Birth: Part one.

Lara has given her account of the birth here and here, but I thought I’d give my perspective as well. The following is the first of two posts on the craziest 12 hours of my life.

In the last weeks of pregnancy, even the most innocuous questions take on a special meaning.

I am leaving my company’s holiday party to meet Lara at the hospital for a 35th week check-up, when I receive a text from her:

Where are you right now?

I stop mid-stride in the busy lobby of my office building, which is decorated tastefully and non-denominationally for the season. The person behind me lets out a small grunt of annoyance as he alters his flight path, veers around me to the right, and makes his way out through the double set of exterior doors.

My fingers jab at the front of my phone. I’m not the greatest touchscreen typist on my best day, let alone when a jolt of adrenaline is going through my body.

Judt leavinh teh party. whyk

I hit backspace to clear the line and start again, when it occurs to me that this is a conversation I’d rather have by phone. My hand glides over the speed dial settings.

“Hey,” she says when she answers, stress in her voice despite her best efforts to sound calm.

“Hey,” I respond. “What’s going on?”

Ninety seconds later, I am doing an intense jog down the streets of Chicago. While I feel like sprinting to the train, I don’t want anyone to think I’m running from a crime. But I still have to force myself not to go top speed, so that frustration turns into overly heavy strides. I take the lower stairs to the elevated platform two at a time, shoot through the turnstile, then scale the upper stairs in a flash. I look down the tracks and see that I’m in luck: a Brown Line is at the station just south of my platform. Within moments, I’m on the train and sitting in one of the banks of seats flanking the car door. As the el rumbles north, I think back to what my wife told me only minutes ago.

Something is wrong with Baby A.

I enter the hospital lobby and walk briskly down the hall on my way to the maternity triage. It is all the way in the rear of the building, and, once again, I am forcing myself not to run. I wind through the corridors, absently following the beige line on the wall that leads to the triage even though I’ve been there three times already. Once, during the maternity tour I took early on in the pregnancy. A second time, when Lara had come in to diagnose a round of high blood pressure a few months ago. The third time, two weeks ago when she had a spell of dehydration and vomiting and had to stay almost twelve hours.

So while I could walk the route blindfolded at this point, I find it useful to let the beige line do the driving while I focus my efforts on donning a calm and easy manner. Attentive and direct to show that I’m taking the situation seriously, but not so intense that it betrays that I’m totally freaking out.

“There’s nothing to freak out about,” I tell myself. “We don’t know enough yet.” Not yet.

As I turn around the penultimate bend before the maternity triage, I see Lara walking toward me from the opposite corridor. She had called me from the ultrasound office, which is part of the clinic that connects to the rear of the hospital. As she sees me, she bursts into tears. I take her into my arms, stroke her hair, and thank god that I had my game face on before I got to the triage. I comfort her as best I can, then she brings me up-to-date.

Prior to the doctor’s appointment, Lara had gone in for a quick check of the babies’ heart rates and an ultrasound as she had for the last several weeks. It was during today’s ultrasound that they had noticed that Baby A’s amniotic sac was losing fluid. They also confirmed that he was falling behind Baby B’s growth rate, meaning that he was becoming “discordant” with his sister. They told her that she needed to go to the triage right away for an additional diagnosis.

Ironically, this bombshell was the result of a “non-stress test.”

We walk into the triage to find the same horrible gurney beds that Lara has had to suffer through twice before. After she changes into her sea green gown, we settle down for an afternoon of beeping monitors, moaning strangers, and intense back pain, thanks to the awkward angle Lara must maintain in order for the fetal heart monitors to pick up the babies’ vital signs. We try to keep the conversation light, as if neither of us is afraid that our unborn son is dying.

Part of the delay is that Lara’s regular doctor is not readily available, and the triage staff has to track her down. This apparently involves lots of calls being placed in a room somewhere else in the hospital, because every time I look out from our curtained bay, the nurses are chatting or writing in charts or surfing the Internet.

However, the resident taking care of us is extremely nice, one of the nicest people we’ve encountered throughout the whole pregnancy. When we ask to do a second ultrasound to double-check the clinic’s diagnosis, she doesn’t bat an eye. She answers as many of our questions as she can and promises to get answers for those she can’t. We are very sorry to see her go at the end of her shift.

The doctor on call from Lara’s obstetrcian’s practice finally arrives around 5 pm. The good news is that we now have the chair of the hospital’s OB/GYN staff working the case. The bad news is that he’s a man. He’s also the only doctor of the six in the clinic that Lara and I haven’t met. I’m not sure which fact bothers her more.

Fortunately, he exudes confidence and authority. Within seconds of opening his mouth, Lara and I are nodding in agreement with everything he says. He gently tells us that both he and Lara’s regular doctor agree with the diagnosis from the ultrasound. He tells us that while it is not certain that something is wrong, he believes that delivering five weeks early through a caesarian section would be preferable to letting the situation worsen. But, he tells us, it is our choice.

Minutes later, we’re on the phone with our parents telling them that their grandchildren are about to come into the world. We share with them yet another strange circumstance of the day. The hospital requires that non-emergency patients fast for eight hours before surgery. No problem; Lara is a high school counselor, and their lunches general happen around 11 am. But today—this one day—her schedule prevented her from eating until 1:30 pm. This means we must now wait until 9:30 for the procedure to begin. Fantastic. Another four hours to wait and worry.

Finally, around 8:30, Lara is wheeled from the triage to the maternity ward. We ride the elevator up a few floors; a set of sliding glass doors part as we approach. To the right, a television from 1987 spits out static and a low-rent local commercial to a small, deserted waiting room. I recall the maternity tour that I had taken; I remember that the large, wooden doors to the side of the waiting room lead to the neonatal ICU and, beyond, the patient rooms at the heart of the ward. Lara’s escort pushes her to the left. The tour didn’t include this section. It might as well have a sign hanging over it saying “Here there be dragons.”

The dingy yellow light of the triage unit is replaced by blindingly white fluorescents. Lara is wheeled into a small, strange holding room with two doors: the one through which we entered, and a Door of Mystery on the opposite wall. As Lara is moved to a gurney, I am handed a pile of green fatigues and a hair net. I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to do—do these go over my clothes or do I get undressed first? With all the hustle and bustle, though, I don’t feel like it is the right time to ask.

I decide to go the undressed route and duck into the bathroom. When I emerge, I resemble a strange mix of surgeon and lunch lady. My snow boots are an odd accessory, but the little footies the nurses gave me wouldn’t even begin to fit over the cleats on the tan monstrosities. These are the shoes I’ve been walking around in for 15 hours, and my ankles are beginning to chafe. Wisely, I keep this complaint to myself.

Lara’s upper body is once again elevated; the top half of the gurney has been angled up, and she is tethered to the beeping and thumping machine nearby. The volume on the heart monitor is louder here than it was downstairs, so it sounds more than ever like we are in the bowels of the Nautilus.

While it scarcely seems possible, Lara is even more uncomfortable than before. Her request for a little something to calm her nerves was denied; six hours in, the ordeal is starting to take its toll on her. She begins to get so jittery with pain and fatigue that she can’t concentrate. She asks for me to talk about something to take her mind off of events. In an instant, all possible topics of conversation other than “Oh my God, you’re having our babies” drain from my mind like a plug has been pulled from its basin. In my desperation, I pull out my phone.

“How about a game of WordUp?” I ask.

Due the monitors and IV, Lara can’t hold the phone and play the word search game at the same time. I hold the phone in front of her, and her free hand pokes and swipes at the screen for a three minute match. Then another. And another. After several more games, my arm is starting to ache. Once again, I keep this complaint to myself.

Just as she has calmed down a bit, the Door of Mystery opens. Behind it, a hallway extends out of sight; a few operating bays are just visible. A nurse tells Lara that she’ll be going in for the procedure in just a few minutes. She turns to me and says that I’ll be following 15 minutes later, once the surgeons have set everything in motion. The nurse leaves. I turn to Lara with a reassuring smile; she looks at me like she’s just been drafted.

The nurse returns with a few colleagues who release Lara from the monitor then wheel her through the Door of Mystery. The door shuts, and it is suddenly very quiet. I take a seat in the visitor’s chair across the room from the now silent monitor. I wait, with an expectant, nervous grin on my face. After a few minutes in silence, I start quietly singing to myself to release some of the adrenaline flowing through my body.

My face is frowning when I am still sitting in the holding room 42 minutes later. The songs have long since died away, and I have resolved that at the 45-minute mark I will venture through the Door of Mystery and find someone who will tell me what the hell is going on. When 30 minutes had passed, my imagination began presenting me with small tales of complications and delays. Now it had worked up to full-blown disaster scenarios. Two minutes go by. I am staring at the second hand on the old analog clock above my head, when a nurse rushes in and waves me through the Door of Mystery. Though she says almost nothing, her tone is unmistakably annoyed, as if I were running late and holding everything up. Anger flares in my chest for a moment, but it is almost immediately replaced by concern and anticipation. I don’t care if she wants to scold me for the next three days; I just want to see my wife.


Read part two. - November 2, 2016 - 8:17 pm

Haha!Non mais à Lyon, y a « vachement mieux » que le magasin cité: Trollune est une boutique que je recommande vivement avec des gens chouettes dedans! :p(je ne suis pas sponsorisée pour dire ca! )

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