Even if I had delivered the babies vaginally, it would have taken place in an OR. I knew that with the high-risk nature of multiple births, most hospitals don't take chances on delivery rooms, knowing that half-way through a vaginal delivery, a c-section could be called for the second baby.
Like the surgery itself, I tried to prepare myself for the OR by imagining my babies' birth, both a vaginal and cesarian version, occuring in one. Except, I'd never been in one. Our tour of Labor and Delivery had ended outside of the last set of doors through which my bed had just been wheeled. This room was much larger, brighter, and filled with more shining metal equipment than in my imaginary OR (mine looked more like the intimate, shadowy rooms where McDreamy saves lives). It surprised me how much this foreign room affected me, how rapidly my heart was pumping, how hard it was to make it knock that off.
The remarkable thing about feeling as alone as I did is how alone I was not. As my doctor had warned me there would be, there was an army of medical professionals in the OR. If I remember accurately, there was a team of nurses for baby A (Michael), one for baby B (Sophie), two anesthesiologists, a pediatrician, two doctors to perform the surgery, and nurses to assist. My doctor's warning had prepared me well for that aspect of the room, and I was glad to have so many experts around to bring these babies safely into the world. And to sew me back up again.
There were two sources of growing comfort that helped me to keep my composure. One was my nurse, Gail, who coincidentally had given us the hospital tour and whom I met again in my hospital room. The other was one of the anesthesiologists, whose name I no longer remember, who greeted me in my room as well and stayed beside me until the surgery was complete. Since she was standing above my right shoulder throughout our interactions, I don't recall her face either, just her caring tone.
As I was lifted onto the operating table, Gail commented on my painted toenails. "Now, did you manage to paint those yourself, or do you have one of those kind husbands who will do that for you?" I painted them myself, I told her. The week before, I had been to the doctor for pain in my side that could have been kidney stones. Miraculously, the pain went away on its own, and I celebrated my ability to bend at the hips again (at least to some degree) by painting my toenails.
The anesthesiologist spoke to me as another one administered the spinal, walking me through the sensations conversationally. "You'll feel a pinch in your back." I did. "And now your lower half should start to feel warm. Do you feel the warmth?" I did, and then I was numb from my midsection to my toes.
They strapped my arms out beside me and hung a blue curtain at my chest, all very Cuckoo's Nest, clearly to prevent me from freaking out at the sight or reaching out toward the surgery in a panic.
"Dad's here," the caring voice said, and Mike was on my left in blue scrubs, complete with a mask, cap, and shoe covers.
"That felt like forever," he said. Time had been moving quickly for me, but I nodded. "How ya doin?" he asked.
"Ok." He took my hand. "I'm numb."
"As the surgery begins," the anesthesiologist said, "don't be alarmed if you feel some pulling and pressure. You shouldn't feel any pain, though."
Dr. Hakim arrived and greeted me, introduced the other doctor.
I could feel a cold liquid on my belly, and some tugging.
I started shivering. "I'm really cold." The anesthesiologist brought me warmed blankets and placed them over my outstretched arms.
Throughout the surgery I continued to feel the pulling and pressure and answered, "I'm ok," everytime someone checked on me. With the surgery underway, Mike was offered the chance to look over the curtain and watch. I didn't think he'd want to look, but he did.
"Do you have a camera, Dad? It's almost time." Mike gave the camera to the anesthesiologist who took over as photographer.
And then, "Here's baby A, a boy," and they held him above the curtain for me to see.
"He's so big!" I said. Michael was 6 lbs. 6 oz. and looked like a regular newborn baby, not one of the fragile little things I imagined. They took him to be cleaned, and he cried. And I cried, grinning large with tears streaming back toward my ears. I could see Mike's smile even behind his mask.
"And baby B, the girl," and they held Sophie up. Someone said she came in kicking and biting.
"She's so pretty!" I said. She was 6 lbs. 1 oz. and I was truly stunned by how pretty her face was, a porcelain doll. And she screamed while they cleaned her. And I cried some more, filled with true joy.
The pediatrician left early, both babies' vitals and Apgar scores good. The anesthesiologist said his leaving was a really good sign.
Mike held the babies for me to see and touch, and then he accompanied them back to the hospital room where we would stay for the next three days.
For the next half-hour or so, they completed the surgery and closed me up. At one point I became very nauseated and told the anesthesiologist. She said at this stage in the surgery, during the repair of the layer they were working on, that usually happens. In a few moments that passed as she had predicted.
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