The wheels on my bed rolled heavily through the hall as we made our way to the Operating Room, one man behind me, one in front.
Lying flat on my back, I took special notice of the lights on the ceiling, and how they mingled amidst the tiles, in a pattern that made me feel as though together they were counting down the time. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. The wheels sung along.
They rolled me past my mom who was waiting in the hall, and blew me a kiss as she told me it would all be okay.
The man at the foot of my bed propped open a door, though not quite far enough before the man behind me attempted to push me through, thudding my bed with the collision. He apologized. Then continued on.
We went through two double doors that led us into a little white room, before rolling through another set of double doors that opened into a room of steel, the scent of sanitation coursing through the air.
Inside, there were about 8 people in white, hustling about doing their own little part to prepare for the surgery.
They pushed my bed next to the operating table- a slim, shiny surface- and asked if I could scooch over onto it. While my arms were fully functional, the rest of me was not. I couldn’t budge.
Several white coats gathered round me, and jointly lifted me from one surface to the other. Then they wheeled the bed away. I could feel the edge of the table on either side of me and was a little alarmed by its narrowness, not that it mattered. I couldn’t move. The coldness of the table soaked through to my skin.
Once I was set into position, the white coats resumed with their course of duties. Only now, half of them were focused on me. One placed a cap over my hair, and removed my glasses, setting them on the counter a few feet away. An oxygen tube was placed at the base of my nose. A blood pressure cuff securely fastened on my arm, along with those little round sticky monitors that make it look like wires are sticking straight out of your chest.
Somebody grabbed my legs and secured them to the table with what felt like a leather belt. Another person grabbed my left wrist, pulled my arm out sideways, perpendicular to my body. He lined it up with a narrow steel board, and securely strapped my mid-arm and wrist. The same was done to my right. Now, I was beginning to feel like a science experiment. And very, very vulnerable.
Suddenly, I felt something cold on my shoulder.
“Can you feel that?” the man next to me asked, holding a small paper-ish strip to my skin.
“What does it feel like?”
“Good.” He moved it to another spot, to verify the feeling. Then, he moved it to my lower abdomen. “Is it cold there?”
“That should be good then.”
I hoped he was right. They secured the epidural drip to the lead in my back to make sure that the numbness continued.
Part of me wished they’d give me something stronger. Just knock me out, for goodness sakes. I couldn’t imagine being sliced while wide awake. But that was exactly what was about to happen.
Of course, I didn’t really want to be put out. That was just the fear talking. My heart couldn’t wait to see her, hear her, hold her. There was no way I’d willingly miss out on hearing her first cry or giving her her first cuddles. I’d seen photos of friends that delivered babies via c-section, and they still got to take that first family photo, holding their baby, smiling ear to ear, while the doctor stitched her back up behind the sheet. I wanted to hold her so badly. But how was I going to when my arms were securely fastened to the arm stirrups beside me?
Next, the sheet went up to block any view I may have of the surgery. Boy, was I grateful for that. There was a large round light hanging right over my abdomen, which had a thick rim that held reflections of the entire room. I was grateful my glasses were taken, so I wouldn’t accidentally catch a glimpse of something graphic, although I still avoided looking in that general direction. I focused on the ceiling above, listening to the bustle, and wondering when they’d let my husband in.
With the sheet up, the real work began to prepare the place of incision. One got to shaving. Another rubbed a brush around and around, this way and that all across my belly, which I’m sure held some purpose. Once it was brushed enough, they sprayed something that sounded like spray paint in what felt like a triangular shape, then they waited for the doctor to arrive.
In he came, a minute later.
With all the activity happening, no one had really spoken to me up to this point, or explained anything that was going on. They were simply doing their jobs quickly and efficiently, and quietly. Of course there were hushed utterances amongst them, but nothing directed toward me. But now, here was my doctor. The only one in the room that I had any sort of relationship with, even though it’d only been about a week and a half.
He walked around the foot of the table, and approached my right side.
“What is this? No. Redo it.”
There was no warm greeting, no words of comfort.
The person who had brushed and sprayed me apparently had not done a satisfactory job. I was wiped, brushed, and sprayed again.
While he was in the middle of his re-do, the door behind me swung open and there was my husband, dressed in scrubs. Oh, good.
“No husband yet!” The command was stark, and the lady with my husband shut the door promptly, leaving me yet again alone with all the chaos.
Preparations continued for a few more minutes and I could tell the time was drawing near. I looked at the doctor, pleading him with my eyes to say something to me, say anything to let me in on what was happening. But he never glanced up. Never acknowledged my alertness, nor my fear.
Finally, after a few more minutes, my husband rushed through a different door, and sat down at my right side, right next to the doctor. He grabbed my hand and kissed it, clearly as upset as I was for how long they’d kept him out. But now, he was at my side again. Things would be okay.
It wasn’t more than about 30 seconds later when I heard it.
My eyes widened, alarmed at the sound.
“Is that HER?!” I asked him.
He glanced behind the sheet.
I hadn’t even realized that they’d already begun the surgery. I was incredibly grateful that I hadn’t been able to feel a thing, but felt unprepared for how quickly things were moving. My daughter had just been born and my brain hadn’t quite caught up yet. But that sweet little sound, that was her. Her first sweet cry, music to my ears.
My husband squeezed my hand a few times in excitement. And we both watched as the nurse grabbed her from the doctor’s grip and carried her to the counter so she could tend to her immediate needs of suctioning and swaddling. I tried to see her, but there was a large machine between us, blocking any view I had. I could hear her crying. I knew she was okay. But, I wanted to see her. I needed to see her. Up close and personal.
It was minutes before the nurse finally called out to my husband.
“Okay, dad, you wanna hold her?”
He jumped up and raced to her side. She placed her in his arms and he brought her down to me, holding her at the base of where my arms were strapped down, so I could at least brush her cheek with my finger. Such a soft little cheek. But I couldn’t really see her. They’d taken my glasses, and she lied just beyond my limits of focus. But, I could make out that she was more tan than fair, and had a nice dark head of hair. I stroked her cheek again, while my eyes watered up, soaking in the moment. Then, the nurse grabbed my husband’s shoulders and ushered him away. They went around the foot of the table, and out the door behind me. When they got to the door, the nurse grabbed her from my husband and brought her to me, placing her sweet little swaddled body inches from my face.
“Say hi, mommy!”
Then, before I even realized what had just happened, she raced out the door with her, yet again.
That was my baby. I didn’t get to see her, because she only held her there for a fraction of a second. By the time I’d been able to focus, she was already gone.
I was left there, alone again, amidst the white coats and chaos, as they stitched and stapled me, finishing their work.
Once the job was complete, the doctor walked out, without a single word.
They brought back my bed, and lifted me to it, and rolled me out to Recovery.
The recovery room was dim and quiet, a medium size clock ticking away the seconds. Curtains were pulled back revealing empty beds beside me, except one other quiet patient a few dozen feet away. There was a middle-aged woman at the foot of my bed, engaged with her computer, just typing away. Her face was focused, her manner unwelcoming. I watched her as I attempted to keep my eyes open. I was completely exhausted from the past two days of induction, labor, and surgery. I willed myself to stay awake. I needed to see my baby. I watched the lady click clack away on the keyboard, until I finally worked up the strength to ask her.
“Excuse me… When can I see my baby?”
She didn’t take her eyes off the screen. “They’ll bring her to you when you get to your postpartum room.”
“When is that?”
“You have to be here for an hour while we monitor you. You have forty more minutes.”
I listened to the clock again. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Forty minutes felt like forever.
I laid my head back, and tried to imagine what was happening to her right at that moment. Who was holding her? Was she okay? I wanted to think of her, wanted to obsess over the situation and my lack of all control, but my body was quickly running out of its last few drops of energy. I closed my eyes, and was out.
Continue reading the story here.