This story won’t make much sense without these…
Somewhere in the middle of waiting I noticed my contractions were becoming a lot stronger. I could feel them in my back now and they were 2 minutes apart. I mentioned it to Chris and he said he thought it might be the stress of all this. I wanted to agree but I think a small part of me knew that my body was trying to tell me something. The baby was not okay.
When the perinatologist came back in the room after about 25 minutes she came in alone. As she leaned against the wall to my right the first thing out of her mouth was “We’re going to be able to save your baby.” For the second time that night time stopped. As I tried desperately to find the part of the conversation I had missed she continued on. She told us the baby’s heart was beating too fast and was causing severe stress on the rest of it’s body. As she kept on she told us that since I was 33 weeks along it was close enough to term that it was safer to deliver the baby. Today.
Again she said, “We’re going to be able to save your baby.”
Time was still frozen. In shock, or fear, or most likely naivety I asked if they were going to induce. With almost a small chuckle the doctor responded that inducing the baby would be much to stressful, it had to be a c-section. This was the first moment I internally panicked. I don’t want surgery. I know I can do an induction, I’ve done it before. No surgery. Anxiety silently overtook me. In the moment when I could not grasp what was happening with my baby I feared more than anything the one thing I understood. I would be awake during this surgery.
The doctor continued to talk for a few more minutes. I tried to push the fear back and listen. Dr. Smith would be doing the procedure. She was the doctor on duty and she had been the doctor who delivered Evey. That was a small comfort in this chaos. It would be a little over an hour before the operating room was available. They would come to start prepping me in 30 minutes or so. Then she left.
As Chris and I began to process this new information our family began to arrive. Chris’s mom was first. Always the calm within the storm. Perfect words, perfect silences. My parents came next. Dad clung to what always suited him best, a little humor mixed with pragmatism. Mom worried. Chris’s dad followed soon after. In this flurry of activity Chris relayed most of the details and information. I just tried to keep it together.
Once the waiting was over and they came to start prepping me, it became much easier. The world transformed into into tasks to be done. I concentrated on the black and the white, knowing that if I acknowledge the grey I might break into so many pieces I would not be able to put myself back together.
I needed to change into a gown. An IV was inserted. Blood was drawn. We left the room and were moved to the operating room. On the way I briefly glimpsed more family milling around the halls. My brother and his wife. Brad, a family friend. Our parents gave of hugs and smiles hiding back thinly veiled tears.
In the operating room there was much to be done. A spinal was to be given. I was on the operating table. Chris was with me the whole time. Anxiety was slipping through again. I cautioned the doctor that I was nervous. Would they be able to keep me calm if I needed it? Certainly, she assured me. Within what felt like moments the curtain was raised and prep work began. I asked that she not tell me when she started.
Chris was my hero in that moment. He did everything humanly possible to keep me distracted. He held my hand and we talked about names. Caroline or Anna for a girl. Benjamin or William for a boy. He joked about his fear of seeing over the curtain, little did I know at the time but the curtain did little to impede his view. At one point we giggling a little, adrenaline making us giddy. After what felt like 20 minutes I asked if they had started. Dr. Smith chuckled a little and said she had started a while ago. Chris and I went back to talking with the quiet sounds of the doctors working in the background.
As short time later Dr. Smith announced, “It’s a boy.” And a tiny whimper of a cry was heard.
I hadn’t noticed the team of doctors off in the corner waiting to receive the baby. They had come in while I was being prepped. The hushed but urgent talking started. Chris went over to see the baby. Dr. Smith told me she was going to start finishing the surgery. In silence I waited. In this crystal clear moment of denial I thought nothing more than a few moments with the doctors would make my son okay.
Chris came back to my side. A look that I didn’t comprehend on his face. A voice asked, “Would you like to see your son?” Yes. He was quickly brought to my side in a clear bassinet. The only detail I recall is his color. Bluish-purple. And just as quickly he was gone. A group of at least 5 people left with him to go up the NICU.
Torn between staying with me and going with the baby Chris held my hand. “Go! Go with the baby. I’ll be fine.” I said. “Are you sure?” he asked. “Yes! Go!” I answered. “What name?” he asked. “Ben, it has to be Ben.” I replied. And he was gone.
Left alone on the operating table fear and realization settled over me. The tears broke. I was terrified.