“What’s the APGAR?” I whispered, slowly slipping away.
“MOM WANTS TO KNOW WHAT THE APGAR IS!” someone yelled.
“NINE!” someone yelled back.
Nine, I thought. Perfect. I felt myself slipping into unconsciousness in a wave of nausea. I was strapped down on my back with my arms out like Jesus on the cross, and those were tied down as well. I couldn’t move, even if I wanted to, but I didn’t. My husband leaned in.
“He looks great. Good job, mom,” he said.
“Take care of the baby,” I whispered, and slipped further into nausea and blackness.
“YOU OK, MOM?” the anesthesiologist said.
I almost imperceptibly shook my head “no.”
“I got you,” he said.
He turned to his portable science lab and played with the bells and knobs and whistles quickly, turning this one this way and that, manipulating tubing.
I could hear my baby screaming. Big, strong, healthy screams, over and over. He was mad, ha ha. Being a week early didn’t seem to have hurt his lungs at all.
The doctors were talking about blood loss and working seriously and hurriedly. There was a lot of pulling and tugging, my high-risk OB working in concert with the colo-rectal surgeon I had asked to assist with the C-section, due to my history of GI surgery. One wrong cut and I’d get sepsis, and if not die from it, live with complete incontinence the rest of my life. They were worried and working fast, calling for various instruments.
My case was unusual because of my complicated history. There were at least 25 people in the OR, several of them observing. I had given permission for this. People have to learn somehow. The Greek chorus stood by in silence, watching the doctors work. The baby quit screaming and I concentrated on not dying.
“How’s that?” the drug guy said, leaning over my face? I nodded. I was a little better. I didn’t feel so much like I’d be pulling a Jimi Hendrix anymore, though I didn’t feel good.
My husband was there with the baby. He looked like he was holding an IED. He tried to lean in with him and show him to me, but there was so much going on, I couldn’t really look.
“They want to take him to the nursery. Do you want me to stay with you or go with the baby?”
“With the baby,” I managed to whisper. That was what we had planned, but I think he wasn’t prepared for how intense a C-section can be when you have as much going on in your abdomen as I do.
They left, and it was quieter, but people were rushing all around. The doctors worked and apparently had managed to do something, as their tone suddenly changed from terse to a bit more relaxed.
Then I heard the one doctor ask the other a golf question, and they started talking about a country club. It was then I knew I would be ok.
I felt a little less nauseated now, and was paying attention to what they were doing. I wished I could see, but they wouldn’t allow it.
“Mom, staples ok for you or no?” said my OB in his thick Egyptian accent.
“No staples,” I said. “I’m allergic to metal and to adhesive, remember?”
“Right,” he said. “Steri strips also a no?”
“Correct,” I said.
“WE’RE GONNA NEED A PLASTICS CLOSURE HERE!” he yelled.
A small Asian woman stepped up beside him, and the two surgeons fell back, talking with each other, the way colleagues do.
“You did great, mom,” my OB said, and then the doctors left. Everyone left then, except the drug guy, a few people cleaning up, and the plastics resident.
“I gonna sew you up now, ok?” she said.
“Ok,” I said.
She worked meticulously and slowly for the next half hour, taking teeny tiny stitches so that the wound could close, trying not to leave a big scar. My stomach was already a mess of scars, it would have been easy for her to just slap it together like a frantic mom throwing a last-minute Halloween costume together with stitch witchery and iron-on patches, but she was careful and precise. She didn’t look up from her work until she was done, and then slipped away without a word.
I couldn’t find Lisa, the nurse who had been so nice to me from the moment I arrived, who held my hand and said I could squeeze as hard as I wanted while I was getting the spinal, as long as I didn’t move. Who waited with me before and wheeled me in to the OR when it was time.
They took me to post-op and there she was. “You did great,” she said. “Just get some rest now, and when you wake up, we’ll bring you the baby. Everyone is fine.”
And then, finally, I let go and went to sleep.
My baby is 9 today. I don’t know how that happened, but I know how lucky I am every single day that I’ve been his mom, from that moment in September when I got the voice mail from my fertility specialist saying, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant,” and giving me instructions on how to transition to an OB now that her long journey to help me get pregnant was complete.
I do not get to tuck my kid in every night. He is with his dad, my now ex-husband, every other week. But I am still lucky. I’m still his mom, even when he’s not here.
There are so many out there who did not make it to where I am. My over-35 fertility group online, the one where members leave without announcing they are pregnant, because it would be too painful for those who have been in the group for years, so many of them didn’t and won’t get to where I am. I entered the online board for the last time that September, and posted the phrase we all would recognize: “It’s time for me to leave the board.” I wished them all luck and love and cried at my insane luck, with only 40% chance of success, and cried for all of them, understanding more than anyone how shitty it feels to be in a club like that one.
And there are many who, along the way, have lost the small souls they created, one way or another. Life can be so hard. Sometimes you get another chance, but the life you created and then somehow lost can’t be replaced.
My son is my chance. My only chance. I’m 49 now, and am working so hard at this mom job. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, but the rewards can’t be measured.
Happy birthday, my little dude. I love you so much.