When: Monday, July 9, 4:30pm – 40 Weeks, 3 Days
Where: Carle Hospital, 24 into my labor
Martin made his way back upstairs, sensing the urgency in my Mom’s text. My doctor laid it all out for us, in the simplest of terms. She said:
“Your dilation has stalled, and actually regressed in the past couple of hours, this is concerning to me. Your temperature continues to rise, and it’s concerning to me because if you have a fever, baby has a fever. Your baby wants to join us, which explains the pressure you’re feeling to push, but your cervix is swelling due to this pressure, this is concerning to me. When I did your last cervical check, I honestly wasn’t sure whether what I was feeling was baby’s head or baby’s bottom, this is how much pressure is on his head right now, which is another concern for me.
If you are dead-set on a vaginal birth, I’m happy to keep trying for it, but I am not 100% convinced that we will not be having a more urgent version of this conversation in an hour or two. In my opinion, and for the safety of Mom and for baby, I would like you to seriously consider a c-section.”
I remember nodding along with each and every aspect of concern she pointed out. Looking from her to Martin and back again throughout her explanation. Martin seemed to echo my feelings exactly, without a word, and when she was finished.
He said, “Of course the decision is yours, but I will support you 100%, no matter what.”
I said, “I think I want to be more safe than sorry. I am exhausted.”
He said, “I think this is a really sound decision. And I love you.”
And I looked at my doctor, and asked, “Ok, we’ll go with the c-section. When will that happen?”
She said, “Well, right now. We’ll have you on the table in 20 minutes.”
And with that, my parents began packing our bags, Martin was handed a pile of scrubs to put on over his clothes, and a flurry of nurses and my anesthetist, Greg, flooded the room to begin prepping me to move into the operating room.
I felt isolated in this crowded room of people tending to their own tasks, all on my behalf. I felt very suddenly overwhelmed by the gravity of my decision. There hadn’t been any time at all to process this change in my birth plan! How was I supposed to be ok with this, so instantaneously? Was I sure I was ok with this? Maybe I could keep trying to push… right? But what about my baby? Yes, I’d wanted so badly to have a vaginal delivery, but I should be safe, and do what the doctor said… right?
Greg, my anesthetist, started to run through what would happen with the procedure, all at lightning speed, as though he’d gone down this list with a zillion other soon-to-be moms, with an ease of memorization that astonished me. I was already overwhelmed, but this rundown of the process was too much. I think I began to cry. Greg realized I was at the end of my rope, and flagged Martin down, who was now donning the light blue scrubs and helping to pack up the rest of our belongings. Greg joked that there wouldn’t be a pop-quiz and that he’d walk me through the process again, while it was happening, but wanted me to have an idea of the whole picture. I was simultaneously grateful and angry.
Martin came to my bedside and took my hand. We looked into each other’s eyes, and I whispered, “I’m really scared.”
He said, “I am too.”
I didn’t know what else to say, or how to say it. I was in shock.
Sometime within those moments, the tremors had returned. I was shaking terribly, without any control. I believe it was from exhaustion, contractions, exertion, anxiety, and anticipation all culminating together into a physical manifestation of expression.
Martin wasn’t allowed to come into the OR until I was already prepped and the surgery had started, but he walked as far as he could with me, as they wheeled my bed down the hallway.
He kissed me, told me how much he loved me and was instructed to wait for approximately 10 minutes, while they prepped me, and that someone would go get him when it was time for him to join me. (I would find out later that it was more like 15 minutes, and that, to Martin, it felt like 8 years.)
Then I was in the OR. I remember, again, feeling incredibly isolated despite all of the people in the room there only for me and my unborn baby. The people in the room moved like a well-oiled machine. It was like a choreographed dance that had been rehearsed a million times over to perfection. Each person knowing how to do what they needed to do, and exactly when and where to do it, so as not to be in anyone else’s way.
There was a medical student, on rotation, that I’d met at a previous appointment, who had found a square foot of space to stand in that didn’t impede on anyone else’s tasks, and I remember watching him stand, like a statue, with his hands together in front of him. I imagined him wishing he was anywhere but there, at that moment.
Greg was doing a great job of walking me through it all, again, as it was happening. He said babies that are born with a fever usually enter the world pretty quietly, which was why they’d brought folks in from the NICU to be ready to give my baby a once-over when he arrived, just to be sure he was ok. What I heard, when Greg told me this, was that my baby needed to scream. I needed him to scream.
My arms were strapped down so that I resembled a crucifix, and I remember finding an ounce of amusement in that, which quickly passed away. And then they raised the sheet up at my chest so that I could no longer see anything happening, but I could hear it all. I was still shaking uncontrollably. I could only focus on continuing to breathe. In. Out. In. Out.
I had oxygen in my nose that was cold and uncomfortable. My lips and mouth were drier than the Sahara desert and I recall asking Greg if he had any vaseline for my lips. He said no.
Greg would say, “Ok, you’re going to feel a little pressure now” And I did.
Greg would say, “Ok, you’re going to feel some pulling now.” And I did.
Things seemed to be going smoothly, but it seemed like I’d been in the OR for ages… far more than 10 minutes. I remember saying, “Where is Martin???” And not 30 seconds later, he was there, at my side, with his scrubs on, and a mask over his nose and mouth. All I could see were his eyes, and they told me everything that his mouth wouldn’t.
He was terrified. He was in shock. He was worried. He was anxious. But he was trying desperately to hold it together for my sake.
Then my doctor announced, “Ok, here comes your baby!”
And I squeezed Martin’s hand, and I held my breath, and I shut my eyes tight, and I waited… And my baby let out a blood-curdling scream so loud I’m convinced they heard it in Indiana. My baby screamed. They held him up, over the sheet for me to see him, and I was in love. All I could say was, “My baby! My baby! My baby! My baby!” And I cried so hard, I nearly choked. My baby screamed. And he continued to scream, and cry, and let us know how ticked off he was at being yanked out of his perfect bubble in my womb while the NICU folks had him. He was healthy. The NICU folks put him in his bassinet, and Martin and my baby were wheeled into recovery while they finished stitching me up.
August Jules-Thomas M. was born on July 9, 2018 at 5:22pm, weighing 8 pounds 4 ounces and 21 inches long.
End of Act II