And for those that don’t want to read Part Two (BEAN, THIS DOESN’T INCLUDE YOU!):
Once you agree to what is called an “emergency” c-section, things become a little hectic. Apparently, once the wheels are set in motion, the medical team has a limited amount of time to remove that baby from your belly.
What have you eaten? Are you allergic to any medications? Who is your emergency contact? Have you had anything to drink? How much do you weigh? Do you have any known reactions to morphine?
All I remember about my frenzied trip from the delivery room to the surgical floor was a barrage of questions and the insertion of a yet ANOTHER tube up my woo-hoo (Foley catheter). From the time I agreed to the time I found myself transferring myself onto an absurdly narrow surgical table, it had to have only been about 5 or 6 minutes. While overwhelming and frightening, there is something to be said about the ruthless efficiency about the entire process.
The spinal wasn’t bad. It really didn’t hurt much more than a normal needle poke, although I admit I was more concerned about falling off that ridiculously tiny table than I was about the needle in my back. Through it all, I remember the kind, soft voice of my anesthesiologist. She’s the only one who took the time to really look at me. She had large, soft eyes, and I remember grabbing her hand when she offered it to me.
“This isn’t what I wanted,” I said in a high, panicky voice. “I mean, it’s too fast. I’m scared.” I glanced at the sterile, cold operating room. “I’m really scared. I don’t want surgery, but I have to. But I really don’t’ want to.” All I could see in my mind’s eye was the video we watched in Lamaze class. I know they probably meant for the CGI graphics to be comforting, but something about that video had embedded itself in my mind. I kept flashing back to the scene where they showed the disembodied hands spreading the contractor to separate the abdominal muscles. I liked my abdominal muscles in one piece. I didn’t WANT them separated, and I really, REALLY didn’t want disembodied hands pulling out my uterus and plopping it on my rib cage to “check it for tears.”. The whole thing felt foreign and frightening.
“You’re going to be okay. This is a great team. We’ve already done three c-sections today, and they all went smoothly. You’ll be fine.” She pulled her hand out of my iron grip, and reached up to tie on her face mask.
I tried to comfort myself with the fact that I was about to meet the DragonMonkey, but it was really hard to sink into a happy place when there was a strange woman crouched over my private parts, shaving me. I tried to ignore it, but it was just a little too much. Suddenly, I had an almost ferocious desire to just be Left. The. Hell. Alone. The nurse and I started a pathetic, almost comical slapping war. She’d shave a bit here and there while I grit my teeth and tried to think happy thoughts, and then my resolve would break and I’d slap her hands away. She’d counter by gently smacking my own hands out of the way, and I’d tuck my hands underneath me obediently… for about 1.3 seconds, and then I’d be back, slapping at her hands again. I remember her looking up at me in frustration, and biting out, “I NEED to clean the field for the surgery.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” I said weakly, watching helpless as my hands rose of their own accord to slap at her again. “It tickles,” I lied.
Finally, she motioned to the nurse at my head, who left off of draping me to tie my arms down.
Did you know that when you go in for surgery, they strap your arms down in the crucified Jesus position?
So, I learned something else about myself that day. I’ve always had the suspicion that I’m claustrophobic, but I’ve always managed to avoid situations where my suspicions can be proved.
While I knew and completely respected the fact that my hands needed to be out of the surgery field, I couldn’t help myself. I grit my teeth in an attempt to send my thoughts elsewhere, but I just couldn’t get over the fact that my arms were tied down, and all of a sudden I snapped.
I yanked hard at both arm straps and managed to break the Velcro ties. Somehow, despite the fact that I was 217 months pregnant, I managed to sit bolt upright, and managed to tear down the blue curtain separating me from the rest of my body. I probably would have leapt off of the table, but the spinal had already taken effect and my legs weren’t quite obeying me.
“Get her arms! Get her arms!
“Get her out of the field! Don’t let her contaminate it!”
I’m not sure what I was really thinking. In fact, I don’t think I was thinking much at all. To be honest, it was kind of like I’ve got to hand it to those nurses— they’re quick! Not even five seconds after I made my pathetic attempt at freedom, they had me flat on the backboard again, arms strapped down with a double set of straps.
I tried to control my breathing, because I could actually hear myself borderline hyperventilating. I glanced around the room wildly.
And saw The Bean come in, warm brown eyes smiling at me from behind his papery mask.
I’ve never been more relieved to see anyone in my entire life.
“I’m scared.” I looked up at him, and felt a tear start rolling down my cheek.
“It’s okay, Becky,” he said, wiping the tear away with the back of his sleeve. “It’s okay. Everything’s fine.”
I took a deep, shuddery breath, and closed my eyes. The Bean was there. He’d watch over me.
For the hundredth time, I tried to force my body to relax.
This time, miraculously, it worked. I felt myself go warm, almost liquid. I felt the fear drain out of me and my breathing returned to normal.
I opened my eyes and smiled at The Bean. Ha. Mind over matter. See? All I had to do was take a deep breath, and I was able to overcome my fears. I let my eyelids sink back down, and reveled in my newfound peace.
I felt goooooood.
Of course, what I didn’t realize is that panicky patients are administered the morphine a little early. So what I thought was my superior, Jedi fear-controlling skills was actually just some really good drugs.
Oh well. I was proud of myself at the time.
The surgery itself was completely painless. Sure, there was a little pressure. Sure, there was a little tugging and pulling. But I really didn’t care about any of that. I was too busy enjoying the warm, golden sensations of having completely eradicated all fear from my body. I was queen of my emotions. I was warm. Golden. Fuzzy, soft, happysleepygood, all is great….
I was high as a kite.
I opened my eyes occasionally to share the golden peace of the moment with The Bean, but he was too busy trying to look over the edge of the screen.
Suddenly, over the mundane chatter of golf foursomes and dinner get-togethers between the two surgeons (seriously guys, could we get any more cliché? ), I heard the fairly angry wail of a baby.
“Is that… is that a baby?” It wasn’t my brightest moment ever, but what can I say? Morphine: it’s a helluva drug.
The surgical staff ignored me, so I tried again.
“Is that a baby? Is that my baby?”
Finally someone answered.
“Yup! That’s your baby! He’s a BIG boy, too!” There were a few, wet, squishy sounds I tried to ignore, and then, “Dad, want to have a look?”
The Bean stood up and peered over the curtain, and gave a joyful, shout of a laugh that will stay with me forever. I felt my eyes begin to tear up at the beauty of the moment, watching the play of emotions on The Bean’s face as he…
Reached into his pocket and whipped out a camera?!
There are many unflattering positions in the world that don’t’ make for good camera angles. Strapped down like a crucifix with your belly slit open and your internal organs piled on your chest are definitely among the top 10.
The man was very, very wise not to ask me before bringing a camera into the surgery.
“So, dad, are you ready to cut the cord?”
The Bean looked at me with panicky eyes. We’d discussed this previously, and the Bean had expressed his fervent desire to have NOTHING to do with the cutting of the cord. When I pressed him for answers, he said he was concerned that he might cut it the wrong way, and the baby would end up like the turkey in the Christmas Vacation movie.
I can argue with a lot of things. That just wasn’t one of them.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to, “I reminded him, and The Bean visibly sagged in relief.
“I don’t want to. You guys can go ahead.”
And with that, the DragonMonkey was on his own.
He weighed in at 7 lbs, 10 ounces. He looked a lot bigger at first, but in addition to his huge head and gigantic, barrel chest, he had nonexistent hips and scrawny little toothpick legs.
In short, I gave birth to a large, red, screaming frog.
Once he was cleaned up and swaddled, The Bean brought him over to show me.
I’d like to say that I had something beautiful and meaningful to say all planned out. I’d love to say that I saw my son, quoted a scripture verse, kissed him on his head with a prayer of blessing, and then delivered a beautiful 14-line sonnet.
Instead, I said exactly what I thought. “Wow. He’s really ugly.”
It wasn’t really his fault. The poor little guy had been trapped backwards in the birth canal for so long that he looked like he’d been on the losing end of a bar fight. His nose was… well, it wasn’t really where it was supposed to be. And his eyebrows and lips were, well, bruised.
Still. He was mine. I craned my neck to follow them as they left, and then closed my eyes to wait for the doctors to sew me back up.
I don’t really remember the trip down to recovery. I remember showing the anesthesiologist I could move my legs and transferring into the hospital bed. I vaguely remember Nurse EvilSpawn and The Bean standing beside my bed in the elevator, waiting for the door to open.
The next thing I remember, I was sitting in an empty 5-bed recovery room, with me at one end and Nurse EvilSpawn at the other. She was bent over a stack of paperwork and had a pink tub beside her. I craned my neck around trying to get my bearings.
“Where am I?”
“Recovery,” she said, without glancing up.
I looked around a bit longer, trying to figure things out. I scratched my nose, which seemed inexplicably itchy.
“Where’s the baby?”
“The nursery,” she said, in a monotone.
A few more moments of silence went by. My blood pressure cuff began to inflate, and I craned my neck around to see the readings. I noticed that that my respiration rate was off the charts. I seemed to be breathing at a steady rate of 47 breaths per minute.
That’s weird. That seems really high, I thought, scratching my nose. I watched the numbers a bit longer.
“Are my breaths supposed to be that high?” I asked, knowing full well that they were not.
“You’re FINE,” Nurse EvilSpawn said in a grumpy, leave-me-alone voice.
I sat there in silence, scratching my nose, for a few minutes longer.
“How long do I have to be here for?”
“About an hour. You need to recover and I need to finish this paperwork.”
My itchy nose seemed to be spreading to my cheeks. I tried scratching them, but my hand wasn’t working like it normally should have. I waved it in front of my eyes a few times, and everything seemed… off.
“Excuse me, but… did they, uh, give me something? I feel… weird.”
Nurse EvilSpawn snorted. “Morphine. You’d be screaming in agony otherwise.”
Even high as a kite, that sounded a little rude, but who was I to know? Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. After all, I couldn’t get my hand to work right, so I obviously wasn’t the best judge at the moment.
I began to get the feeling that she was a little too busy to really look after me, so despite the fact that my thought processes were about as consistent as jello, I tried to watch the monitors to see if anything went wrong. I only had my EMT basic, but it was enough to know that a respiration rate in the high 40s was not normal in the least. I did my best to slow it down, and managed to bring it down into the 30s.
The blood pressure cuff inflated and deflated several more times, each with readings in the normal range.
“Can I see my baby yet?” I asked, breaking the silence once again.
“No. I’ll let you know when.”
I watched the monitors through another few series of blood pressure readings. I scratched my nose some more, and came away with a little blood. Whoops.
“What’s in the pink bucket?” I asked.
“Really?” I perked up, trying to see it, but felt an odd tightening at the incision site. Hmm. Probably not the best idea. “Does it… does it look okay?”
“It’s adequate. I’ve seen better, but I guess I’ve seen worse.”
I opened my mouth to try to drag more information out of her, but The Bean walked in. I reached out, and grabbed his hand, and asked about the baby. The Bean looked exhausted, but he had a huge smile on his face. He told me he looked healthy, and that he had all the right number of fingers and toes. The DragonMonkey had been chewing on his fist since he’d been in the nursery, which the nurse took to mean he’d be a good eater. A short time later, Nurse EvilSpawn and The Bean wheeled me to my room, where my family was waiting.
I’d like to say I remember every moment of that day, but like I said before, Morphine is a helluva drug.
I remember The Bean wheeling the DragonMonkey in and placing him in my arms. I remember glancing at the clock and realizing it was a full two hours after I’d given birth.
I remember thinking that there was NO way anybody should be handing me a fragile newborn when I couldn’t even manage to scratch my own nose properly.
I remember the nurse chasing everyone out of the room and trying to guide me into latching on. Unfortunately, I was too high and the DragonMonkey was far too sleepy by that point for either of us to do much more than make a complete mess of it.
I remember family members coming in and wishing me well, and a phone call from my dad in Thailand.
I remember the nurse asking me why I kept scratching my nose, and if my face was normally that red. I remember her giving me a Benadryl for my allergic reaction to the morphine, and muttering something about “recovery is supposed to catch stuff like this.”
I remember trying to enjoy my “Celebratory” meal of beef broth and clear gelatin while The Bean chowed down on turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, and vegetables.
I remember leaning halfway out of my bed to puke over the railing, and feeling something pull unpleasantly in my stomach.
I remember at about 3 am, after yet another failed feeding attempt, the morphine wearing off VERY suddenly and me realizing that I had pulled something VERY unpleasant with my little puke session.
I remember a host of other things, but none of them clearly. I remember the nurse instructing us to use nipple shields to get the DragonMonkey nursing, and assuring me that they would be easy to wean off of (HA. NOT TRUE.).
I remember feeling totally disjointed from this black-haired, alien little thing that looked nothing like me.
I remember unswaddling him and laying him on my belly beneath the covers, skin against skin, and falling asleep. It may not have been the safest thing, but it was the first time I felt anything less than a strange emptiness when I held him.
I remember the sweet nurses with their helpful advice, and how they completely made up for the sullen behavior of the Nurse EvilSpawn.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember much else. Between the codeine and the exhaustion, I’ve pretty much lost the entire first week of The DragonMonkey’s life. That may not sound like much, but I have a very vivid memory, and it’s one of the things I really enjoy. I can recall conversations from years ago, word for word, but I can’t remember anything much from the first few days of being a mom. The fact that my memory of The DragonMonkey’s birth is so completely disjointed is one of the main reasons I’m so intent on NOT having a C-section again this time.
But all my complaining aside, I made it through. The DragonMonkey made it through. The Bean made it through.
And I never found out Nurse EvilSpawn’s real name, so even she made it through.
All’s well that ends well.