There’s nothing quite like seeing your wife on an operating table to remind you that our lease on this life isn’t permanent, and that having a baby is serious business.
I’d done my best to repress all of those feelings in the weeks leading up to the birth. They were there though, to be sure, floating around in the back of my head. Bits of medical jargon that all really meant the same not-so-good-very-bad thing; terms memorized after two previous c-sections. “The most dangerous part of the surgery is the drive to the hospital”, the doctors say. They’re probably right, but it doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it’s the familiarity of driving a car that makes it seem so harmless when compared to regional anesthesia and abdominal surgery.
Our firstborn was an emergency c-section. Not the doctors-and-nurses-rushing-into-the-OR flavor emergency c-section, but technically any failed labor that results in a c-section is termed an emergency c-section. It certainly felt like an emergency to me. My son’s head was too big, so he wasn’t going anywhere. Each contraction put more and more pressure on him and the umbilical cord and his heart rate would plummet. So into the OR we went, and in a flurry of activity out came my son. I learned something very important during the whole exercise: for the majority of the scary bits, I was a panicky mess. Not externally. It’s not like I was running around hyperventilating. But inside, I was freaking out. What struck me leading up to and during the surgery, was that the people with the really hard jobs, namely removing a human being from inside another human being, weren’t freaking out. The nurses, anesthesiologist, and doctors were all extremely calm. This, to them, seemed like child’s play. At least their demeanor indicated as much. There was small talk in the OR. A radio played easy listening hits, it might have been James Taylor, I can’t remember. Were they pulling a splinter out of her finger or doing a c-section? It was hard to tell. And so I learned to let them set the tone. If they’re not running around yelling stuff like you hear on “ER” (‘Get some pressure on that! I need 100cc’s of who-knows-what-erol, STAT!”), then I’m not going to panic.
Since numero uno was a c-section, the rest of the brood have been scheduled c-sections. A scheduled birth is weird enough; a scheduled c-section is even weirder since there’s no labor. It’s like going to the store for a baby. There’s none of the accurate, however clichéd, screaming and yelling and pushing and the inevitable ‘why did you do this to me!’ from the mom-to-be that you see in the movies. You go from zero to baby pretty quick; from hospital registration to ‘it’s a girl!’ took about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The actual procedure took about 10 minutes.
I can’t really describe what it’s like to see your child born. I’m sure it’s different for everyone. I’ve seen it happen three times, and the feelings have been pretty consistent in each case. My heart has raced each time, palpably. And you know that look you get when something confuses the hell out of you? I’m pretty sure that’s been the look on my face each time I’ve seen my kid held up into the world for the first time by the doctor. It’s there because the whole thing is miraculous. I know there’s science behind it. I know there’s medicine behind it. But every time I see this newborn and realize that a couple of fragile, fallible, flawed creatures were involved in creating something that amazing and perfect I can’t help but find it miraculous. And that puts the confused look on my face, because nothing else I’m ever involved in turns out so perfectly. If I dedicated the rest of my life to something, anything, I would never be able to create alone something as beautiful and perfect as that kid – and that kid only took 9 months. So it’s a miracle. My two cents.
So the incredible and calm doctors and nurses handled my wife with care, and they took little Emma and made her cry (the good kind), and they checked her fingers and toes, and weighed her and measured her. They commented on her hair, her skinny little legs. “Whose nose does she have?” they asked. Emma’s nose. And they wrapped her up like a little burrito, picked her up, and handed her to me.
“Here you go, dad”
And I fell in love.
Nov. 8th, 1:17 PM
6 lbs. 13 oz.