It is the nurse with the punk haircut. Has she noticed my trembling hands? Just inches from my face, she is one of two nurses holding me up in an uncomfortable seated position. I know she is trying to distract me from the anesthesiologist behind me, working the spinal into my back. I know this, and yet it still works.
“I guess folk music. Like…um…”
I can’t focus. Not the fault of anesthesia, which hasn’t kicked in and is only supposed to affect my lower half anyway. I have been up since 4am, at the hospital since 5. Filling out forms, answering questions, and meeting the team who would be assisting my OB. As he slices open my body to pull out a baby. I clutch at the nurse’s scrubs, trying not to shift my body. I have read too many books, know too-well the risks that can come with a needle in-between your vertebrae. There’s a needle in my spine…
“Folk music. Do you like Of Monsters and Men?” She steadies me and meets my eyes in an intentional, almost aggressive way. She is pulling me out of my own head, my fears.
“I listen to that with my boys. We love that one song…I can’t think of the one. We call it the ‘Hey!’ song.”
She smiles. “That’s ‘Little Talks.’ I’ve got it on my iPod. I’ll get it as soon as we finish.”
“We’re finished,” says the anesthesiologist, from somewhere behind me. Several sets of hands help lower me down to the table. Within a few moments, I try to move my toes and can’t feel them. The sensation of numbness is like a slow, creeping fog. When it reaches my chest, a heaviness settles there, and when I cough, it’s as though I can’t fully cough. I panic.
“I can’t breathe,” I speak to the room full of nurses and assistants, moving all around my periphery above my head on the table.
“You can,” says a kind voice and then she leans over me. “It may just feel strange. I found the album. How about some music?”
I nod, liking the feel of control over at least this one part of my body. The rest is under a chemical snowdrift, buried and frozen. My arms and legs begin to shake, a reaction to the drugs, and my teeth clatter together, the sound like dominoes on a wooden table.
“I’m so cold,” I say, and the bodies moving around circle closer to cover my chest and even my face with heated blankets. “Thank you,” I say, and I’m still shaking, but it’s better. I’m afraid, I want to say, but there is no heated blanket for fear. I will not cry.
Don’t listen to a word I say, the screams all sound the same.
As they finally allow Rob into the room, I begin to throw up. When you can’t move most of your body this is a feat, but the anesthesiologist holds my hair away from my face and turns my head toward a bag he holds. “This is a normal reaction for some people,” he says, with kindness. After, he wipes my mouth.
Rob smiles behind his surgical mask as he comes near to touch my arm. I see it, and if I really focus, I can feel it. Or imagine that I do. He does a good job masking his own fear, but I know him too well.
So hold my hand, I’ll walk with you my dear.
The surgical cloth is hanging and I know that I am naked below it, a team standing there with my doctor now, ready to begin. “I’m going to do a last test to make sure you can’t feel anything,” my doctor says. Below the curtain somewhere, he pricks me with a needle. I feel nothing.
“We’re going to begin. You’re going to feel pressure and maybe some discomfort.”
Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart there’s nothing we can do.
I want to cry, but I think about the baby. This unknown inside me that we will meet within moments. I can’t look down, where there are bent heads moving beyond the curtain, doing things to my body I know of in a technical sense from books. Rob sits beside me and I turn my head to see him, this familiar face. Will it be mirrored in the tiny, red face? His long lashes and honey-brown eyes, the warmth of his wide smile.
“Kirsten, we’re going to pull the baby out now, okay?”
Rob squeezes my shoulder. My eyes are already wet, but with joy now, not fear. It is time.
Man, this really took me back. There was something magical about music in the OR, and it really did wonders then, and now as I reach back for memory. I’m linking up with my own community, Not So (Small) Stories. I hope you’ll come read or even join—it’s open to all blog niches. This week, the prompt is Song. All lyrics above in italics are from “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men. Being a home birth advocate, a c-section is never the choice I wanted, but plans in labor don’t always go the way we want. To read some less lyrical posts about this experience and the why behind it, you can read here and here.