A Baby's Breath
I remember the smell of the operating room. The tinge of sterile atmosphere. The remnants of alcohol slightly stinging my nose. The brightness of the over head light. Feeling the chill in the air. Slowly reaching out and putting my fingertips on the cold metal table. Covered with only a paper thin hospital gown barely tied behind me. My other hand reaching back keeping it closed.
I remember continuing to notice the sterile scent of the purified room. The linger of antiseptic,
of nitrile gloves and plastic barriers as nurses and staff buzzed around the room. I stood there, calming myself by focusing on the scent of the cleanliness. Alleviating at least the fear of infection. I stood there. Feeling the mechanical cold. Awaiting instruction. Feeling myself shiver. Convincing myself I was safe.
I remembered removing my hand from the table. Letting go of the back of my gown. Cupping my hands around my belly. Attempting to connect, to feel, the baby I was holding inside. Trying to cradle him through the body's barrier. Wishing I could feel him move. Talking to him telepathically. Hoping he could hear me. As he was still a part of me. Still a body part. An extension within. Hoping my thoughts could penetrate the womb he was so tightly tucked in.
Knowing I needed to be brave. No time for fear to consume. His infant self needed me to be his mother. His needs surpassed my own. But my knees, my lips, my entire body continued to tremble as I stood before the table.
“Go ahead.” A male nurse says to me, gesturing to the metal operating table. Knowing it was now time. Time to get on. Time for this “emergency” to end. For a new life to begin. But I didn’t feel ready. The trembles increased. I couldn’t control them. I was unable to will them away. I knew they were visible.
“You ok?” The nurse asked as I shivered before him.
I nodded nervously. Quickly. Still without speaking a word.
He reaches his hand out to help me onto the table. I slowly reached out and gripped it back.
“You’re shaking.” He said. “Are you cold?”
I wanted to tell him, “No, I’m terrified. I don’t want to lose this one too.” Knowing I wore a paralyzing fear in my eyes.
I felt my head nod as to say, “Yes, I’m cold.” Still without speaking a word. Then I firmly gripped his hand back and shimmied by pregnant body onto the operating table.
‘You’re going to need an epidural for an emergency C section. It will temporarily paralyze you from the waste down. You won't be able to move your legs, but you also won’t feel a thing. It’s important not to move while I do it.”
Again I found myself uncontrollable shaking and nodding.
The horror stories running through my head about the paralyzation that can permanently happen if they slip or place the needle too deep into my spine. The effect the drugs could have on the infant. My son. Then, images of them slicing my mid section, pulling organs out and placing them onto the table, to soon replace after the baby was removed.
I looked up at him. The first time making eye contact and asked, “I have to, right?”
Just wanting to confirm. Checking to see if I had another option.
He assuredly nodded back, “Yes.”
He then told me to lean forward as the rest of the room continued to frantically pace around the room. Placing instruments on roll away tables next to my operating table. IV’s and medication being wheeled next to me. Nurses checking my vitals, machines beeping throughout the room.
“Lean forward.” He said. “Into a ball.”
I felt my hand cup my belly one more time. The distant prayer that maybe I would feel him move. Knowing this was my last chance to bond with him while he remained inside me. Before he was plucked from my body. Unsure of what damage it could cause. Unsure what damage had already been done. Before we see the side effects of zero amniotic fluid. Unsure how long it had been that way. Wondering if he had been suffering silently, immobile within. Without me, his mother, having a clue. A mother already, yet my body failing to nourish whatever he needed. The soul that was supposed to be my boy. The soul growing inside me. A soul meant to be mine.
I tucked my head between my legs. As closely as possible without feeling like I was crushing my stomach. Without causing him any more discomfort.
The doctor abruptly entered. “We about ready?”
The nurse behind me calling out, “Almost.” Then leaning closer to me, whispering, “Bend a little more.”
I tried, but fearing I was making matters worse. Fearing I was taking air away, or cutting off his cord. His now only supply to nutrients. Knowing there was little to nothing else for him in the darkness of my womb.
“Bend more.” His voice growing more commanding. An urgency that was meeting mine.
I tried. Just a tiny bit more.
The doctor watching the vitals calls out, “We need to start!”
Adding to the already heightened state.
“Just a little more.” His voice behind me almost begging.
I leaned, my stomach squished onto my knees. The best I could do. Then, I felt the stick in my back. Freezing my body, careful not to move. Knowing the needle was now in my spine. Millimeters from crucial tissue, tendons, nerves. Nerves that could severe, sliced if poked.
“Done.” He said with a sense of relief.
He had me lay down, leaning toward my right side. For only a matter of seconds before putting me fully on my back. On the table.
As I laid there, moments from accepting the fate of the rest of my life. Resonating, vibrating, uncertain if the next moments would deem the best or worst, the joyous or most devastating of my life.
Another male nurse comes bouncing into the room. His mask on, his hair covered, his eyes wide. “It’s time!” His excitement was palpable as he bounced closer next to me. Then grabbed my hand, leaning in close nervously repeating his words, “It’s time!”
I finally looked up, wondering who this jittery nurse or doctor could be. Looking at the wide blue eyes behind the mask, I suddenly realized it was my husband. Exposing an unrecognizable panic, masking as a supportive positivity he was displaying for me. Showing he was just as nervous while trying to be strong for me. Grasping, portraying a strength he knew he would have to have in case I crumbled. In case our worse fear came true.
A brief smile crosses my face. Deeply appreciating both his care and his effort.
“We ready?” the doctor asks me.
Unsure and still shaking uncontrollably, I nod and answer, “Yes.”
I feel a pressure on my right side. One without any pain. Just knowing her location. A clear oxygen mask is placed over my mouth. I close my eyes and deeply inhale. Telling myself the time has come. Everything past this point, now out of my control. Everything that is supposed to happen will. Everything now in fate’s hands.
I feel an inward peace take over my trembling outer shell.
Suddenly, mid breath, I fell a twinge at my mid line. Followed by a jolt of excruciating pain that takes hold. My left leg jerks up without warning. Stunning the room. I realize my left side is not numb. The pain shocks my system. And I feel my leg kick once again. My leg that shouldn’t be able to move.
“Hold still!” The doctor yells. “Give her more meds!” The male nurse next to me says, ‘They have been sent out. They can’t come back in. They are no longer sterile.”
Knowing we had begun to operate. Knowing time was of the essence. My son had to come out. I lay as stiff as possible. Allowing her to continue to cut. I continue deeply inhaling the oxygen hissing into the plastic face mask. My only attempt to breathe into each pain. I close my eyes and feel the warm tears run down the sides of my face, past my temples, disappearing into the sweat in my hair. Breathing. Deeply breathing. Feeling, focusing, on my husbands fingertips tightly wrapped around my hand.
His voice whispering, repeating, “He’s coming. He’s coming.”
Knowing every second, every ounce of pain was worth the fight.
Finally, they pull his 5 pound 4 ounce body from mine. Without a sound. The room stood still. I turn to my husband and softly say, “Go see him."
He walks to the table where the baby is placed. I only see their backs and fast hands rubbing the tiny body. Attempting to make him cry. To revive the infant. To breath his first breath out of the womb and into the new world. His first moments here on Earth. I grow nervous as the seconds tick on. Watching. No longer inhaling the oxygen through the mask. Now holding my breath until I hear him gasp for his.
A nurse begins counting the seconds… 52-53-54…
What the fuck? I think in a panic. Breathe, sweet boy. BREATHE!
Please, I beg in my mind. Questioning how I could grasp the unthinkable. If the worst really happened. How I could function. The panic growing and taking over me.
My body shivers turning into a quivering shake from my unnumb left foot to the tips of my ear lobes.
Suddenly, a deep baby cry echoing through the operating room. Followed by a sweet gasp of air, then another bellow from his soul. His screams bringing a sigh of relief as I finally inhale the hissing oxygen from my mask. His screams like a lullaby to my ears as I exhale a sigh of relief. Softly knowing in my heart, everything that was meant to happen, happened. Fate blessing me this time around. The beginning of both our lives with one single gasp for air. With a single baby's breath.