The lights were bright in the OR and all I kept thinking was, "I'm going to leave this room with babies. The outside-of-my-body kind." I also kept thinking, "I never took a stool softener like I was told to do, I AM FUCKED," and also, holy shit. This is actually happening.
And it was. Shower cap secured haphazardly to my head, I climbed up on the operating table and parted my hospital gown for the RN.
The anesthesiologist looked like Mr. Miyagi and kept asking me if "this was my first baby."
thirty-eight weeks three-weeks old
"Third and fourth, actually," I said.
But he was so focused on making sure my spine was straight he didn't hear me and asked again. I told him I was having twins and that they were both girls and he asked me to lean to the right, told me I was favoring one side more than the other. That I needed to relax."
"You too tense. Must breathe."
So I breathed.
"Girl or boy?"
I had assumed a spinal was the same thing as an epidural so when the
amnesialogist anesthesiologist asked if I'd ever had "one of these before," I said yes.
But an epidural and a spinal for a C-section are completely different. The needle went in rather painlessly but the feeling of paralysis was not my friend. I panicked. And if that wasn't bad enough I started dry-heaving. In all those youtube C-section videos I watched, not one depicted a panic-stricken, pukazoid with an extreme case of the shakes.
And yet all forty-zillion people in the room kept telling me, "what you are going through is normal! Totally normal!"
They pulled the curtain up on my normal-person-puking-self. Mr. Miyagi put his hand on my shoulder. "Relax."
OBGYN Kenobi was reassuring as well. So many Zen masters in the room that by the time they pulled the curtain up and started cutting me open, I was able to heed their advice and chill.
Babies. Think of your babies.
Hal was filming the whole procedure which excited me because I figured, once I recovered from the whole panicky-shaky-pukes and had my babies in my arms, I'd want in on the action. Except, later, when I watched the footage, I saw that 99% of it was of the same blue sheet I sat staring at for twelve minutes. That and Hal's quaky voice reassuring me that all was kosh.
As hard as childbirth is on the women giving birth, I'm convinced it's just as difficult for the partners who love us. Because all they can do is pack three pairs of jeans, clutch their shaky video cameras and tell us, without knowing if it's true, that everything's going to be okay.
"I'm cutting through the fat!" OBGYN Kenobs told me.
I wanted to know what was happening but strangely, "cutting through fat" did not put me at ease.
"And now I'm cutting through muscle!"
I was surprised to hear I actually had abdominal muscles to cut through. Flattered even.
"... And now I'm opening up your uterus!"
"Okay, THAT'S ENOUGH! I'm good. No more want to know me what happening is."
"I can see Baby A!" And then...
The first scream. It was Boheme and she was LOUD. I strained to see her but could not. The doctor brought her over for a second before taking her away to pull out Reverie. Everything happened at warp speed. I puked and cried and cried and puked as they pinned bracelets to my wrists. I listened to the duet of screaming babies and the two dozen attendants buzzing and laughing and cleaning and beeping except all I could see was the fucking blue sheet.
I was told earlier in the morning that no matter what, the babies would be whisked off to the NICU. It was standard procedure for all babies born before 36 weeks but for whatever reason, I wasn't listening. I assumed if the babies were big enough, they'd call the whole "standard procedure" thing off and let them stay with me a while. Or at the very least, a few minutes.
They brought the babies to me one by one. Rubbed Boheme's nose against mine and then took her away. Rubbed Reverie's nose against mine and then took her, too. Hal went with the babies as the doctor sewed me up. I was empty and alone, paralyzed from the neck down, puking all over my neck and go figure, very sad. I was prepared for a different birth experience this time around but not for the detachment I felt in that moment.
I was promised that as soon as the doctors finished surgery, I'd be able to see them but when we arrived to the NICU, Rev was incubated and both babies were covered with wires and monitors.
The nurses wrapped them up and handed them to me.
I wasn't allowed to see them for the rest of the day. I cried, somehow found a way to continue puking and slowly felt less paralyzed. I spent the next four days going back and forth between my hospital room and then the following two weeks driving back and forth between home and the NICU, pretending like I was still pregnant, that these extra weeks were gestational, that the real birth would be bringing them home.
No matter how many times I cursed those drives downtown to Good Samaritan hospital, over bumpy roads with a pillow pressed to my belly, back and forth and forth and back in the passenger seat of my mom's Prius, it was the NICU room with its monitors blasting and white robes where I first held my babies. It was where I first fed them and changed them and loved them. It was where we first became six. (It was also where I experienced the wrath of C-section constipation which ended with the now infamous "broken toilet" incident which was the opposite of fabulous.)
I was sick that I couldn't be with them in the hours after their birth and sicker yet that I couldn't take them home with me when I was discharged from the hospital and yet, their two-week stay in the NICU wasn't the worst thing that could happen. I met some incredible women. The nursing staff at Good Sam became fast friends and confidantes. I was able to rest and heal, to prepare emotionally and physically for the task of all-nighters and the loneliness that comes during those intermissions, between feedings and wake-ups, when somehow everything is unexpectedly quiet even though life is suddenly screamingly loud.
By the time Boheme was released, I was able to drive myself to the hospital and when I went to fetch the car to pick her up at the front entrance, the NICU nurses were all there to see us off. It was completely unnecessary and exceptionally kind and I found myself sobbing hysterically like a crazy person all the way home.
When Fable was born I was struck by an overwhelming sense that we weren't "all here yet." That there was someone(s) else waiting in the wings. When I found out, at eight-weeks that I was carrying twins, it became abundantly clear why.
All along, this was it. This was us. This is our team. All members present and accounted for.
As the nurse so astutely proclaimed in the following birth video, let chaos reign...
...And indeed it is reigning. In a wonderfully-badass totally-insane wouldn't-change-anything kind of way.