“Birthing stories. We all have them. We’re all proud of them. We all want to share them. For the men reading this – they’re our fishing stories. Like you, we all want to tell about the time we caught the bigger fish. I mean, come on, have you ever see a bunch of women sitting around talking about them? We subconsciously do the same thing you do. We puff out our chests. Shuffle our weight in our hips. Pull up our pants. Clear our throats. Expand our arms wide to tell you the baby was ‘this big.’ Oh yes, we all have the better story. We all had the bigger baby. We all had the longer labor. We were all bloodier. We might not be able to remember where we put the damn car keys, but we can recall every single moment of those 23 hours in the war zone.
But I, yes, I, have the best story of them all. With my daughter’s sweet 16 right around the corner, I couldn’t help but reminisce about that day. It wasn’t supposed to be her birthday. No, she was three weeks early and apparently, after already giving birth twice before, I have a steel uterus and could not feel a thing, even though I had been dilated to a four for 10 days already. Yep, just walking around for 10 days with an open uterus, going about my business, not worried at all that the baby might fall out. So, when the doctor told me at my normal checkup that I was in labor, I didn’t really believe her. Nobody seemed too concerned and they were comfortable with sending me home, an hour away, and told me to come back if my contractions got closer. My husband, however, decided to push to send me to the hospital so I could get put on the ‘little monitor thing,’ as he called it and my doctor finally agreed.
So, there we were, a family of four in a tiny observation room. At least the nurses brought coloring books for my then 5 and 7-year-old, and if you didn’t know it, you can put the bench thing down in the shower and it doubles as a craft table. My husband was enthralled with the printout that kept spitting out of the machine showing us the contractions and while I still wasn’t feeling anything, he had somehow earned his medical degree and insisted that I was about to pop that baby out right then and there. Problem was, my doctor was not going to have it and because of my past history, insisted on a C-Section. Now, listen, I was not one of those moms who felt like I was missing something by not pushing an 8-pound human being out of my vagina. No. I was totally fine with them cutting me open and pulling the slippery sucker out, especially after my second was a V-BAC and came so fast there was no time for an epidural or any other drug. Nope, he literally swam out and practically flew across the room and my doctor didn’t know what hit him when the placenta, literally, hit him. Right square in the chest.
So, no, I was fine with the fact that I needed to do a C-Section. The team of doctors came in and told me that the labor was progressing so fast that they were going to do it ‘in an hour,’ but we had to find somebody to come get my other kids, otherwise my husband was going to miss it. In a flurry, we started calling everybody we knew that might be in the area, and thankfully, he was able to get ahold of his nephew who (I’m sure legally) got to the hospital as fast as he could to receive the other kids. Of course, there was that small delay, when in his haste he ended up following the signs to ‘deliveries’ and ended up at the receiving bay for hospital supplies. But once he found the right place, my husband wasted no time running the kids down while I was being prepared for surgery.
My anesthesiologist came in, introduced himself, gave me something to take the edge off and suddenly, I realized I knew him. I knew I had met him before. I struggled as the Versed trickled through my veins to place where I knew him from, but I concentrated. And concentrated. And then it hit me.
It was ‘Goose’ from Top Gun. Yes, I know how crazy that sounds, but if you remember, he did go on to be a doctor on E.R., and while I couldn’t remember his character name from there, ‘Goose’ worked just fine. As he promised me he would take really good care of me through the procedure, I believed him. Afterall, he always put Maverick first, too.
Anyway, my doctor, who incidentally didn’t speak much English (she was from China, I believe, and was really awesome but we just didn’t talk much) came in and said it was time to go but promised me, over and over and over again, that they would not start the surgery until my husband found his way back up to the floor.
So off we went to the operating room. They got me settled, taped down my arms, put up the blue paper screen in front of me, and Goose looked down at me and smiled, asking me if I could feel anything. ‘No, Goose, we’re ready for take-off.’ ‘Roger that,’ he said as he smiled – but only with his eyes as I couldn’t see his mouth anymore as it was covered by a mask. My doctor literally clasped her hands together while we waited, and we all tried to make conversation through the awkwardness but the fact that we couldn’t really understand each other, I couldn’t move my arms or my legs, I was loopy, and my anesthesiologist was actually a hot shot Navy-man, it was a little weird. Finally, the doctor asked the nurse to go look for my husband, to which she did, only to find him outside the hospital with his nephew smoking a congratulatory cigar. Hey, nothing like not being an alarmist right? But, maybe save the celebration for after the baby is actually here? The way I understand it, the nurse grabbed him and told him he was going to miss it if he didn’t hurry up and as they rushed back upstairs, she handed him some paper scrubs to throw on so he could go into the operating room. It was a standard pack, you know – paper pants, a paper poncho looking thing, hat, shoes – the works. Thankfully, he got them on fast and into the operating room he came.
Once all the players were in place and we were ready to go, I must have panicked a little bit because Goose put an oxygen mask on me and immediately, it smelled like something was burning. I told my husband several times something was burning, he just patted me on the head and said everything was alright. I should have known by the smile he gave Goose and the wink Goose gave him back that it was actually my flesh burning while they used a laser to open up my abdomen. But, because I believed them, I just kept taking deep breaths as the did their business to get to the baby. A tug here, a push there. She was coming. My husband wanted to see. I mean who wouldn’t, right? He wanted to watch his daughter being born even if I was disemboweled. He leaned over to look, then shot back to the position he was in with a look on his face I had never seen before. Fear, maybe. Shock. Panic. Oh God, what was it? Was the baby ok? Was something wrong? The blood left his face. He was pale. Almost confused. I wanted to scream out for Goose to check his blood pressure but instead, I just blurted it out.
‘What is wrong? Is something wrong?’ He didn’t answer me right away. ‘Chad, seriously, tell me what’s wrong.’ He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and leaned in. Goose did, too. With the three of our heads practically touching, he whispered it, so quietly, I couldn’t hear him. Goose must have because he sat up with his eyes wide open and pushed himself back in his rolling chair as far as he could go. So, I asked again. This time, he leaned in closer and said it just a little bit louder while the doctor, speaking in Chinese, was giving a run down to the team with the progress of the baby, still tugging on her to pull her out.
‘Babe?,’ he asked.
Oh, my God, spit it out. ‘Yes? What is going on?’
He cleared his throat. ‘Did you know you aren’t supposed to take your clothes off when you put these paper scrubs on?’
‘No. And, they’re ripping.’
Goose snickered. I shot him an upside-down dirty look.
‘Are you serious?’
‘Yes. I was in a hurry. I didn’t even realize they were paper.’
More updates in Chinese.
‘So, you’re telling me…’ I whispered the rest, ‘that you’re naked?’
I don’t remember what was running through my medicated head, but I laughed. Out loud. Violently. I didn’t even know you could have a guttural laugh when your guts are hanging out.
‘Yes, dear. Naked.’ He leaned in again. ‘And it’s starting to chafe.’
More laughter. More talking in Chinese. More smiles from Goose as he untangled tubes. I tried to reach out to touch Chad, you know, to offer some support, but my arms were still strapped down and at best, I could only somewhat move my head. I did my best to rub my head against his chest like a cat loving on its owner, but that only made the chaffing, and the ripping worse.
And just as quickly as he said it, our attention turned, because the baby was here. Of course, the doctor was holding her by one leg upside down trying to get her to cry, which was totally appropriate in the chaos. They whisked the baby away, who was three weeks early, over to the incubator where they started beating her on her back with some device to get her to cry. I guess this stirred some kind of animalistic dad protector thing in Chad because he instinctively flew off his chair to rush to the baby, paying no attention to the fact that he was quickly losing his pants.
And as they rushed the baby out of the operating room and to the NICU, he was a true champion, following his newly born baby girl all the while holding his scrubs together so not to flash the entire medical team at Pomerado Hospital.
Incidentally, she was fine. All they had to do was give her a bath, which made her so mad she spit out all the fluid in her lungs and from that point on, has breathed just fine.
My husband on the other hand – scarred for life.
Kaitlyn, my love, happy 16th birthday. I want you to know how loved you were from the very beginning and still are now. You and your dad shared a special kind of bond, and while you two would go on to tease each other throughout his life, you should always know you had the first laugh. And at the end of his life, you showed him what a true champion you are by holding his hand while he took his last breath, much like he held yours when you took your first. He is watching you, my sweet girl, smiling at your successes, proud of you no matter what, and laughing along with you. May this be the best year, yet.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page.
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