Last Monday morning moved along like any other. One by one, the kids got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, and left the house to catch the bus for school, giving us hugs and kisses before they said good-bye as if it were like any other day.
But of course, it wasn’t like any other ordinary day because we were scheduled to deliver our fourth child just a few hours later.
And that’s definitely not ordinary.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t sleep at all the night before.
Martin went to bed early and stayed asleep the whole night. I sincerely tried to fall asleep, but it just wasn’t happening. It’s so hard to fall asleep at that stage, never finding a comfortable position, always having to get up to go to the bathroom, breathing through some intense Braxton-Hicks contractions.
I wasn’t tired, so I did some homework, scheduled some social media posts (to keep friends and family entertained throughout the day as they waited for news), took a bath, and added some last-minute items to the suitcase.
I also spent some time just sitting in our rocking chair with my hands resting on that massive belly, enjoying those final hours of pregnancy, knowing it was the last time my body will ever experience it.
Eventually, the sun began to shine through the windows, and I could hear the others in the house begin their days, too. So, I showered and did my hair and make-up before joining the kids at the breakfast table. All three of them were giddy with excitement. Not only were they to meet a new family member later in the day, but their schools were celebrating the last week of school with field day activities and parties.
As Lola declared, things were shaping up to be the “best day ever.”
We snapped a few photos as a group, and then Miss C left for the bus. Martin and I followed her shortly thereafter just as the others set off for the bus stop, too. Wynter, Jaz, and Lola stood at our doorway, waving goodbye until our car was out of sight.
Just an ordinary morning on an extraordinary day.
The drive to the hospital was also completely normal and uneventful. Martin and I made small talk, mostly about the logistics of my hospital stay, and going through all the checklists in our heads to make sure we weren’t forgetting something. I continued to contract pretty hard, but nothing alarming. The weather was gorgeous and clear, and traffic was pretty light, so we made it to the hospital with plenty of time to find parking.
Martin even snapped one final belly photo before we walked in.
After checking in with the admissions office, we made our way to the obstetrics floor where we were greeted by a friendly German nurse named Charlotte. She showed us where to store our luggage, and then took me into an evaluation room where I was given a surgical gown and instructions to get undressed.
As I changed in the bathroom, I could hear Martin talking with Nurse Charlotte, explaining this was our fourth child, our oldest is a teenager, and we didn’t know the gender. Like most others, she expressed surprise at all points, saying we didn’t look old enough to have a teenager, let alone four children. (Bless her.) And she thought it was really sweet we were going to be surprised.
After I waddled out in that stellar surgical gown (which covered nothing), Charlotte hooked me up to various machines for observation as medical personnel came in and out to explain there was a delivery ahead of us, but that the surgery would definitely happen that morning.
So, Martin and I did our best to relax by taking photos, checking the numerous posts, emails, and messages that were already trickling into our accounts, and asking ourselves if this was really happening.
Then one of the doctors came in to insert my IV.
We recognized her from a previous visit, and she remembered us. We made small talk as she looked for a vein in each of my arms. Both Martin and I warned her that my veins are very hard to find … they’ve always been that way … but she expressed confidence, and decided to try to go for one in the crook of my right arm.
The first jab didn’t take.
Neither did the second.
But the third one was the charm! We all exclaimed with joy as she relaxed and slid the device into place, but then she moved her hand and pulled the rubber tourniquet off my arm, and that’s when all hell broke loose.
Apparently, the valve on the IV wasn’t closed, and I began spurting blood all over the place. I felt it pour warm and wet down my arm and onto my chest and gown. Martin saw this and jumped out of his seat while the doctor startled and moved to cover the valve. She fumbled around in her tray to find something as both Martin and I offered to assist her, watching the red stain spread across my chest and stomach, the smell of iron and blood growing stronger as it continued to spurt out of my arm.
It actually made me a little light-headed. It felt like things were moving in slow-motion, but she quickly found whatever it was she needed, and the bleeding stopped.
But I looked like I’d already been in surgery.
Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to get me cleaned up and in a new gown. The doctor was so sweet and apologetic, it was easy to laugh it off, but Martin surmised (once she left the room) that she was probably very new at this.
I said I hoped it wasn’t a sign of things to come.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
I settled back into my pillow while Martin tinkered with our Go-Pro camera. He brought it, but still wasn’t sure he was going to wear it, feeling pretty self-conscious about it. I really wanted it, though, so he was going to try and figure out a way to bring it without it being so obvious.
It wasn’t too much longer before a man came in and introduced himself as the anesthesiologist assistant. He began explaining what was going to happen during my spinal, and we listened with interest despite having heard it all before.
As he spoke, a second man entered the room and introduced himself as the head anesthesiologist, the man who would actually be inserting the needle into my spine. He let the first gentleman finish his explanation before tapping my foot at the end of the bed.
“And we’re going to go do this right now,” he said in near-perfect English.
“Right now?” I asked.
“Yes, right in the other room. We walk there now.”
Martin and I looked at each other, obviously caught off-guard. We thought we had at least an hour. At that moment, a bunch of other people came into the room and began unhooking my monitors. Nurse Charlotte began adjusting the bed to help me lift up and off of it. Martin spun around to begin collecting the camera equipment.
It dawned on me that we were just about to miss an opportunity.
“Martin! Quick. We need to take a photo! One more photo, just the two of us!” I said. Every birth, we always snapped one final photo of just the two of us. Martin looked confused for a second, but then quickly leaned over me with his camera for a quick selfie just as Nurse Charlotte took my hands to lift me up.
No matter what, we stick to our traditions.
Right after Martin snapped the photo, I was shuffled by Nurse Charlotte into a very small room across the hall. Initially, I thought we walked into a utility closet. It was very compact and filled with supplies. I noticed a scrub sink to my left, and another door to my right. I actually stopped, thinking we made a mistake, but Nurse Charlotte encouraged me to keep walking towards the second door. It swung open, and then suddenly I was in a slightly bigger room filled with medical personnel.
The operating room.
Everyone was chatting in German. I was directed to take a seat on an examination chair with stirrups. Someone reclined it, and it dawned on me that this was where I was going to be cut open. It wasn’t even a full table. A bright light was directed over my head, and I was instructed to sit with my legs to the side and my back arched like a cat so that the spinal could be administered.
I stoically answered to everything in German, but inside, my heart was racing as I felt them scrub my back and prep for the insertion. I tried not to think of all the things I know about spinals; tried not to envision the visual of a massive needle being jammed into my spinal column.
I must have looked wide-eyed and terrified because the assistant leaned over and assured me everything was okay. Nurse Charlotte came over and took my hands, and let me know it was nearly over. Before too long, I felt the effects start to tingle in my legs, and I was leaned back onto the chair. My arms were strapped down, and my gown was hoisted up in front of me along with a wide, blue surgical screen.
Martin still wasn’t in the room, so I focused on my breathing as I waited for my body to get numb like my previous C-sections. It never did. I still felt tingling in my legs, feet, and butt. I also felt incredibly queasy, a result of a change in my blood pressure. Fortunately, I didn’t throw up, but nevertheless, they placed a container near my face, just in case.
I could hear and sense movement on the other side of the screen, and knew they were beginning the procedure. I tried not to get emotional, and focused on their conversation, trying to make sense of their German.
Martin eventually popped into the room, wearing the same raspberry-colored medical scrubs as the others. I smiled when I saw the Go-Pro strapped to his chest. He took a seat near my head and rubbed my hand as we waited for our child’s arrival.
Later on, we watched the Go-Pro footage in my hospital room, and cringed the entire time. We agreed this one was different from our previous C-sections: not better, not worse, but different.
We decided to describe it as “efficiently violent.”
For one thing, everything was much more compact. I wasn’t spread out on a table, but was position on a reclined examination chair with my legs in stirrups. My gown was hung up over my face, and with my arms strapped down, I felt a bit claustrophobic.
I could also feel a lot more action. In the video, the camera’s point-of-view is squarely on my face as I twist and contort it in reaction to the tugging and pressure I’m feeling below. I could feel my internal organs being moved around. I could feel things being stretched and manipulated.
Both Martin and the anesthesiologist assistant frequently asked if I was feeling any pain, and I wasn’t. But at one point, I told Martin that the staff was “playing soccer down there” and it really felt like it.
And then there was the shaking and jerking as the medical personnel worked to pull the baby from my body. On the video, it reminded me of those sci-fi or horror movies. You know when an alien or monster snatches a human from across a wall, and then yanks that person through the wall, and you know you’re never going to see that person again?
To be clear, I wasn’t scared, and neither was Martin. Nothing being done was unexpected or painful, but it was just different than what Martin and I remembered.
And it was all very overwhelming for many reasons. Everything was happening very quickly. Other than the beeping machines and clattering of metal, it was mostly quiet while the medical team worked, and what little was said was, of course, in German, and I wasn’t completely understanding.
And let’s not forget, we were about to meet our baby.
This unexpected, surprise fourth baby.
A baby we didn’t yet know, or named, but who was already so deeply loved.
I was weepy the whole time. And from what I could see, so was Martin.
And then, suddenly, I felt the pressure within my body change, I could feel my lungs expand, and I knew they lifted the baby out. I told Martin, who thought I was asking if it was so, but I knew the baby was out.
Martin captured the whole thing, of course.
There was no grand announcement when the baby was lifted from me. Instead, we heard it’s lusty cries and gargles and promptly burst into tears.
We could hear movement, and suddenly Nurse Charlotte was there with her arms full of blankets.
“What do you think what it is?” she asked in English.
“A boy?” I said, indicating for the first time the suspicion I had throughout the pregnancy. She confirmed that I was correct.
And that’s how a sweet little boy with black hair and blue eyes arrived in our family.