March 21, 2012

B-Day Part 3: What happens in the OR...

Click here for Part 1.
Click here for Part 2.

"Is this loud enough?" one of the doctors asked.

"Yep, that's fine! Thank you!"

I don’t remember which doctor, nurse, or intern set up the iPod, but Bryson’s birthday party had now officially begun. I was sitting on the operating table, backside helplessly exposed to the elements, listening to the “Baby Upbeat” playlist I had so thoughtfully created just weeks before. Hope they like my taste in music, I thought. The two songs I specifically remember hearing while under the knife were “Don’t Stop Believin’” by the Glee Cast and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. I remember the former because the medical team actually started singing along at some point (!), and the latter because it was just unbelievably out of place, which to me, made it unbelievably fantastic. While physically I was in a rather intimidating, sterile, kinda scary environment, mentally, I was in my happy place.

Before the surgery and sing-a-long began, I had to get a spinal block. A spinal block is different than an epidural in two ways: 1. It’s delivered directly into the spinal fluid (as opposed to the space outside the membrane surrounding your spine), and 2. It’s a one-time injection rather than a continuous feed via catheter. It works instantly and only for a few hours. Sounds fun, right?

While it wasn’t an epidural, the gist was the same. I’d seen enough epidurals on TV to know that there’s a very large needle involved. I’d also seen enough epidurals on TV to know that the women don’t normally care about the needle because they’re so distracted by the extreme pain they’re experiencing. That’s why I was nervous. I was having what felt like Braxton Hicks contractions and/or bad cramps – but nothing majorly painful. I was scared that the spinal would hurt, and I was also scared it wouldn’t work.

Bart (my aforementioned anesthesiologist) hooked me up with the spinal and a cocktail of other pain medications that, to be honest, I don’t remember. Everything went without a hitch. Once he was finished back there, I noted (out loud) that it wasn’t any worse than what I’d experienced in a beauty spa a time or two. (You know what I’m talking about, ladies!) Now to the fear of whether or not it was working. Remember that “not-so-small tube” AKA foley catheter I’d tuned out during the childbirth class? Once I knew that had already happened and I didn’t even realize it, I knew the spinal was working just fine. (Thanks, Bart!)

I lost all track of time at that point. While they started the process, I was mostly tuning out and listening to my music. My main (albeit irrational) fear at that point was that they would forget to retrieve Jeremy in time to see Bryson’s big debut. When they finally sent someone out to get him and I heard the words, “Dad’s here,” the gravity of the situation really started to sink in, and I teared up. Dad’s here. Dad meaning the man, who exactly thirteen years earlier, was a thirteen-year-old boy asking me to be his girlfriend in the middle school gym. We were about to officially become parents.

I filled Jerm in on all the happenings he’d missed, and then I felt some pressure. To be honest, everyone said it would feel like an elephant sitting on my chest, but it didn’t seem so heavy to me. Still, I was aware enough to feel that something significant was happening down there, and Jeremy needed to get ready to peek over the curtain! (We had discussed this matter ahead of time. He insisted he wanted to look, so he volunteered for double duty as the photographer. I insisted I wanted no photos of my insides, so he better use the zoom and aim accordingly.)

Then it happened. At 12:29 pm, we heard our baby’s first cry. “Holy cow,” Jeremy said. (Except that’s not really what he said.) I always imagined I’d be a blubbering mess at this unreal moment in my life, but instead, I teared up a bit and laughed at my sweet husband. It warmed my heart to see it really sink in for him that not only had there really been a baby in there all this time, but he was ours!

Jeremy passed the camera off to a member of the medical team, who then documented all the other first moments in the OR. While Jeremy didn’t get to actually cut the cord between me and Bryson, he did get the chance to cut it once he was over on the heater. The result was a nice, neat, rather short umbilical “stump,” which I greatly appreciated. (And even though it was short, it still freaked me out in the days that followed.)

Once our baby burrito was all prepped and ready, Jeremy brought Bryson over to meet me face-to-face for the first time. I’m just gonna keep it real here. The first thought I remember having after seeing his precious face was, “You look like a tiny grumpy old man!” My own little Benjamin Button. With his furrowed brow and stern expression, he was born making me giggle. He was perfect, and I was so thankful he was healthy – warm, pink cheeks and little eyes squinting in the bright fluorescent lighting. We looked at each other and seemed to simultaneously think, “So that’s what you look like!”

We took our first family photos, and then the boys were off. It was time to put Humpty Dumpty (that’s me) together again. I thought it would be relatively quick, but as it turns out it took almost an hour and a half! Not sure why, but it was fine. I’d lost all track of time. Until my iPod died. That’s when things got quiet and I could hear surgical instruments I didn’t want to hear. That’s also when I started chatting away to get back to my distracted happy place.

“Have you ever had a spinal, Bart?” He’d been sitting by my head monitoring my pain levels the entire time.

He laughed, “No, I sure haven’t! That’s a good question. No one’s ever asked me that before.”

I was beyond fascinated by the fact that I couldn’t wiggle my toes. No matter how hard I tried to send a signal from my brain to my feet, nothing was happening. It was bizarre.

Another memorable side conversation was initiated from the other side of the curtain.

“You’re too skinny!” (Did I mention how much I loved my doctor?)

I laughed. It had been quite a few months since any part of me felt anything close to skinny.

“It’s hard to find enough fat to sew you up. You are not my typical patient!” (I mean I really, really loved my doctor.)

After going on a tangent about what my activity levels could/should be and when I could start exercising, I starting thinking out loud again.

“It must be really neat to be a part of the most important day of so many people’s lives.”

After a moment of introspection, they all agreed. I continued.

“I mean I’m sure it gets old and monotonous at times, just as any job does, but at the heart of it – how amazing is it that your job is to help bring babies into the world?”

I told them how there was a degree of that feeling in my job too. People save up their whole lives just to come to Hawaii. Many people come to Hawaii specifically to visit historic Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, where I’ve had the privilege of working for nearly two years. From the woman who flew to Hawaii all by herself to visit for her 80th birthday, to the Make-A-Wish kiddos whose love for history lands them at our visitor center, it’s an amazing honor to be part of that experience for people.

And here I was, on the most important day of my life. These were the people meant to be a part of it. I thanked each of them for that, aaand for humoring me while I talked their ears off after the music died.

Some people seem to discount Tripler, or military hospitals in general, but my overall experience in that OR was fantastic. The only thing better than seeing my baby boy for the first time would be holding my baby boy for the first time, and that's where I was headed next.

Click here for Part 4.

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