By the time Jonathan's birthday arrived, I had done the run-through so many times. I felt mentally prepared. "It's no big deal" I told myself. People have C-sections at the hospital every day.
I was really anxious during my last C-section. The staff offered me anxiety meds but I declined once they explained the side-effects. I didn't want to be loopy after my son was born. I was so exhausted and out-of-it during my first emergency C-section that I didn't hold my first born until he was three hours old. I wanted to be present and coherent for the birth of my second son. And even though I was insanely anxious, it was the right decision. As soon as they lifted Ryan over that blue curtain for the first time, everything was OK.
I assumed that since I'm now an experienced C-section patient, this time would be a breeze. Wrong.
I held it together just fine all morning. We dropped the kids off, parked the car, and walked toward the hospital. Suddenly, tears flooded my eyes and I felt like beavers had constructed a dam in my throat. I walked up to the registration counter and couldn't speak. My husband checked me in. They brought me back to a pre-op hospital room. The baby incubator was all set up in the corner. "My baby is going to be there," I thought as I smoothed my hand softly over the blanket.
My husband and I sat on the hospital bed and waited. He was trying to make small talk and little jokes to ease the look of horror on my face. We took side bets as to how much baby would weight. Then I didn't want to talk. To anyone. We waited forever (or 30 minutes). Apparently, no one let the nurses know we were there. Finally someone came in and handed me a gown and a stack of sanitizing wipes. I was instructed to wipe down my entire body. Between light sobs and watery eyes, I went into the bathroom and complied, shivering to the touch of the cold wipes. In the mirror, I glanced one last time at my round belly and then went back to the bed to be prepped for the IV.
Surprisingly, the IV is where I totally lost my shit. They swabbed my arm, numbed up my wrist. I looked away as they inserted the IV. I started to panic. I didn't want to be there. The gravity of the procedure hit me and suddenly I could barely breathe. I tilted my head upward and cried out, "I want to go home." Then I sobbed uncontrollably.
The nurses tried to reassure me. They brought in the head nurse and patted my hand and told me everything would be fine. The anesthesiologist tried to reassure me. Everyone seemed surprise that I was so nervous (as if it never happened before?!) and kept asking me what part of the C-section I was worried about. What? The entire fucking thing. I just looked at them dumbly and said, "You're going to cut me apart!" I mean. Duh.
Finally it was time to walk to the Operating Room. After they summoned me, I at on the edge of the bed, frozen. I leaned forward into my husband's torso and cried. I didn't want to go. I couldn't will my body to walk to that room. Not intentionally. Somehow, I did it. After several minutes and still deep in sobs, I got up off that bed and walked. Right into the Lion's Den.
I remember walking into the room. I was surrounded by white and sterling silver and the windexy-blue of scrubs, latex gloves, footies, and hair caps. It was so bright and pristine. The room was freezing. The smell of sterile chemicals made me want to vomit. I was instructed to sit on a very narrow, aluminum table. It's cold surface pressed harshly against me and I felt trapped. I remember curling up for the spinal block and suddenly it felt like ice cold water was being pushed through the veins in my legs. Everything from the chest down went numb.
I could hear myself breathing but I felt like I was suffocating. I couldn't feel my lungs filling with air. They put an oxygen mask over my face and I could feel the warmth of my breath fill the mask. But I still couldn't feel myself breathing. I panicked again. I yelled out that I couldn't breath. I yelled it over and over. The anesthesiologist assured me that I was breathing and tried to talk me to calmness. But his words couldn't take away the feeling of suffocation and I couldn't calm down. (Turns out the spinal block made my chest numb too and that's why I couldn't feel my lungs).
I gasped for air over and over. I yelled out. I cried. Mid-panic, I heard the anesthesiologist tell my husband that he was going to give me something to calm me down. And suddenly, completely and totally beyond my own control, calmness took over. The rest of the operation is hazy, at best. I remember asking my husband if he was able to sell our couch on craigslist. When the doctor asked what color it was, I told her it was purple (it's brown). The doctor said the baby was almost out and I asked my husband to take a picture when they lifted him over the curtain.
The next thing I remember is this:
I heard someone yell out that he weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. I felt a lot of tugging and pulling down in my abdomen, and both my shoulders began to ache (apparently during the procedure air gets into the body cavity and once they stitch you up, it has nowhere to go which causes pressure in the shoulders) and the rest is a blur. I don't remember the nurses placing baby next to my pillow. I don't remember my husband taking photos. I don't remember being wheeled out of the room. In fact, I don't remember what happened within the next hour and a half.
My next memory is in the recovery room. I don't remember seeing anything (my eyes must have been closed?) but I remember hearing a nurse shout for the doctor to come right away. She reported that my pulse was 38 beats/minute and that my blood pressure was really low. I remember hearing concern in her voice. I felt like a third party observer because I felt like something may have been seriously wrong but I lacked the ability to have any emotional reaction. The doctor rushed in. checked me out, I heard her say, "It's ok. She's a runner." After that, everyone seemed less worried about my stats. Later my doctor would tell me that she wasn't worried because a low pulse is only really a problem when blood pressure skyrockets but my blood pressure stayed really low- like 80's over 50's- during my entire hospital visit.
Finally I came around and at some point I was holding the baby in my arms. I looked down at his sweet little sleeping face and I was instantly in love. He looked so much like Ryan when Ryan was a newborn. I lay in the hospital bed, with the lower half of my body still numb, needles and wires sticking out all over my body, a damp cloth pressed against my forehead, and a host of nurses and staff fussing and working all around me but for a brief moment everything faded away and all I saw was him. And he was perfect. And I felt full-to-bursting with happiness.
"What about Lucas?" I offered back.
"Maybe." He replied.
"I like both of those." He said.
"You can decide."
"Well, what do YOU like?"
Eventually it was settled, Jonathan Roger. I had been pushing for Roger as a middle name from the very beginning (my dad's name). My husband vetoed it all along. But in the end, I could have asked for the moon and he would have delivered it to me. And I absolutely love him for it.
The rest of the week was a very long recovery. There was fainting, excruciating pain, more poking and prodding, and a five day hospital stay. Several times I felt that I would never be able to get out of bed or feel human ever again. Normal life seemed a universe away. But through it all, Jonathan was the bright spot. He made the whole ordeal worth every second. He brought me smiles at 3am. Tears of joy in the quiet hours of the morning. Hugs and kisses and happiness immeasurable.
Before Jonathan, there was a silent void. Our house and our hearts were full of noise and activity. But I didn't feel complete. I felt like there was a missing puzzle piece and I longed for one more baby. Jonathan's presence has far exceeded anything I had imagined. The void is gone. He is perfect. Absolutely perfect. From the little crown on his sweet-smelling head to his tiny little chicken legs. From his shrill hunger cries to his unintentional sleepy smiles.