As in, Operating Room.
I feel like so much is happening recently, I can’t keep up. Not inside, not on this blog. Last night I got somewhere between 3-5 hours of sleep and am really tired, but again mind and body betray me. The mind can’t stop going over what has been and what’s coming, the body keeps my esophageal sphincter weak and my legs overactive. Between them, nighttime seems to have become the enemy. I’ve become an excellent daytime napper, when I get the chance.
So I’ll start with the present and go backwards. Tonight Brad and I got a tour of the Labor & Delivery and post-partum areas of the hospital at which we plan to deliver. The same one we’ve been attending Infant Loss and Pregnancy After Loss support groups at since February 2010 (save 9 months or so between the two groups). The woman that heads up both of those organized the tour for us as we head into the home stretch here. Envisioning being back in the OR has instantly brought me to tears nearly every time I think about it, so we figured a desensitization visit might be in order. We were right.
We’d thought the tour might happen tomorrow, or if the OR was booked for surgeries maybe after group tonight, but not the minute we got there. So despite ourselves it felt sudden and we were unprepared. No sooner did she say she was going to take us up there than I was cracking. She hooked us up with and L&D nurse to take us around and answer questions, and tears were falling before we even walked into that damn OR room. Sterile, quiet, the operating table laid with fresh linens and pads with big lights hanging above, the clock on the wall to the right, the baby ‘receiver’ and warmer on the left, the enormous machine for vitals and ventilation/oxygen and anesthetic needs at the head of the table. So Brad would be on my left again, but at least this time the clock won’t be above him (so vividly do I recall looking at it reading 12:04 or something and realizing we hadn’t seen Anna yet, it had been a long time, we didn’t really know anything). The nurse informed us that no one will be allowed in the OR with me until the epidural is administered and taken effect, the curtain raised, ready to cut. Which feels like I’m being thrown over the cliff without a parachute. It’s from the moment of being sat up for the epidural to the few minutes after birth that are going to be A Living Nightmare, a surreal re-creation of a Hell we didn’t know was coming and I’m going to have to do most of it alone.
The part about undergoing the procedure I’d been responding to emotionally for some time - what caught me off guard was how terrifying the receiving apparatus for the baby would be. I didn’t see Anna laying on it in the OR, but it was what she was on when I was brought to her in the special care nursery. So......still. So flat against that flat surface covered in hospital baby blankets of pink and blue stripes. No wiggle, no wriggle. Almost like she were one with it’s lifelessness. The silhouette of her brown hair on her perfect head, her small shoulders, her little arm that the doctor lifted and let drop to show me she was nonresponsive and flaccid. I feel like I never saw her from more than a few inches away because aside from that view at the top of her head, where she was a foot or two away, she was on my chest, next to my face - I never really saw all of her from afar to get a sense of her true size. She’s smallest to me just in that view of the top of her head and shoulders and tiny little arm.
So what if this baby isn’t wriggling, isn’t awkwardly moving arms and legs and feeling its full range of movement out in the world when I see it from the operating table? What if there’s a crowd of people again working in relative tense silence? The ‘bed’ that received our daughter, the ‘bed’ on which they tried to resuscitate her, the ‘bed’ on which they stopped working on her. That bed scares me to the depths of my ability to describe it.
The nurse let us have several minutes in there alone to process, cry, talk. Which was good. I’m glad we did it, but right now the room is seared in my brain - the whole room, not just a snippet of a perspective like Anna’s OR. Trying to get a handle on the fear associated with it is going to be one of my bigger challenges over the next few weeks. I’m trying to remember the last thing I dreaded as much as I dread that hour or two around and within the OR. I’m sure it was Anna’s memorial, coming home without her, etc. But all that was cloaked in the surrealism and horror of the her death. When have I felt similarly before that? I feel like I need to know so I can grab onto and know that I got through it (and maybe it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be). So it can anchor me. But right now everything dreaded before that night with Anna is a blank.
The OR is the big black monster that awaits at the end of a dark hall in every horror flick, the Thing that awaits in a musty basement, the Force that stalks you and attacks a split second after you instinctively realize you’re in trouble in an otherwise perfectly safe situation.
We’re gonna need some Big Help in the OR.