Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
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We both go to sleep. I am barely aware when our student nurse, Renu, wakes Shannon to insert a catheter, with shaking hands, into her unfeeling body. Over the next four hours, with only a few nurse interruptions, we both sleep deeply allowing the contractions to do their work undetected.
Unfortunately, they aren't doing enough work. One of our doctors—there are two because it is so busy—informs us, regretfully, that there has been a little bit of dilation but not nearly as much as he would have liked for four hours' worth.
Also, "the head is molding." He puts his fingertips together in a cone shape. "It's getting stuck quite high in the pelvis. Now, it could be that your pelvis might loosen up eventually and she might fit out just fine but it also could be that you push and push and she still doesn't fit."
"The baby is still really healthy so we're okay with it if you decide to keep laboring but if you want my honest opinion, it could be hours before you get to that point and even then I don't think she's gonna fit."
The decision is hard only in the sense that a Caesarean is so opposite of what we wanted for our child's birth. However, we know that it is the right decision. Even without the doctor's "honest opinion" I think we would come to the same conclusion. Shannon wears her weariness heavily. I remember with a shudder that women sometimes die in childbirth. Then I quickly force myself not to think about it. But it is true. I'm certainly not saying we are at the point of life and death yet, but that possibility has started feeling a lot more real to me. There is no doubt that a C-section is the right decision.
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They said we had 45 minutes to rest and prepare ourselves for the operation but now, five minutes later, Dr. Kaepernick tells us there's been a change. They're opening a second room for us and the operation will begin in five minutes.
The Circus intermission is over and I didn't get to go to the bathroom yet!
In comes Dr. P-f-f-feiffer and an entourage of other scrub-clad busy bodies. Some introduce themselves as this or that part of our surgery team, others just go about their business. I head for the toilet but someone cuts me off. They hand me a stylish blue jump suit and smurf-like shower cap to put over my clothes. I take a step toward the bathroom again and Dr. Pfeiffer summons me to help with the anesthetics. Then the doctor wants to brief me on my role in the operating room and a nurse swaps out my face mask for a larger one that will accommodate my large beard. Someone else reminds me to grab my camera if I want it. I grab everything. Someone else shoves a clipboard into my hands and tells me to sign this form, this form and this form. (I hope I didn't just give my baby up for adoption…) When I finally get to the bathroom, they are wheeling Shannon out of the room, and I am trying to keep my camera and video camera straps from falling off my shoulders into the toilet.
I walk briskly to catch up and hold Shannon's hand down the fluorescent-lit hallway.
We reach a set of double doors where a nurse holds up her hand stopping me. "You have to wait out here while we do the prep. It won't be long." I watch, powerless, as all these strangers in blue cart my wife into a room full of strange equipment.
I sit on a chair outside and try to smile at the occasional passerby. I'm not scared or even nervous, just anxious to be with Shannon. It seems to be taking a long time. I stand and pace. I take some photos of myself. I check the batteries on all my equipment and free up some memory on the digital audio recorder. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to operate a still camera, a video camera, and an audio recorder all while comforting my wife and holding a newborn but I don't want to miss anything.
Tick tick tick. Maybe what makes this waiting so hard is that for the first time the crrmp crrmp of baby's heartbeat is not filling the space and marking the time.
I begin to suspect they've forgotten I'm out here. Maybe my little girl is already being yanked out of Shannon's belly.
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On the next episode of Birth Story: Birth!