It took less than thirty seconds for the medical team to rush me into the operating room. I didn't think much of that at the time but, having had a subsequent NON-emergency c-section (where I did not commence the journey in the OB ICU), I now realize just how ridiculously fast that really was.
There was already a large team in place there. In addition to the seven people who came with me were nine others. Sixteen doctors and nurses would be on hand to attempt to bring my way-too-early-baby into the world safely.
When we had discussed whether or not I wanted to attempt the c-section I had asked a couple of questions. One of them was this- and this is exactly what I said-
"So I do have one really selfish thing to ask... I know this all needs to happen really fast and all but I'm just kind of curious... will you all be giving me anything for the pain? I mean during the surgery?"
Looking back, it was an absurd question. I mean- I was having major surgery. This wasn't the same as electing to have a natural birth. The fellow nearly laughed at me, I think, but maintained a straight face as he replied, "Heavens, yes. In all honesty, they'll likely have to give you general anesthesia and put you out. You can't sit up for a spinal- you're completely dilated and the baby could slide right out."
The anesthesiologist was already there when I arrived in the OR. He had all sorts of things on hand, including a ventilator should I need to be intubated. He took one look at me and said, "You're awfully skinny for a pregnant lady," (I had gained all of 4 1/2 pounds in that nearly 24 weeks), "I think you might just be able to curl up on your side and I'll do the spinal- then you could be awake for your baby's birth."
That anesthesiologist became my best buddy throughout that whole surgery- you'll learn more about that later on.
With his help and the help of the fellow, I was able to curl up and he administered the spinal. I don't remember feeling anything when he did it, though I'm sure there was some kind of discomfort. They quickly rolled me back onto my back and he started pricking me to determine where (i.e. "how high up") I was numb. Once I could feel nothing up to my shoulders, they knew they were good to go. Of course, as sensitive as I am and always have been to anesthesia, I also started to vomit. The anesthesiologist deftly wiped me up and suctioned out what I didn't have the strength to spit. He also administered an anti-nausea/anti-emetic cocktail that helped me get past that phase.
While the numbing was spreading, they taped my arms and legs, both splayed wide, onto the table. As they wiped my belly down with iodine they realized the table was much too high. The position resulted in the doctors having to "reach up" at an unnatural angle. When they tried to adjust it, they realized it was broken. One of the nurses called to see about getting a replacement. She yelled across the room- "They say they can have it here in three minutes!"
The head OB shook her head, "That's too long. We'll stand on stools."
And that's just exactly what they did.
As the fellow started to cut, the anesthesiologist asked, "Is there supposed to be a father here?" and the nurse who had promised not to forget him cursed quietly as she rushed out the door. They both returned about 30 seconds later. My husband has since recalled that it felt like he was stuck back in that room forever...
With the anesthesiologist at the left side of my head and my husband at the right, I tried to focus and pray for my precious baby whose life surely hung in the balance...
"Please, God. Please, God. Oh, please, God..." It was all I could come up with. I didn't make any promises or utter any fancy words. Just "Please, God" over and over.
Other than that repeated litany, I remember two big things happening during the surgery:
Number one, my nose itched. The anesthesiologist told me that that was a rare side-effect of the anti-nausea medicine. Wouldn't have been a big deal except for the fact that my arms were taped down. As a result, I spent much of the surgery begging my husband to "Scratch my nose, please... please, can you scratch my nose again?" Sounds silly, but it was remarkably irritating at the time. He obliged.
Number two, I saw, clear as day, an image of a tiny headstone with the name we had chosen should we have a baby girl flash through my mind. It chilled me to the bone and I remember rationally trying to accept the reality of what we may be facing while simultaneously rejecting the vision as simply unacceptable. I hate to talk about that (and I don't often), but it's the truth.
I don't actually know how long the surgery took, but I know it was far shorter than the c-section I had this past June. I remember seeing the neonatal team leap forward and spring into action as they passed my baby- still intact with the bag of waters- over to them. They actually delivered her from there OUTSIDE my body, which is a little odd.
When they did, at 12:32 in wee hours of Christmas Eve...
And the room went silent.
to be cont.