I'm (finally) continuing the birth story of our twin boys today. You can read part 1 here.
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Chimney falls as lovers blaze
Thought that I was young
Now I'm freezing hands and bloodless veins
As numb as I've become
I'm so tired
I wish I was the moon tonight
-- Neko Case, I Wish I Was The Moon
We arrived at Oklahoma Children's Hospital a full half-hour early even though it's only a ten minute drive from our house. Clearly, we were ready.
We navigated our way through the enormous building that has been reworked and added on to so many times that many of the staff there can't tell you how to get un-lost if you lose your way. We made our way into the Women and Newborn's Pavilion and were quickly checked in. The nurse who checked us in gave Kyle a 7 day parking pass, and we laughed about the extravagance of seven days worth of free parking.
(if you could highlight blog posts like you used to do with the novels you were forced to read in literature class, you would want to highlight that last sentence and note FORESHADOWING in the margin)
It was when we were settled in to the pre-op room that I felt the anxiety start to creep up. It started in a deep and quiet place, a place I paid little attention to most of the time, the place where I store my memories of the girls' births. As I changed into the surgical gown and the IV was started though, it started to feel like an oil well split open, streams of black, sticky stuff bubbling to the surface.
Outwardly, I focused on keeping it together. My doctor bounced in and out with updates on what time we would make our way to the OR. Kyle and I talked and laughed. Inwardly however, no amount of praying and thinking positive thoughts could push the cold anxiety and prickly fear away. It was only my blood pressure that betrayed my inner unrest; earlier in the day, my blood pressure had soared to 160/110, and though it never got quite that high again, it continued to linger in heights that were completely abnormal for me.
We waited and watched TV and waited some more. Another woman had transferred in for an emergency c-section and so we were, of course, bumped back. Both she and her baby had a lot of trouble and the birth teams weren't ready for us until after 8:00.
Finally, we made it to the point I had been so anticipating but also dreading. Kyle was sent off to scrub up and I was rolled down to the OR. This next part is hard for me to talk about because for some time, I harbored secret beliefs that women sharing stories about their horrific c-sections only made things worse for other women who, for whatever reason, would have to give birth that way. My previous Cesarean births weren't that bad. It's really not that big of a deal, the truth I ministered to myself for more than eight years.
This birth, the birth of our twins, was an entirely new thing for me. And not new in a good way. Not new in a redeeming way. Not new in an enlightening experience way.
New in that I felt almost uncontrollably panicked throughout the entire experience.
From the moment we entered the OR, I knew this was going to be a different thing. Whereas my girls were born in a small operating room in a small hospital in a small town in Texas, the operating room at OCH was big, bright, and busy.
With my girls - and I know this sounds crazy, but it's true - the environments for their births, surgical though they were, were almost cozy. A small team attended to me and the anesthesiologists for both births stayed close to my ear and spoke soothing, gentle encouragement the whole time.
OCH is a teaching hospital and the OR was packed with teams. The anesthesiologist had two residents with him. There was my doctor and her assistant and then OR nurses and their students. And then waiting by newborn warmers was the pediatric team: a pediatrician and two nurses for each baby.
It was the only one of three births were I actually experienced that out-of-control feeling I had heard other women lament following a Cesarean birth. Suddenly there were all of these things being done to me while there were so many conversations going on around me (few of which had to do with what was about to happen), and I so wanted to be anywhere but there. I found myself involuntarily breathing long and deep, as if I were breathing through contractions, but really I was breathing through a pulsing panic that I could not shake.
Finally, Kyle took his seat near my head and I reached back and grabbed his hand and held on tight with all the strength I had. "I'm so scared," I whispered to him through tears. I was scared for the babies. I was scared for myself. Scared we would lose one in birth. Scared I might die on the table. But everyone and everything was charging ahead and there wasn't anything I could do. Except breathe.
The surgery began. I have never, ever wanted to know the details of what happens during a c-section. I'm thankful, at least, no one narrated it for me. My doctor made it through the scars of my daughters' births, and finally out came John Kyle at 9:01 PM. Our Baby A. The OR was filled almost immediately with his angry cries. Next, at 9:02 PM, out came Mack Edward. Baby B. It took him a few seconds to get going, but oh my, did he ever.
After nearly a minute of them crying out their outrage, it got quiet. The pediatrician came over to tell us that both of the boys were experiencing respiratory distress and both would be taken to the NICU. They were bundled and shown to me for a second before they were swept away with their daddy trailing behind.
Each second that ticked off the clock once they were earthside and safe brought the quieting and calming of the panic that I thought might consume me.
By the time I was stitched up and moved back to the pre-op room I had been in to wait for my recovery room to be ready, I was feeling good. Actually, I was utterly giddy. This was also new for me, a happy kind of new, this post-birth euphoria. Of course I was concerned about the babies, but everyone kept assuring me it was totally normal for 35 weekers to need a little help with breathing.
Just before they moved me to the room that would become my second home for the next six days, Kyle came in and showed me the first pictures of our sons:
I want to be careful in how I frame the next chapter of this story because I know that many - SO MANY - parents and new babies have experienced far worse that what we went through. At the same, I want to be true to how I experienced the days there were to come after this, even if it doesn't read as painfully or tragically as the stories of others.
Because when I saw those pictures of my babies, babies I had known for so long within but wouldn't be able to touch for nearly eight hours after their birth, babies nearly naked and alone and without me, warmed by artificial lights and heaters and not their Mama ... something in me broke.
Thank you for allowing me so many days of space and spans of words to process this out loud. Just one more chapter to this story to follow. I promise.