to write this piece, was to compare the good old days with the present times. My stay in a nursing home for six days, cost me only Rs.375 for the entire period. Unbelievable but true! The doctor’s charge for delivering the twins was Rs.125, room charges were Rs.20 a day, admission fee was Rs.15, obstetric fee was Rs.35, cost of drugs Rs.69 and lab examination fees Rs.2.
I gave a call to my granddaughter to find out how much she had spent when she had her baby two years ago. She said that since it was a normal birth, she had stayed in hospital only for one day. Her one day stay in a private hospital in Colombo had cost her Rs.111,900 of which Rs.71,000 was for professional charges. It was astonishing to see how rates had sky-rocketed over the years.
Thinking back, I marvel at the changes the passing of years have brought. There never, ever will be a time, like the times people of my generation knew.
Chatra S. Withana