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Happy Birthday

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Michael was born mid-afternoon, in June, via scheduled C-section.

The C-section was a choice we reluctantly made because of some complications caused by a spinal surgery I had when I was a teenager. In short, the surgery made it impossible for me to have an epidural and put grave doubts on whether I would actually be able to successfully deliver a baby without intervention. After much discussion with the OB, we all agreed that the safest course would be to have a C-section because the odds were good that we would end up there anyway, and the doctors (quite properly) preferred to do it at a planned time rather than in an emergency.

Leading up to the operation that day, I was, as one nurse put it, "the most reluctant pregnant woman she had ever met." Most women are nervous, but happily anticipating the big event, the birth of their child. I wanted it all to be over with, but I guess, in my deepest being, where I never admitted it to anyone but my nightmares, I was still not sure everything was going to be all right. I am not a pessimist by nature, so this kind of despondency was well outside my comfort zone. I was, as I had been for months, plagued by a sense of uneasiness.

We tried to use a spinal so that I could be awake for the operation like a more typical C-section, but fate had other ideas. The anesthesiologists were anxious about the irregularities in my spinal column, and they, in turn, made me nervous, so we were (collectively) unable to get the spinal in place correctly. After a few attempts, my OB pulled the plug on the idea and said we had to proceed with the surgery using general anesthesia. Sadly, this was one of the events I had been afraid would happen. Because of the general anesthesia, my husband was not allowed to be in the OR with me, and I was left with a mask on my face, a catheter in my bladder, and a tremendous feeling of helplessness while my husband waited outside the room and my mother waited in the lobby. My last vision before unconsciousness was a doctor, standing over my head, with an intubation tube in his hand. As soon as I was out, he was going to shove that thing down my throat. The last thing I heard was the pain management specialist, who couldn't place my spinal, looking at me with sympathetic eyes, whispering, "I'm sorry," as he wiped a tear from my cheek.

In theory, I would wake up, with my husband and my brand new baby at my side.

The reality was quite different.

Because we had received so many "near misses" of things that could have gone so wrong, my husband and I had a plan. If the hospital had to take the baby to the NICU, my husband was to follow the baby. The idea was that my mother would come from the lobby to be with me so I wouldn't be alone when I woke up. In fact, though, I woke up before I even left the OR. The team kept asking me questions, and I thought I was really supposed to answer, but hey! I still had this tube shoved down my throat! I couldn't talk! So I pantomined that I couldn't talk, and was told, "If you want to talk, take the tube out."

Yes, I extubated myself, in the OR. I pulled out that tube with my own hand.

Of course, the questions apparently didn't require an answer, and I couldn't remember what they were anymore anyway, so I croaked, "Where is my husband?"

Some nurse answered, "We're taking you to him now."

Then I asked, "Where is my baby?"

The same nurse answered, "They took him to the NICU. I don't know why."

That's it. That's all she said. She offered no other information. She didn't try to find someone to come tell me. She just said that, and for all I can tell, she walked away. I don't know why. I don't know why. To this day, I wish I knew the name of that nurse, because I would like to let her know what kind of panic she caused in me and how those words, even now as I type them, still make me cry.

I was wheeled into the recovery room, and again I asked for my husband, and again I was told he wasn't there. I asked for someone to please go get my mother, but for some reason no one felt that they could do that. I think they thought it was my husband's job or something, or that he should just pick up his cell phone and call her. I don't know what happened, why she couldn't be there when I knew she was so close.

All I knew, in the fog of the anesthesia and the post-op pain, was that my fears had been real. I was alone, and even worse, my baby was in trouble in some other part of the hospital.

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