There are certain events of one's life in which you want to remember every detail. One such event, for me, is the birth of my children. The day comes and goes at such a rapid pace, it's easy to forget those little moments that have the potential to become treasured memories. Here is my account of the birth of my second child; it was just two short weeks ago, but already seems like a lifetime has passed.
I awaken. The room is dark but all too familiar. This has been my only place of comfort during these final weeks. I sit up, trying to relieve the increasing pressure and muscle tension that the last month has brought. I put my feet up on the edge of the couch next to me and stretch the blanket along the length of my body. I look at the clock.
Just 2 hours to go.
A noise from the hall. My mother, and elected keeper of The Boy for the next week, has emerged from her room. She sees I am awake and decides to join me in my vigil.
How'd you sleep?
The same as I have for the past month.
I'll keep you company.
She takes her place on the opposite end of the couch. We both snuggle into our respective blankets and try to pass the time with sleepily idle chit chat, each of us trying to suppress our growing excitement. The stirring in my belly tells me that She, too, is aware of what today will bring.
Today will be Her birthday.
Another noise from the hall. My Husband is awake.
It's now 5am. He makes himself a pot of coffee and goes outside for a smoke.
Come see this.
The moon is bright red.
My Mother and I step onto the front porch. The moon hangs low in the pre-dawn sky and is a beautiful Harvest Moon. Not quite the red my Husband described, but noteworthy nonetheless. I will make sure I tell Her the details of the morning she was born.
(I wonder if it's significant that instead of watching the sunrise, I am watching the moon set.)
I go back inside and decide it's pointless to sit any longer and that I should start getting myself ready. I check my bags for the millionth time and decide that if I haven't packed it by now, then I don't need it. My Husband showers and gathers his things together. Having been through this once before, he wants to be prepared. He fills two thermoses with coffee. Hospital coffee sucks.
6am. It's time to leave. I tip-toe upstairs and kiss The Boy goodbye. Tell him I love him.
We leave for the hospital.
It is still dark when we arrive although the sky is showing signs of its transformation to azure blue. The Main Entrance to the hospital is eerily quiet. The security desk is empty and we realize that we are not sure where to go. There are no signs for the Maternity Ward. We aim for the Women's Pavilion. I don't remember the walk being so long the first time we made this journey 3 years ago. We follow the red and green dots along the floor to the elevators, push the button, and get in. The doors open on the 2nd floor. It is quiet.
We walk through the set of double doors to the Maternity Ward and go to the nurse’s station. No one is there. Computer screens cast a soft glow across empty desks, patient charts and various paperwork.
We look over at the nursery. A nurse spots us and emerges. She has on her face a smile that is as full of hope and excitement as my waistline is full of the infant I am about to meet.
I tell her I am here for a scheduled c-section.
She escorts us to what will be my "labor" room and tells me to change into a gown and that there is an emergency c-section going on so it will be a few minutes before someone is in to see me.
I get changed in the bathroom and emerge to assess my surroundings. This room isn't as nice as the last time I was here. It is smaller. There is no whirlpool tub. But I don't need it this time. Today there will be no unnecessary drugs meant to encourage my body to expel a baby too big for me to handle. No prolonged waiting. Today is scheduled. I know what to expect. Or so I think.
I sit in the chair by the window and begin to rock hoping it will soothe the anxiety that is building inside me.
7:00am. A nurse comes in to hook up my IV and decides against putting me on any monitors. It's too soon to take any vitals.
We are being bumped for the emergency c-section they mentioned when we arrived. Our 7:30am appointment is now looking like it will be closer to 9am.
My husband and I pass the time by watching the news. He takes random pictures of the room: the clock, the TV., me trying my best to look calm and maternal as I rock in the rocking chair.
8am. The nurse returns to hook me up to the monitors. Outside, we hear the circular swooping sounds of the helicopter rotors as it air lifts the newborn infant from the emergency section to another hospital. Husband, the Nurse and I each exchange glances that convey the uneasy awareness of the true fragility of life. That sometimes, no matter how hard you try to do all the right things, things can go terribly wrong. Our thoughts momentarily take flight with the swooping sounds and with the new life carried within, and with the Mother.
We are brought back to the moment by the sounds of our own child's heartbeat from the monitors that are now strapped to my belly. Her heartbeat is strong. She is active. She has been awake since 4am.
8:30am. A visitor. A woman of small stature, dark skin, and middle-eastern accent. She is to be my anesthesiologist and she is here to go over the different types of anesthesia that might be used during my surgery. Epidural. Epidural with sedation. Spinal Block. She tries her best to make it as clear as she can, but I am admittedly too anxious at this time to make note of every detail. I am about to become a Mother for the second time. I trust her explanation and put my fate in her hands and sign my name by the X.
9am. It's time.
I am wrapped in a blanket, kiss my husband and walk out of the room through a set of double doors and into a small postage-stamp sized operating room. It is filled with instruments, large lights looming overhead, and a small bed in the middle. I am told to hop on board and sit "Indian style" slumped over so the anesthesiologist can administer my epidural.
How tall are you?
You're going to feel some pushing, but it's just my hands right now.
She pushes along my lower spine, trying to feel the gaps between my vertebrae in which to administer the medication that will allow me to remain awake during my surgery.
Now you're going to feel a little pinch and burn.
She begins to inject the Novocain into my spine to numb the area.
They say the body has no memory of pain, but the burning pressure and pinpoint stings instantly call me back to three years earlier during the birth of The Boy.
Once I am sufficiently numb, she injects the epidural and I am asked to lie down.
Instantly the O.R. staff goes to work prepping me for surgery. Drapes, blood pressure cuff, nasal cannula for oxygen, heart monitor, blankets to keep me warm. I watch the clock.
Then another familiar sensation. My body begins to tremble. Partly due to my increasing excitement and anxiety, and partly from the medication. I breathe deeply to try to calm my body and remind myself that this will be a walk in the park. In 20 minutes or so, I will have a daughter. I keep my eyes focused on the clock and try to control my breathing.
Where's the Dad going to sit?
The staff scurries to find a place for the stool on which my Husband will take his place by my side.
Dad's getting anxious. He wants to come in.
Let's get him in here quickly.
My Doctors are now here. Their eyes smile at me from behind their masks and they begin their prep work.
I feel pinching in my belly. I tell them.
Don't worry. We haven't begun cutting yet. We're just testing to see if you're numb.
I'm not. I feel what you are doing.
Ok. Don't worry. We'll wait.
I keep my eyes fixed at the clock in an effort to calm myself and take my mind off what's about to happen.
It's 9:40am. I struggle to speak.
I'm feeling light headed.
And my throat is feeling a little swollen.
I feel cutting in the left side of my stomach.
No one’s cutting you. Just relax.
The anesthesiologist tries her best to calm and reassure me.
The hustle and bustle of activity continues. Voices, commentary, conversation. Bright white light. The excitement level increases as we all prepare for the new life that is about to enter our lives.
The voices echo and resonate through my mind. The commentary, hustle and bustle continues.
Suddenly I become ware that my eyes are closed. The voices and activity around me sound as if they are coming from a distant hall. Bright white lights rolls overhead. I am being moved.
Where am I going?
The questions come, but I am unable to speak. I struggle to open my eyes but I can't. The voices, conversation and commentary continue but I cannot open my eyes. I do not know what is happening.
I cannot see. I am being moved, bright white lights roll by overhead and the voices continue. I fear something has gone terribly wrong.
Am I still pregnant?
Am I dead?
In a coma?
Where is my baby?
Where is my husband?
Where are you taking me?
What the fuck happened?!
My questions go unspoken. Unanswered. Why won't someone answer me!
Then a voice speaks to me.
Your husband is with the baby.
Where am I going?
Again I ask the questions but no one hears me. I still cannot speak.
I am sitting up now. I manage to open my eyes enough to see I am in a room. There is a bed next to me. I think I must be in another area of the hospital. What happened to my private labor/recover room? There are voices and people around me, talking to me, but I don't know what they are saying. I look at the clock. It's 11:20am.
An hour and a half has passed.
What the fuck happened?!
Still, I cannot manage to make my mouth work. To formulate the questions that are welling up inside of me. I am panicking, but my panic is suppressed by the sedative veil.
Suddenly a familiar face. My husband comes in to the room and he is wheeling a bassinet. Inside, a small bundle swaddled in a blanket is removed and placed in my arms. I am holding a baby. My baby. My eyes can barely focus. My throat is swollen and I struggle to speak.
My voice is thick and slurred.
You had a baby.
The people in the room find this question funny, but my sense of humor is numbed along with the rest of me. My husband tells me I was sedated during my c-section.
I don't know. You were out when I came in to the O.R.
I missed her being born.
The tears come. My husband hands me a tissue and tries to comfort me.
You didn't miss anything. She's right here. Look at her.
I try to focus my eyes on her face and take in her details. She is sleeping. Apparently also feeling the effects of the sedation. Her skin is pink, her hair golden brown. She smells of peaches. She is beautiful. More beautiful than I could ever have imagined. Angelic. Innocent. Peaceful.
I try to draw from her peacefulness, and accept that there are no do-overs. I missed her birth, but am reassured to know that my Husband did not leave her side for the 1 1/2 hours that I was in surgery. I am grateful that they had that time to bond and get to know one another. And I am thankful that she is healthy and finally here.
She opens her eyes. Her gazed fixed on my gaze. Her eyes are a deep blue-gray... and I am instantly lost. Lost in love, in hope ... in peace.