She trembled violently, as if she were suffering from extreme hypothermia or heartbreak. Her eyes pushed out a few tears. I felt like I was drowning in them. I gripped her hand firmly and tried to hold it still. Maybe it would bring peace as the numbness crawled into her spine.
Then they took her away from me and dark thoughts flooded my mind. "Was she as terrified as I was? What if someone fucked up? What if she bled to death?"
As I waited, they had me sitting in a hallway that smelled like blood and cleaning materials. My stomach suddenly became impregnated with fear and the contents of it delivered themselves into my mouth. I could feel little pieces of food swimming in my saliva and taste the rot. I had no choice but to swallow it. I was sure the bastard janitors had spent so much time cleaning the floor.
I later learned that she puked too right around that time. Maybe we did it out of solidarity. Maybe it was the hundredth monkey. Hers was more warranted of course, caused by the epidural.
My head was swimming. "How did I get here? Have I been led down a narrow hallway that others had already walked down, suffered through, and bled on? Or did I come with the confidence I would need to carry-on through that colorized, stainless-steel panel door?"
She lie in a sterile, windowless, temperature-controlled room, surrounded by strangers and those she would soon love the most. So far from me, on the other side of the dry partition, composite wall. So far from Mother Nature and her trees, earth, doulas, and birth pools. The things she had wanted.
She had two fetuses and two placentas in her. The bottom one breech. She would have likely died a hundred years ago. I would’ve lost my whole family. Now the surgeons would carve her up like a murder victim, but then just sew her right back up alive like they had already done to millions of women. No big deal.
The girls would get a head start on life. "Or would they?" The surgeons would pull them out of Mother Nature, as they pulled them out of the uterus. Taking them away from her.
As a consequence the girls would have some trouble breathing due to fluid in their lungs. All of their organs and biological systems wouldn’t be fully developed yet. They would be deprived of immediate skin-to-skin contact for bonding. One of them would have to go to transition nursery for low blood oxygen saturation. We would pile on more interventions.
I was called into the room just minutes before the procedure. They lead me to the small stool next to her head, a blue surgical cloth hanging in front of us to block our view of the horror film that was about to play itself out.
Suddenly, the anesthesiologist looked at us and said, “here they come.” I stood up and peered over the curtain.
And there it was.
The most gruesome, shocking, beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. My eyes swam around the bloodbath - tried not to sink too deep. There was the familiar cast of characters: Lacerated skin, exposed organs and intestines, human beings covered in blood. A horror movie indeed.
But there in the blood, the flesh, the bone, the cut up tendons, all the difficult decisions, and the death I had in my mind...
There was life.